Benny Sato Ambush
The Living

A White woman and a White man look at each other in profile from opposite sides of a black expansive void that separates them. They appear disembodied below the shoulders with only their necks and faces appearing against a sea of blackness. The face on the left is a White woman, with light gray hair that’s pulled back from her face. Her eyes are rimmed in black and she wears a scoop necked shirt. She looks wearily across the space at the White male on the right side of the image. He appears somewhat younger, has dark brown hair and wears a dark shirt with a notched collar. He looks searchingly at the woman across the divide.
Still I from Anthony Clarvoe's The Living, Zoom performance, 2020

"GRAUNT turns to look at SARAH. Then he crosses to her and holds out his hand. She looks at it. From the beginning of the play until this moment, no one has touched anyone else. She takes his hand and he helps her to stand."

[Image Description: A man and woman look at each other from opposite sides of a black expanse, only their heads and necks visible.]

Benny Sato Ambush approached his directing of May 2020’s virtual production of The Living, a play by dramatist Anthony Clarvoe, with excitement, innovation and solicitude. The premise of the production couldn’t be more relevant to today’s Covid-19 pandemic. It takes a sobering look at London society’s response to its Great Bubonic Plague of 1665 that ravaged over 20 percent of London’s population. The Living chronicles the conditions, challenges, societal fault lines, foibles, and triumphs during that 1665 scourge, eerily similar to our current day pandemic crisis.  

Although it may be difficult for actors to convey compelling emotions on Zoom theatre, the ones recruited for Ambush’s reinterpretation effortlessly rise to the occasion. With beautifully crafted language and indelible poignancy, The Living unveils the tests and tolls on all facets of London society, revealing universal human yearnings of a beleaguered community. Conscience is on trial unleashing conduct from the heroic to the ignoble. The play is an appeal to what really matters during such trying times as we are in now as then - in the realm of the living. 

Ambush strategically used this project to unite members of the metro Boston theatre community in a unique and riveting way. The Zoom performance was a benefit for Boston’s Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, with patrons paying what they could on the digital platform. Both of these facets made the play available to various populations who otherwise may not have had access. 

The aesthetic of the play is bare but surprisingly powerful: a tight camera framing of each actor’s face to their shoulder line swimming in a sea of blackness. This is indicative of the emotional and metaphorical isolation the characters embody. Separation is a prevalent theme in The Living that leads spectators to correlate it to our own socially distanced realities. Ambush’s bold reimagining of this classic body of work is intriguing and shows how art can imitate life without the passing of time affecting the significance of the message. In showing how the past speaks meaningfully to the present, Ambush’s The Living gathered audiences together during one of the most consequential events of our time.

— Candace McDuffie

Four male faces in their 40s look out from four quadrants of a featureless, dark void, each occupying their own separated space. The man on the upper left is Asian, with short dark hair, holding a royal blue bandana in front of his mouth below his nose with his right hand. He is looking down and slightly off to the left. The White man on the upper right with short ginger hair is holding a patterned yellow handkerchief in front of his nose and mouth with his right hand. The White man on the lower left with short dark brown hair is looking slightly to the right with a questioning gaze, without any covering over his face. The Black man on the lower right with a bald head gazes straight out of the frame. He is holding a colorful patterned handkerchief in front of his nose and face with his right hand.
Still II from Anthony Clarvoe's The Living, Zoom performance, 2020

"Four men enter, at a cautious distance from each other. The first three have handkerchiefs over their faces and are wearing heavy cloaks. The last is GRAUNT, who as he crosses, comes too close to MAN 2."

[Image Description: Four men look into the camera in a four-way split screen, three with bandanas to their mouths.]
The faces of two males in their 40s are seen on either side of a featureless, dark void. The man on the left is White, has short brown hair, and is wearing a dark shirt with a notched collar. His chin is slightly raised and his head is tilted towards the left, as he gazes out with a quizzical look. The man on the right is also White, with a bald head and trim salt-and-pepper mustache and beard, wearing a dark button-down shirt. He looks down, and is holding both of his hands up and in a cupped gesture near his ears as though in the act of removing something from his head.
Still III from Anthony Clarvoe's The Living, Zoom performance, 2020

"Dr. HARMAN wears his protective suit, removes it piece by piece, slowly, as if at the end of a long and exhausting day. First the head piece, then the gloves, then the cloak, then the boots."

[Image Description: A black split screen with a man on either side, one looking up and the other down with his hands by his head.]

Artist Biography

Benny Sato Ambush is a veteran professional SDC stage director, former Artistic Director of two professional theatres, teacher of acting and directing nationally (MFA, BFA, BA levels), a published commentator, arts leader, and consultant. Formerly: Producing Artistic Director - Oakland (CA) Ensemble Theatre (SPT); Associate Artistic Director - San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (LORT B); PEW Charitable Trust/TCG Director in Residence - Florida Stage (LOA); Associate Artistic Director - Anna Deavere Smith's Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard University; Producing Artistic Director - TheatreVirginia (LORT C); Senior Distinguished Producing Director-In-Residence, Emerson Stage, Emerson College, Boston; Director - Institute for Teledramatic Arts and Technology, California State University - Monterey Bay. He has numerous directing credits at professional regional theatres and universities nationally. Founding Member - National Alliance of Acting Teachers; Adjudicator - American Association of Community Theatre; Board Member - National Theatre Conference; Fellow - College of Fellows of the American Theatre. MFA - University of California, San Diego; BA - Brown University. 


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This production of The Living by Anthony Clarvoe was produced by Theater of the Blue Marble, Stories from Mother Earth, An Independent Producing Entity, Benny Sato Ambush - Producer and Director, and was a benefit for the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund.

UNDERWRITING SPONSOR

The Arts Fuse, Boston’s Online Arts Magazine

Bill Marx: Editor-in-Chief

ABOUT THE LIVING

The past speaks meaningfully to the present in Anthony Clarvoe’s riveting examination of London society’s response to the Great Bubonic Plague of 1665. A prescient moral and cautionary tale with lessons for today's Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic era, The Living chronicles the conditions, challenges, societal fault lines, foibles, and triumphs during the 1665 scourge, eerily similar to our current day crisis. With beautifully crafted language and compelling poignancy, The Living unveils the tests and tolls on all facets of London society. The story unearths universal human yearnings of a beleaguered community. Conscience is on trial, unleashing conduct from the heroic to the ignoble. The play is an appeal to what really matters during these trying times in the realm of the living.

CAST (alphabetical order)

Diego Arciniegas*                            Sir John Lawrence, Lord Mayor

Ken Cheeseman*                             Lord Brounker, a Cavalier

Anne Gottlieb*                                 Mrs. Elizabeth Finch, a Searcher of the Dead

Ed Hoopman*                                   Man 1 (multiple parts)

Doug Lockwood*                             Rev. Dr. Thomas Vincent, a nonconformist minister

Marya Lowry*                                  Stage Direction Narration

Nael Nacer*                                      Dr. Edward Harman, a physician

Maurice Emmanuel Parent*             Man 2 (multiple parts)

Samantha Richert*                          Mrs. Sarah Chandler, a shopkeeper’s wife

Michael Tow*                                   Man 3 (multiple parts)

Lewis D. Wheeler*                          Mr. John Graunt, a scientist

PRODUCTION TEAM

Benny Sato Ambush+ Director & Producer

Dewey Dellay Original Music and Sound Design

Becca Freifeld* Stage Manager

Nina Groom Digital Technical Designer

Hanife Schulte Dramaturg

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association

+Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society