Sam Shepard’s bold 1983 play Fool For Love is not for the faint of heart. “It’s about our capacity for passion,” say director Brandon Weinbrenner, who is directing The Landing Theatre’s production of the motel-set drama. “The play [literally] says: ‘To be played relentlessly.’ These characters are desperate, and dramatic, full of life and angst and emotion. Throwing all that at the wall is just an exciting prospect.”
Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and later adapted into a movie by Robert Altman, Fool For Love presented an “interesting challenge” for Weinbrenner, who felt compelled to quest for the “sexual connection” of a play where “nothing was too much [and] nothing reads as fake.”
Weinbrenner, who majored in performance at the Guthrie Theater in Minnesota, describes his directorial process as “immersive,” researching past productions, dramaturgical resources, reading Shepard’s other plays and even “listening to [the playwright’s] suggested music.”
Josephine Ganner, who stars as the runaway May, won the leading role after meeting her future director at a party. “She had a sparkle behind her eye, a wisdom beyond her years,” the director recalls. “When she read for [Landing Theatre founder David Rainey] and I, we instantly knew she was the one.”
Ganner went on to suggest a potential co-star, Blake Weir, who ultimately won the role originated by the playwright himself – the jilted lover cowboy Eddie. Weinbrenner notes that “clearly [Ganner and Weir] had such a friendship that they ended up fitting together like a glove. [Weir] had such a masculine quality that [the role] needed.” Rounding out the cast are Zac Kelty, who plays Martin, and Ken Watkins, who plays a cantankerous old man with an important secret.
Originally an actor, Weinbrenner discovered his interest in directing in high school. “I was always the kid who knew the most about theater. When a chance to student direct came up, I was the natural fit for that role. So I took it, and I instantly loved it,” he says, adding, “maybe because I’m a type-A personality that likes being in charge.” Following graduation, Weinbrenner took a directing fellowship at Berkeley Rep Theatre, and worked on plays at Houston’s largest resident theater company, The Alley, as the resident assistant director, serving as right-hand man to Artistic Director Gregory Boyd.
The production also marks the first time in The Landing Theatre’s new location: at The Docks, located near the warehouse district – which previously housed DiverseWorks and The Catastrophic Theatre. “To open that space for [The Landing] is an honor. That alone was reason enough.”
Performances of Fool for Love are scheduled for March 31 through April 16 at 3 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at 1119 East Freeway. For information, call 562-502-7469 or visit landingtheatre.org. Pay-what-you-can to $25.