Playwright and actor Keiko Green returns to Annex Theatre to present a new play, Puny Humans, co-written with long-time Annex Theatre playwright Bret Fetzer.
Set at Comicon, Puny Humans dramatizes the experiences of video gamers, cosplayers, and nerds everywhere. “You don’t have to be a huge geek to appreciate the show,” Green said. “As much as there are deep-rooted references, in the end, the show is about humans connecting and disconnecting from each other. Comicon really just provides us with a setting that is in essence already absurd, and tensions are really high.”
Green credits her work with Annex to a pitch she made for a show, which Annex declined to produce. Instead, they asked her to work with them in another fashion, which, Green said, “probably changed the course of my career with that friendly invitation.”
A veteran of Annex Theatre’s monthly variety show, Spin the Bottle, Green developed the discipline of writing by contributing a new 10-minute play every other month. “They are basically the reason I got into a habit of constantly creating new work,” she said.
And now, this new work is being created in solid partnership with another Annex veteran. “I love working with Bret,” Green said. “I’ve always been interested but really cautious about having a writing partner. I didn’t even hesitate with Bret.”
Green finds her partnership with Fetzer to be both competitive and supportive. “There can be times when there’s a bit of a rivalry—he writes five pages, so I upload six pages, and he responds with another seven pages,” she said. “We push each other.”
At the same time, having a co-writer helps Green stay focused on her vision. “He’s so positive and a fantastic collaborator,” she said. “And it’s great to have someone on your team when there are a lot of notes coming from outside sources.”
Green and Fetzer have remained active participants during the rehearsal process. “Some of the cast’s feedback has already greatly altered elements in the show, ultimately for the better,” Green said. “Also, as new geek-culture-related events pop up, I know we have to insert them.”
But overall, Green has relied on the vision of director Gavin Reub. “Gavin is a great friend of mine, which is a bit scary when it comes to your first long-term project together,” Green said. “I’ve had friendships torn apart once it came to creating an artistic baby.”
Green asserts that an artistic relationship requires the utmost care. “It really is like a romantic relationship,” she said. “You mutually decide to commit to each other through the good times and bad.”
For Green, the partnership is working out well, due to her faith in Reub’s leadership. “Gavin has an incredible ability to create a team,” she said. “The cast is already so close, and I’m delighted that they’re taking such ownership of this production.”
Green hopes that this production is just the first of many, though she understands the challenges of securing future productions. “I was told recently to keep a cast under six people for it to have any future,” she said. “Puny Humans is a 13-person cast. And it’s a true ensemble. Everyone is supremely important. Unfortunately, that means it is unlikely to be done at a big theater.”
The age and gender composition of the cast may also steer the play away from more traditional venues. “The cast is mostly pretty young, mostly women, and deals with some real issues,” Green said. “I personally think this show could find great success on the university level.”
This is why Green believes that Puny Humans is right at home at Annex Theatre. “That’s the beauty of fringe theatre,” she said. “We get to use the talents of so many people.”
These many talents sometimes throw uncertainty or serendipity into the mix. “What’s great and terrible about Annex is right in their motto,” Green said. “‘Big, cheap theatre,’ which means sometimes people drop out last-minute, or you just don’t have the financial support to fully realize some aspects of a show.”
Instead, the people involved are the resources of each show. “The positive of that is that people end up being incredibly imaginative with their very little money,” Green said, “which I find charming and even more entertaining.”
‘Puny Humans’ runs from April 22 to May 14 at Annex Theatre, 1100 East Pike Street, Seattle.