The Carpetbag Brigade adds a jungian twist with a dash of PTSD to Jack and the Beanstalk. YOU DON’T KNOW JACK is the surreal tragic comedy of an alcoholic dead man and the shadow of his wild dysfunctional family. Inspired by Robert Bly’s The Sibling Society, this funny nightmarish fairy tale excavates the echo of trauma created by the casual and constant contact soldiers have with war. Young Jack grows up in a world overshadowed by the ghosts of his grandfather’s death from alcohol and war-induced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trying to make sense of a mother who sings disturbing lullabies, teachers who eat children and a puzzling world of contradictory voices and dreams emerging from the grave, Jack plunges into a parallel inner world. Here, amidst a crew of grotesque characters shipwrecked between myth and reality, for whom life is a struggle not to become monsters, Jack penetrates the upside-down fairy–tale world enveloping him.
With original and traditional music played live onstage by the performers and a rich tapestry of objects and poetry, YOU DON’T KNOW JACK is a theatrical response to the moral and emotional wars that soldiers return home with. It invites us to dig in the dirt of our own imaginations and plant new seeds, stories and songs.
“The immensely talented cast of five are such strong performers that they imbue their dark, deliciously odd tale of a dead alcoholic and his messed-up family with a hypnotic intensity; it’s impossible not to enter their dysfunctional, fragmented worlds”
- Tina Jackson, The Metro, Glasgow, Scotland
In 2007 “You don’t know Jack” began at an intensive retreat at El Puente Theater in rural New Mexico. Our intent was to explore the dark side of family dynamics. The first improvisation was to go out separately in the village of Penasco and find objects that spoke to us. Everyone returned with empty whisky bottles…
The cast created actions, songs, texts and dances individually. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk wound itself onto the framework of our creative material with the assistance of inspiration from The Sibling Society by Robert Bly. The story crawled like a vine through our creative process and became the scaffold upon which we organized our actions and interactions. The characters of Jack began to emerge and live their present day story set amongst a domestic milieu of postwar trauma, alcoholism and emotional disturbance.
Self-devised theater work requires a vigilant attention to detail and a dedication to searching out the nuances of a discovered story. It is rare for a theater company to return to a performance and continue to work on its details over three years. Commitment to that kind of aesthetic maturation runs counter to the dynamics of consumer culture capitalism. The process creating “You don’t know Jack” is also rare in that it has had two directors. Jay Ruby was the conceptual director of the performance and birthed it while performing in it as an actor. Editing Director, Varrick Grimes of Toronto, Canada, offered to guide the piece into adulthood after seeing it in the summer of 2008. The two had worked together before in carpetbag productions and shared a similar vocabulary and theatrical ethics inherited from Grimes’ work with Canada’s Primus and Number 11 theater and Ruby’s studies with Denmark’s Odin Teatret.
“The Carpetbag Brigade of San Francisco are a company not to be ignored; and they’re presenting this most extreme and mind-blowing of all the shows on this year’s Fringe about the damaging impact of war.”
- Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman, Edinburgh, Scotland
Artistic Director: Varrick Grimes
Cast Members included: Mary Kelly, Isabelle Kirouac, Keira Loughran, Christopher Mankowski, Jay Ruby, Nick Slie, Dan Bear Davis, Kristen Greco, Kat MacMillan, Calder McCutchan, Anson Smith