Letter from the Artistic Director

Come, take a seat, and listen to a story just for you.

Tonight all of us at BCT are eager to open our reimagined production of “A Nighttime Survival Guide,” a play written specifically for you, the BCT audience. I began work on this play with my dear friend, Dwayne Blackaller, four years ago and we are thrilled to bring it to you tonight in its most fully realized form.

Whether you saw the earlier version of the show in February of 2013, or you are joining us for the very first time, the artists and technicians working on this show have a number of fantastic surprises for you. This rehearsal process has been like returning to a beloved storybook and discovering rich, new detail alongside memorable highlights.

Michael Baltzell’s scenic design for this show—two detailed rooms at opposite ends of a beautifully simple, curved horizon—is truly inspired. It’s a perfect example of the brilliant work that recently earned him a Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence. Mike has also invented amazingly expressive range for the monster puppets that take the stage to challenge our protagonists, Aki and Verne.


Our brilliant cast in an early “tech” rehearsal. From left to right: Carie Kawa, Anne McDonald, Jodi Eichelberger, Jaime Nebeker, Justin Ness (seated), and Dwayne Blackaller.

I couldn’t ask for a better cast of collaborative performers to help me tell this heartfelt story: my co-writer and co-director, Dwayne Blackaller as Verne, an imaginative 11-year-old boy in Arco, Idaho; longtime BCT collaborator Carie Kawa as the brilliantly quiet Aki, who lives 16 times zones away in rural Japan; and Justin Ness as The Conductor, our charming host for the evening, whose singing voice was one of the first inspirations for this play.

Compelling performer, Anne McDonald of Frankly Burlesque, plays one of the three puppeteer-performers known as the “Silhouettes.” She is joined by professional puppeteers Jodi Eichelberger and Jaime Nebeker. Jodi performed in the original cast of the Tony Award-winning puppet musical Avenue Q on Broadway and played Stingy in the children’s TV series Lazytown. Jamie is managing director of Boise’s HomeGrown Theater, where she has created and performed original puppet theater for five seasons, and also tours with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Tony-nominated sound designer Peter John Still has painstakingly ensured that the great horned owl hoots meet the expectations of any birders in our wonderful audience, and the growls of our invented creatures are just as convincing. His intuitive gifts add a depth to our work at BCT that transcends the usual roles of sound and music in the theater.

We began rehearsing four weeks ago with what we call a “table reading.” The cast and crew of a dozen read through the text to get our bearings. We then began rehearsing six days a week, including four more days at the table, a time that allowed a lot of rewriting to add both clarity and richness to the story.


Here I am working with the Silhouettes (Jaime, Jodi & Anne) to stage a scene with the Akaname, or “Filth Licker,” who uses his tongue as a mop.

On Sunday, we held the first of three days of “tech,” where we coordinate all the elements – text, blocking, lights, sound and more to make for effective theatrical storytelling.

For example, when Dwayne returned to the stage tugging on his fly we knew we had to find a little more time for his costume change.

“I need 20 more seconds,” Dwayne said. “Fifteen more seconds . . . if you give me seven seconds I can do it!”

“I’ll give you a little more breath,” said Justin, who does the speaking while Dwayne changes.

The result is a fully zipped actor and a lovely pace that matches the warmth of the story. Watching this production come together, I look forward to collecting my own children tonight, along with my mother and my niece, and saying, “Come, take a seat, and listen to a story just for you.”

I hope you enjoy the show!

Matthew Cameron Clark
Founding Artistic Director
Boise Contemporary Theater
“We tell stories here.”