Twin City Squared is kicking off its second season this week with the play titled Shotgun by John Biguenet. A shotgun-duplex (or “double-barreled shotgun”) is a name for what would happen if you put two railroad apartments in separate buildings that share one adjoining wall. In New Orleans, this architecture is fairly common, which is where this particular social drama takes place. The levees just broke four months ago, and homeless from the flood, a white man and his teenage son rent the other half of a shotgun-duplex from a black woman and her father.
This premiere will be happening in the SoDo Theatre at the I4C in downtown Champaign, and is directed by a relative newcomer, Liana Alcantara. I was able to speak with her and one of the cast members about the show.
Smile Politely: It’s always exciting to introduce our readers to a new(ish) talent — are you the same Liana who headed the Theatre at Danville High? Can you talk about any other productions where local audiences may have seen your work as a director?
Liana Alcantara: I did run the Drama department at Danville High School for the past three years. In my time there, we did Almost Maine, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged, The Crucible, Beauty and the Beast, Noises Off!, and most recently In The Heights. I also worked extensively with The What You Will Shakespeare Company during my time at University of Illinois. Currently, I am the Studio Manager at Defy Gravity Pole and Aerial Arts studio.
SP: Shotgun is a play about cultural tensions, and this production rides close on the heels of Latrelle Bright’s production of Sleep Deprivation Chamber. Will you speak to how this production continues that dialogue? If Prince Robertson, who was in both, would like to contribute, I’d love to hear his take, too.
Alcantara: Shotgun deals with the realities of race relations in the US, more specifically in the south, in a very real way. After losing their house in the hurricane, Beau and Eugene, both White, rent an apartment from Mattie Godchaux in a Black neighborhood, much to the dismay of Mattie’s father Dex and Mattie’s “old acquaintance” Willie. There are prejudices on both sides, some well earned by living through the Civil Rights movement, and some born of misplaced anger and jealousy. We see in Shotgun that while these tensions will never go away, they can be understood and worked through, and after a tragedy the scale of Katrina, your neighbor’s your neighbor, regardless of race.
Prince Robertson: [I see] a continuation between Sleep Deprivation Chamber and Shotgun in how each play deals with power structures in the US and how they adversely affect minorities, especially the Black community. In Sleep Deprivation Chamber, we see the frustration of a young Black man dealing with police brutality. In Shotgun, we see what happens when tragedy hits a primarily Black area. If the hurricane had hit in Maine or another primarily White area, many believe the government response would’ve been more of a priority.
SP: What first drew you to be involved with Shotgun?
Alcantara: Mike Galloway contacted me about directing Shotgun, and once I read through the show I was hooked. I love how natural the dialogue sounds and the fact that it tells a story that feels real. As Dex says at the end of the play “you looking for a happy ending in this world, go buy yourself a book”. Shotgun does a brilliant job capturing the despair and displacement present 4 months post-Katrina while showcasing the grit and sense of humor it took to survive.
SP: What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process? Any good stories?
Alcantara: This rehearsal process has been a lot of fun, not just because of the cast (who are a RIOT in the best way), but also thanks to their families. Two of our cast members are married and have three children who often accompanied them to rehearsals. The boys are quite anxious to follow in mom and dad’s footsteps, and many times they would beeline for the stage, wanting to be in the play just like their parents. It’s been a family affair from the start.
SP: What else would you like potential audiences to know about this show and your production?
Alcantara: I would want people to know that while Shotgun may not be a well-known play, the story it tells is remarkable and real. We see characters struggle with love and loss on a greater scale than many of us ever have to know, and they bear it as best they can. This play shows what happens when tragedy forces people of different experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs to struggle through the aftermath together, building a new future with whoever they can.
Performances of Shotgun will be held at the SoDo Theatre on 111 S. Walnut St., Champaign from June 8-18. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. with a 3 p.m. matinee each Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students or senior citizens and are available online or by calling “ShowTix4U” at 1-866-967-8167.