I clearly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, the apex of the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Struggle in the early 1960s. The former indelibly etched in my brain due to the fear of nuclear war and the latter touching my soul due to profound social changes it had on our nation and to much of mankind. We have all heard of the heroes—JFK, RFK, MLK, and many others. We also remember the villains (at least from the eyes of an American girl growing up in New York City)—Khrushchev, Castro, and Wallace. As part of their Power Plays series, Arena Stage is excited to be premiering “Change Agent” by Craig Lucas (who is also directing), Tony Award nominee for “An American in Paris” and “Light in the Piazza.” The play imagines the conversations of some of the most influential people and leaders of that era.
Appearing in the cast are Andrea Abello, Renea S. Brown, Regan Linton, Tony Nam, Jeffrey Omura, Kathryn Tkel and Luis Vega. Wilson Chin is the scenic designer, Alejo Vietti is the costume designer, Cha See is the lighting designer, Caite Hevner is the projection designer, and Broken Chord is responsible for the original music and sound design.
Regan Linton is making her Arena Stage debut following five years as artistic director at Phamaly Theatre Company in Denver, CO. Regional acting credits include “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime;” “Safe at Home;” “Animate” at Mixed Blood Theatre (MN); “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land“ at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; “Marginalia” at Denver Center for the Performing Arts; “Blood and Gifts” at La Jolla Playhouse; “Into the Woods,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Side Show,” and “Urinetown” at Phamaly and “A Madrigal Opera” at Boston Court (CA). She is co-director of the documentary “imperfect” (2021) about disabled theater actors. She has a MFA in Acting, UC San Diegoand a MSW from the University of Denver. Regan lives with a spinal cord injury.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I was born and bred in Denver, CO (go Broncos), lived in Los Angeles, Oregon, Montana, and recently completed five years as artistic director of the disability-affirmative Phamaly Theatre Company in Denver. I relocated to Alexandria, VA in December to be closer to family and begin a new chapter. I am a lover of travel, noodles, language, human observation, soccer, Taoist and stoic philosophy, and dark humor. Oh, and assyrtiko wine. During COVID, I co-directed a documentary called “imperfect”(2021) about professional theatre artists with disabilities who produce the musical “Chicago.” It’s currently having great success on the film festival circuit.
Do you find being a disabled theatrical performer presents special obstacles that others may not realize?
I grew up as an athlete and performer, but not as a person with a disability. I never broke a bone until I was in a car accident in college at age 20, and sustained a T-4 compete spinal cord injury, which left me paralyzed from the chest down. After I was injured, the world essentially told me my life was over. Thankfully, I had great support in family and rehab professionals who didn’t allow me to believe that. I discovered Phamaly, a company for actors with disabilities in Denver. In working with them, I transformed my perspective of myself and what was possible in my new wheeling body. I am now a passionate advocate for inclusion in the arts, as every human has artistic potential. Those of us with disabilities have a natural entry point to creativity because disability is a naturally creative existence—there is rarely a roadmap to follow for the adventures we encounter, and we must forge it ourselves. Disability is not an inherent deficit…it’s simply a different way of moving through the world that can expands one’s understanding of everything, if we allow for it. The theatre world—along with film, TV, and the greater non-disabled world—still has a long way to go to reframe disability as not an “unfortunate” circumstance, but as a prideful culture, identity, and creative asset. Change starts through representation—in the audience, onstage, backstage, and in leadership—which is why I am grateful each time I am graced with the opportunity to roll onstage as a performer and share my artistry.
What was your favorite role?
I love playing humans that are witty and engage in probing perspectives around human existence, often while living in the vulnerability of mess…because we all experience mess, right?! One of my favorites was Little Becky Two Shoes in “Urinetown: The Musical.” She’s a smoking, drinking, pregnant woman who is fed up with paying to pee—talk about a mess. One of my dream roles is Winnie in Beckett’s “Happy Days”, who spends the entire play stuck in a mound while trying to navigate the activities of the day and resist killing herself.
What drew you to want to be cast in this “Power Play?”
A stroke of good fortune brought me to this play. I was asked to do a virtual reading of it during COVID, and discovered a fascinating story about a figure from history who, like so many forces for good, have been lost or erased. In a world where we deal with the increasing amplification of cynicism and negativity, I think it’s so crucial to lift up the stories of people who continue(d) to push for good in the world. I remind myself daily that the second we lose hope, optimism, faith, and trust, that’s when “The Man” has won. So, I hope that telling this story with Craig Lucas and Arena, and returning to theatre with live humans to share communal space and time, will be some small part of effecting positive change into the future.
You are too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. What did you learn about that time from this play?
My, it was a complicated and challenging era. I often think of how unnerving it must have been to be faced with major events that constantly made everything around you feel unstable and uncertain, with so many shrouds of secrecy. (Thank goodness there was no social media or infotainment. It would have put the world over the brink!) And yet, life went on. The world made it through because courageous humans who thought beyond themselves to make sacrifices for the good of humanity. I think we could all benefit from heeding lessons from the era about the devastating effects of fear and mistrust, and to resist the fear triggers that are constantly planted around us. Mandela and FDR sure had it right in their bits of wisdom: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”; “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
“Change Agent” will be playing at Arena Stage at the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, 1101 Sixth Street SW, Washington, DC 20024, from January 21, 2022 until March 6, 2022. For more information about this play go to this link and for tickets. For more information on Arena Stage go to their website. For more information on Ms. Linton go to her website.