Director Takes Audience on a Journey with Pinter Play, “A Kind of Alaska”
It was Ricky Kimball’s brush with Kabuki and Butoh-style theater in Japan that formed the foundation of his artistic aesthetics and set the course for his interest in directing.
Kimball has lived in 13 different locations in the United States and Asia and was 15-years-old when he experienced the dramatic lights and sound, the stylized movement and elaborate makeup of Japanese theater.
“Right off the bat, it was a tangible moment, and I was hooked,” Kimball said.
Kimball has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theater Education from the University of Utah and a Master of Arts in Secondary Theater from Westminster College, both in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2013 he received the Musical Legacy Award from Utah Festival Opera for overwhelming achievement in musical theater in secondary schools.
Now a Master of Fine Arts in theatre arts candidate in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Kimball made his University of Idaho directorial debut with “A Kind of Alaska” by Harold Pinter, the Pulitzer-prize winning British playwright.
Inspired by Oliver Sacks
“Alaska” was inspired by Oliver Sacks’ accounts of patients awakening from decades-long comas. The play follows Deborah, played by senior Whitney Holland, as she wakes up from a 29-year sleep. She is greeted by her doctor, played by 2010 U of I graduate Dave Harlan, and her sister, played by junior Kymber Dodd.
In exploring the rich subtext of “Alaska,” Kimball’s early Asian influences were felt with Deborah’s shifting perspectives conveyed through Butoh movement, light and sound. Butoh is a form of Japanese dance and movement with slow hyper-controlled motion. A ghostly presence appears in the form of a “Young Debbie,” played by Teliha Kokuba,from Okinawa, Japan. Kokuba is in the U of I Global Student Success Program, and her character supported the disorientation of waking from a decades-long coma.
Choosing Your Truth
Kimball researched sleeping sickness over the summer, talking to patients about their experiences with the neurological condition that places them in a trancelike state.
“The audience went on Deborah’s journey,” Kimball said. Ultimately, it was a journey of the choices people make in determining what truths to abandon and which truths to develop.
“With every play (I direct) I ask, ‘what is a dynamic way to tell the story,’” he said.
With Pinter plays, the language is full of pauses, stops and starts. The action may be minimal but beneath the surface, a threat of violence bubbles.
“You can build on his subtext,” Kimball said. “Pinter’s words are very important, they carry a lot of weight.”
Article by Kelly O’Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Published in September 2018.