The Celebration Company at the Station Theatre is opening its 43rd Season with Daniel Pearle’s play A Kid Like Jake, directed by Katie Baldwin Prosise. The play has a powerhouse cast of local talent, including Lindsey Gates-Markel in the role of Alex, Mike Prosise as Greg, Kay Bohannon Holley as Judy, and Stefanie Senior as the Nurse. A Kid Like Jake concerns a Manhattan couple’s struggle to get their darling son into a private school, which is a highly competitive and stressful process for New York City’s privileged elite. Complicating matters is Jake’s proclivity for dressing as Cinderella.
Director Katie Prosise was kind enough to talk to me about this interesting drama.
Smile Politely: What made you want to direct A Kid Like Jake?
Katie Baldwin Prosise: This script is relevant and real. It speaks to people with such a range of experiences, and the emotions are at the top. And the dialogue is written the way people talk, which is so hard to find!
SP: Are you able to relate to the process of getting a child into a preschool in Manhattan? What would the Central Illinois equivalent of that be?
Prosise: I don’t have children of my own yet, but I do raise kids for a living. The pressure of having a child—and letting someone else raise your kids when you’re working or traveling—seems intense. I don’t know that the private grade school game is as competitive here as it might be in, say, New York. But there are high pressure situations involving parenthood here, just as anywhere in the world. I guess children’s theatre/dance is pretty vicious all over, but I don’t know if it compares to the high stakes in A Kid Like Jake.
SP: What would you say are the overarching themes of the play?
Prosise: This play is about how parenting affects a marriage. It’s about how professional encounters can affect a friendship, and visa versa. The themes of this story are rooted in making impossible decisions, fighting people who used to be your allies, and stepping out of bounds when it counts.
SP: Why do you think Pearle chose to keep the four-year-old off the stage? (Aside from the obvious problem of finding a four-year-old to play the role.) Do you wish there had been an opportunity for him to be on stage?
Prosise: People keep asking me about the kid! “Do you have to direct a child?” This play isn’t really about Jake. It’s about how people react to “kids like him.” His physical presence really wouldn’t serve the story and, anyway, his influence is everywhere, from beginning to end. He permeates the conversation and action of these adults.
SP: What do you think the play communicates about gender roles? Did the parents’ respective responses to Jake’s interest in Cinderella surprise you?
Prosise: A lot of people have a hard time dealing with anyone who doesn’t fit into the binary system. (“Are you a boy or girl? Are you gay or straight? Are you cis or transgender?”) This play shows three people’s reactions—curiosity, anger, denial, acceptance, support—to a child who doesn’t fit into a tidy box. I think Pearle’s overall message is that fighting human nature can end in a bloody mess.
I’m not really surprised by anyone’s reactions to something they know almost nothing about. It’s what happen after knowledge is introduced that interests me the most. How a mother can reject sterile statistics and cling to the notion that her child is going through a phase, that all kids have “mood swings.” How a father can seek help for his child and educate himself on how to do that, breaking the pattern of his own upbringing. I’m not surprised, really, because these characters are written so well, but I am fascinated.
SP: Do you think it will be hard for audience members with more pressing personal issues to relate to the couple?
Prosise: I don’t compare problems. Saying someone can’t be upset because someone else has it worse is like saying someone can’t be happy because another person has it better. The people in this play face real problems, with emotional and physical consequences. Trying to get and stay pregnant after you lose a baby is a pressing personal issue. Advocating for a child, one that you have no legal rights to, in a world of violence and rejection, is a pressing personal issue. Staking a claim in your own home, in your own family, is a pressing personal issue. Anyone with a child, friend, partner, or profession can relate to Pearle’s story. That’s why I wanted to tell it. It’s your story. It’s all of ours.
A Kid Like Jake will open at the Station Theatre on Thursday, October 2nd, at 8 p.m. The show runs from October 2-18. Reservations can be made online or by calling 217-384-4000. Tickets are $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and $15 on Friday and Saturdays.