Director Kory Weimer leads the cast through rehearsal recently in Cottage Grove.Local playwright Glenn B. Rust, was flown in from Chicago to support the cast in their final few weeks of rehearsal.
Rust is a playwright and producer who isn’t shy about knowing where he’s from, though he’s quick to admit it took him a while to find his distinct voice as an artist. He recalled adapting Alice In Wonderland for his mother’s theatre class at Cottage Grove High. “I didn’t know it then, but that ended up being really important,” Glenn said, laughing. “It’s definitely a case of writing something really young and cringing when you look back at it later.”
His mother, Janet, coached him through Cottage Theatre’s Melodrama Summer theatre camp. His father, Tony, has constructed “nearly every set that’s been on that stage,” Glenn said. The two of them did a stint in the big apple – working on off-broadway productions before settling in Cottage Grove and learning to call the Cottage Theatre home. So it’s no surprise that their son, Glenn, has a knack for commanding the stage.
He reluctantly equated the whole experience to the prodigal son returning. “There is a great homecoming energy with this whole thing,” Glenn said. “I’m back in the theatre I grew up in. It’s evolved just as I’ve evolved. I’m getting to see so many people I care about so deeply performing my show. I’m getting to come back to everyone who helped me become the artist I am today and show them why it mattered that they helped me become this.”
Seeking Red’s director, Kory Weimer, is a longtime family friend – and remembers meeting Glenn when he was in middle school. Weimer and Glenn worked previously on Cottage Theatre’s production of The Good Doctor, where Glenn played the show’s lead, an unnamed writer musing on his work and the world around him. “It’s been fantastic to observe him growing up and into his own,” Weimer said. “He has such a terrific grasp on dialogue and pacing not only as a writer but also as a performer. He gets theatre in a way that very few other modern playwrights get.”
Glenn spent the last five years living in Chicago, receiving his bachelors degree in playwriting from Columbia College Chicago and working as the technical director for the longstanding playwrights’ theatre, Chicago Dramatists. Seeking Red was initially performed as one of two selected plays for CCC’s 2019 Playwriting Senior Showcase.
“When I was picturing writing the show and when I was thinking about all the technical aspects of it, I was picturing it on the Cottage Theatre stage,” said Glenn. “Just because that’s my default image for what a stage could be.”
In Chicago, Glenn discovered his passion for the development of new work. “That’s all I ever really want to spend my time doing. It’s important we can get new stories out there that relate more to what we’re dealing with in the now,” Glenn said. “It’s so simple but so complicated at the same time – to just remind the audience that the characters being presented are all meant to be full-fledged human beings, and you should consider what they need to learn about their own compassion in relation to the world around them and make sure that you are doing the same.”
Seeking Red follows the story of Grey Rhodes, an intern at The Seattle Times, who’s assigned to work on a story about the “innocence project.” As she begins to investigate the grisly murders, she questions the details surrounding her own mother’s death and, most pressingly – why her Uncle Ty would lie in the first place. The playbill reads, “This intriguing drama will cause you to question the “little white lies” we tell to protect those we love.”
The show crafts big questions with a fine pen and precise attention to detail. It asks, How do you weave a story of self if the threads keep changing? Which corner of the quilt do you hang on to, the one you’ve always known or the one that’s true? Grey dissects the stories she thought she knew, and as lies are uncovered, she works to rebuild the foundation of her family cracked by the messy process of growing up.
“The connection that Grey and her uncle have is very much built upon the connection I have with my family,” Glenn said. “My sister and I grew up with these images of our parents in the way that everyone does. As we get older, we hopefully start to get to know them better and understand them a bit more.”
The leading lady, Grey Rhodes, is played by none other than Darcy Rust, Glenn’s little sister. “Working to do this character justice and also do my brother’s writing justice has been a challenge for me, but I have felt that I have gotten a lot stronger as an actress because of this show –the fact that I’m so close with everyone involved has made the rehearsal room such a safe space and this story really needs that,” Darcy said. The siblings have grown closer throughout the process, driving back and forth to rehearsal and “talking shop” as Darcy put it.
“Throughout my entire life, I have experienced my family’s art, but this is the first time they’ve worked on something that’s mine,” Glenn said.
“There’s something magical about seeing my family go through these experiences and go through the dynamics of these characters, and immediately being able to feel the emotions that they’re feeling in those scenes a little bit extra just because I have that personal connection to them as performers and as family.”
To him, there’s only one word to describe this experience: surreal.
IF YOU GO
Seeking Red runs for three weekends at Cottage Theatre from June 10 – 26. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.cottagetheatre.org or at (541) 942-8001. Tickets are $27 for adults and $15 for youth (18 & under). All seating is reserved, and advance purchase is recommended.