NPR Story
2:00 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

'Edith Can Shoot' Centers On Precocious Young Girl

Edith is "too old to be talking to a stuffed frog and too young to be carrying a gun."

That's how Rey Pamatmat describes the main character — who carries both items — in his play Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them.

Pamatmat's play premiered at the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky last year. Since then, it's been playing at regional theaters around the country.

Edith is an outspoken 12-year-old whose best friend is Fergie, a giant stuffed frog. Pamatmat says writing a 12-year-old character was easy: Growing up, he was surrounded by kids.

"I'm from a Filipino family," Pamatmat says. "You can't go to a family gathering without there being kids around."

Pamatmat says Edith's precociousness is something else he gets from his family, specifically from the women: his mom, two sisters and several aunts.

"I tend to think that Filipino women are very outspoken," says Pamatmat. "But maybe it's just my mother and her family, I don't know. But then May Adrales, who directed the Humana Festival production of the play, is also very outspoken. So maybe Edith is very Filipino."

Adrales, who's also Filipino-American, concedes she probably is on the outspoken side. At her own family gatherings, she says, it's the women who "keep the party afloat."

"Laughing a lot, starting the conversation, cooking, making everybody eat," says Adrales.

In the play, Edith and her quieter older brother Kenny are latchkey kids growing up in a rural part of middle America. Their mom died and their dad is never home. Edith tries to keep her home afloat, even though she's the youngest.

They're pretty much navigating life alone, except for one other character: Benji. He was kicked out of his house when his parents found out he was gay. He's Kenny's classmate and, more significantly, his first boyfriend.

Benji moves in with Kenny and Edith, and the three kids form a kind of family. Here's where Edith's gun comes in: Like a little soldier, she believes it's her job to protect them. So, with either her gun or a bow and arrow, she boasts that she can shoot and hit stuff. You'll have to see the play to find out if she really does.

Pamatmat partly identifies with Edith.

"I shot a pistol when I was 8 years old," he says — pop guns, too, in the Philippines when he was visiting cousins. Pamatmat grew up in rural Michigan, where he says plenty of kids learn to use weapons. He says he has a lot of things in common with both Edith and Kenny.

"Like being a person of color in Middle America," says Pamatmat. "Like discovering my sexuality, because there were not that many images of gay and lesbian people back then."

Showing those experiences on stage is important to Pamatmat — and to May Adrales, who says that, for her, "seeing Filipino actors onstage and hearing them tell their story is always moving to me."

Adrales and Pamatmat are part of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition. A recent study by the group found that last year just 2 percent of the roles on Broadway and major Off Broadway shows went to Asian American actors.

"You go to shows and everyone in the cast is of the same ethnicity," Pamatmat says, "when in reality, almost all Americans live their life and encounter people of various ethnicities everyday. Whether it's your co-workers or people at the grocery store."

His plays will always have diverse casts, he says, because "that is the way my world actually is."

Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them is playing now at Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis, and at B Street Theater in Sacramento in May.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Each year, the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky showcases new American plays and we're going to hear now about one play that has leaped from last year's festival to regional theatres across the country. It has an odd name - "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them." And, in fact, the main character, Edith, carries a gun, but she also totes around a stuffed frog.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair learned more about the play from its author.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Rey Pamatmat says growing up, he was surrounded by kids.

A. REY PAMATMAT: I'm from a Filipino family. There are often kids around. You know, it's like you can't go to a family gathering without there being kids around, so...

BLAIR: So Edith is a precocious 12-year-old whose best friend is Fergie, a giant stuffed frog.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM")

TERESA LIM: (as Edith) I'm very mature for my age. It's true, Fergie. I am. I look 12, but I'm really much, much older.

BLAIR: Edith, played here by Teresa Lim, is a firecracker, independent and outspoken. That's another thing Pamatmat thinks he gets from his family, specifically the women, his two sisters, his mother and several aunts.

PAMATMAT: Really, it's because of my mom. I tend to think that Filipino women are very outspoken, you know, but maybe it's just my mother and her family. You know, I don't know, but then, you know, May Adrales, who directed the play, is also very out - you know, so maybe, you know, Edith is very Filipino.

BLAIR: Are you outspoken?

MAY ADRALES: Yeah. Oh, well, I guess so.

BLAIR: Filipino-American theatre director May Adrales has been to her own big family gatherings.

ADRALES: It is always the women that are just, you know, keeping the party afloat. You're laughing a lot, starting the conversation, cooking and making everybody eat.

BLAIR: Edith tries to keep her home afloat, even though she's the youngest. Edith and her quieter older brother Kenny are latchkey kids growing up in a rural part of middle America. Their mom died and their dad is never home.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM")

LIM: (as Edith) What's for dinner?

JON NORMAN SCHNEIDER: (as Kenny) Spaghetti.

LIM: (as Edith) Pizza. The long ones in the oven, not the microwave ones.

SCHNEIDER: (as Kenny) We don't have any.

LIM: (as Edith) Well, take me to the store.

SCHNEIDER: (as Kenny) OK. But we're walking.

LIM: (as Edith) Why?

SCHNEIDER: (as Kenny) We're almost out of money.

BLAIR: Kenny and Edith are pretty much alone, except for one other character, Benji. He was kicked out of his house when his parents found out he was gay. He is Kenny's classmate and, more significantly, his first boyfriend. So, Benji moves in with Kenny and Edith.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM")

LIM: (as Edith) Is it a sleepover?

SCHNEIDER: (as Kenny) Just hanging out.

LIM: (as Edith) No one's here.

SCHNEIDER: (as Kenny) Why?

LIM: (as Edith) Well, no one's ever here, but us. You could sleep over and no one would care.

BLAIR: Edith, Kenny and Benji form a kind of family. Edith believes it's her job to protect them, so like a little soldier, she carries either a gun or a bow and arrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "EDITH CAN SHOOT THINGS AND HIT THEM")

LIM: (as Edith) It's a good thing we're so good at this, Fergie, because Kenny really isn't. He gets in a tough spot and he won't blast his way through, guns blazing. He doesn't even get himself into tough spots. He just walks around them. But, to execute this mission, our mission, you have to stand up and face things and say, hey, who goes there?

BLAIR: Rey Pamatmat says he partly identifies with Edith.

PAMATMAT: I shot a pistol when I was eight years old.

BLAIR: Shot popguns in the Philippines when he was visiting cousins. Rey Pamatmat grew up in rural Michigan, where he says kids also learn to use weapons. He says he has a lot of things in common with both Edith and Kenny.

PAMATMAT: Well, like being a person of color growing up in middle America or even like having to basically discover sexuality all by myself because there weren't as many images of, like, gay and lesbian people.

BLAIR: Showing those experiences on stage is important to Rey Pamatmat and to May Adrales.

ADRALES: Personally, always seeing Filipino actors onstage and hearing them tell their story, it's always moving to me.

BLAIR: Adrales and Pamatmat are part of the Asian-American Performers Action Coalition. A recent study by the group found that, last year, just two percent of the roles on Broadway and major off-Broadway shows went to Asian-American actors - two percent.

PAMATMAT: You go to shows and everyone in the cast is of the same ethnicity when, in reality, almost all Americans move through life and encounter people of various ethnicities every day. You know, it's like whether, you know, whether it's your coworkers or just, you know, the people at the grocery store.

BLAIR: So he says his plays will always have a diverse cast.

PAMATMAT: That is the way my world actually is.

BLAIR: Rey Pamatmat's play, "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them," opens at Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis this weekend and B Street Theatre in Sacramento in May.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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