by Skyler Gray
Edith, 12, and her brother Kenny, 16, are alone in a remote farmhouse in Middle America. It is 1993 and the car outside is almost out of gas and their bank account isn’t much better. The kid’s mother recently died and it has been days since they have heard from their father. Isolated spatially and emotionally from the outside world, they must rely on each other for survival. The bleakness of their situation seems to lighten with the arrival of Kenny’s classmate Benji. The kids create a makeshift family for support, but it isn’t until the arrival of adults that someone shoots and hits something they shouldn’t have.
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat is far from a nostalgic look at the 90’s, but rather an ageless play about growing up. Pamatmat has crafted a heartbreakingly hilarious portrait of what it is like to grow up isolated from the norm of society. He finds the beauty in the simplistic. Edith copes with her struggles by carrying a rifle and finding companionship in her best friend Fergie, a stuffed frog. Kenny has had to set aside his hopes and dreams to take care of Edith, the family finances, and their home. But, with the help of his endearing companion Benji, Kenny is able to discover what it means to love and be loved. Pamatmat’s portrayal of first love, loss, and family are all the things it should be: confusing, awkward and beautiful.
When first approaching the text for Edith, it was important to focus on the relationships of the characters and the world in which they live. Director Jennifer Chang and I decided that building a strong foundation of research for the world of the play was key. Edith may seem like a simple play on the technical level, but it is an emotionally complex piece. Before we could dive in, we had to answer some basic questions:
Where in Middle America is the play set? Taking Pamatmat’s stage direction that the play is “set in the remotest part of America,” we turned to the center of the United States: Smith County, Kansas. Smith County is home to Lebanon, the center of the continental United States. Really. Smith County is home to a whopping 5,300 people and a crime rate of one violent offense per year. The demographic of Smith County is 100% white.
When is the play set? We decided to set the play in 1993 to be exact. 1993 is the year Bill Clinton took office and the year Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” reached the top of the Billboard Top 100 Chart. A time of Walkman tape players, landline phones, and gas prices under $2. Remember the time before texting when passing notes in class was the best way to communicate?
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them first premiered at The Actor Theater of Louisville’s 2011 Humana Festival. For the LA premiere, Jennifer Chang has crafted a fierce group of actors to bring Pamatmat’s words to life. No matter how many times I re-read this play, there is always something new to be discovered about these characters. Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them will resonate with anyone who has ventured through the twisting maze of adolescence and learned a thing or two along the way.