Claire Rice has embraced the challenge of trying to scare folks who walk through the doors of PianoFight in San Francisco .
And Tonya Narvaez is helping her do exactly that.
That’s because both of these women are handling duties for Awesome Theatre’s world premiere production of “Clickbait.” Written by longtime San Francisco Neo-Futurists company member Narvaez and directed by Awesome’s program director Rice, their newest production, which opens Thursday, Feb. 6th, is a satirical look at influencer culture and identities both online and in real life. The show explores the lengths people are willing to go in order to achieve a certain type of artificial fame accessible to anyone with an Iphone and 4g. However, it’s a type of fame not really designed for sustainability.
“Clickbait” follows self-obsessed internet celebrities Beckah and BryBry, two internet famous personalities who dive deep into wild challenges for their YouTube channel. Once they dive into their most dangerous challenge of all, attempting to survive one night in a deserted cabin, death knocks on the door looking for companionship. Whether the game is deadly or real remains to be seen.
Rice is excited to share a play that critically looks at online hero worship.
“We become familiar with Youtube stars and personalities, but in this play we are glimpsing from behind the curtain and behind the scenes, giving the audience something they don’t know.”
Narvaez was inspired to pen her latest show based on her grueling 2019. That idea of reconciling what an audience sees versus what the audience doesn’t resonated with her, and fit perfectly into what she wanted to write about.
“Women in horror films are often portrayed on the brink of a break, and for me, I was really going through some anxiety and stress with an overloaded schedule and difficulties managing my mental health,” said Narvaez. “In horror, there are regular people pushed into extraordinary circumstances, and in every draft revelation, that’s where my writing was taking me.”
It was Narvaez’ honest approach to creating original works at Neo-Futurists that made Rice want to bring her to Awesome Theatre. Rice knew that Narvaez and her play would be a fantastic scare partner, fitting beautifully into what Rice loves.
“One of my favorite things as a director, when I’m looking at any piece of writing, is looking at the audience expectations and figuring out how you can really mess with their sense of the world, their truths and values,” said Rice. “It’s my favorite thing about horror as a genre – you know the audience is going to be scared. I love tricking them, making them think it’s one thing and then scaring them with the other.
“I love tension and I love pulling that cord real tight at the right moment. It’s like the audience says, ‘You said you were going to scare me, and I dare you to do it.’”
Narvaez is digging into a longer process for her work. Neo-Futurists are well known for producing their show “The Infinite Wrench,” which attempts to perform 30 short plays in a race against a 60 minute clock. But her new show for Awesome runs 60 minutes all by itself. That process is thrilling but also, fittingly, scares her.
“I think an artist always struggles with a process,” said Narvaez, who admits to having spent a year writing a play that’s 30 minutes. “In this show, there is lots of media and horror, and I am feeling great about this particular piece.”
If Narvaez was struggling with her writing process before, that’s all but gone now.
“I love this play so much, but to completely honest, the process of writing has not been very fun to me,” said Narvaez. “But now, it’s nothing but fun now that I’ve sat in on a few rehearsals. There are dozens of people around the scenes and my body is tingling with excitement.”
Rice is also pretty fired up. She believes she has a play that will scare, but also something that can give valuable insight into a specific, 21st century dynamic.
“This is a play with deep honesty, and not just horror or thriller theatre just for scares. There’s lots of deep humanity, which adds to the horror. It’s one thing Awesome Theatre loves about Tonya’s work.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Awesome Theatre presents “Clickbait”
Written by Tonya Narvaez
Directed by Claire Rice
Thursdays at 9 pm
Feb. 6th through March 26th
144 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA
Tickets range from $22 – $25
For tickets, visit awesometheatre.org