'It's kind of beautiful': Hyde Park Theatre presents the world premier of 'Running Bear'
After a long, pandemic-induced break, Hyde Park Theatre has gotten back to the business of live theater. This month, they opened the world premier production of Raul Garza’s Running Bear. The two-actor play stars Mical Trejo and Macy Butler as Lucas and Emily, two people who unexpectedly meet on a bridge and – at least at first – appear to be polar opposites.
Butler says that upon reading the script, she immediately identified with the role. “When I read this script, Emily felt super-familiar, because I feel like in a lot of ways I’ve been in her position," she says. "And the writing was absolutely – it is absolutely gorgeous. And as soon as I read that script, I was like, ‘this is a person with a story that I want to be able to inhabit and do justice [to].’”
Trejo doesn’t have quite as much in common with his character. “Lucas is a little bit of a tougher stretch for me,” he says with alaugh. “He’s a little bit more, I would say, on the boomer side of things, and I’d like to think I’m a little bit more open minded and liberal. But certainly there are some elements – especially his journey through the corporate world. It’s a journey I’m familiar with, and he confronts some very sensitive situations in regards to his race and fitting in. And, you know, that’s been a challenge for me and I’m sure for Macy – we’re both not white, and things are a little different for folks like us. And so Lucas has done the best he could to address all that, and I admire that about him.”
Trejo’s firmly a member of Generation X, but says Lucas feels like someone who’s a little further into middle age. “When I first read the description that he was middle aged, I was like, ‘wait, I guess I’m middle aged!’” he says. “But he’s a complex person and I think it’s somebody that even Gen Xers are going to – and anybody, really – is going to relate to, because there’s some frustrations that he surfaces that are common, that transcend age. Now, would I wear the shapeless khakis that he wears? Probably not.”
“Dadwear?” Butler adds with a laugh.
“Yeah, he’s full-on dadwear!” Trejo agrees.
Butler, on the other hand, had to imagine herself just a bit younger. “Having to get into that seventeen-year-old mindset – it wasn’t a million years ago,” she says. “And so there was a lot of… reading my own personal journal and being like, ‘oh my goodness, I was angsty! And I was this, like, not necessarily dramatic, but definitely expressive about the way I felt.’”
The core of Running Bear is the way in which these two characters start to move past their obvious differences. “There’s some breaking down of those initial barriers when meeting a stranger. And then over time, these two people in this moment on this bridge are there to process some very similar traumas,” Trejo says. “It starts off kind of playful and adversarial, but it goes to a really special place.”
“The difference between these two people is recognized at the very beginning of the play – it’s made very clear that they are not expecting to find any good out of each other,” Butler says. “And to see, you know, kind of a 180 in that, in subtle ways… I think it’s kind of beautiful because that connection with somebody that is nothing like you – at least you think that – and to find out you’re actually a lot more alike than you thought is really important. And I think a lot more people would benefit from being able to have that experience. And so I think to see it on stage is such a gift.”