AURORA | Do you believe?
That’s what the creative team at the Aurora Fox Arts Center will be asking audiences this month and next with “Myth,” the East Colfax theater’s third show of its 32nd season.
Written by Denver-based playwright Charles Wefso — brother of the show’s co-star Jack Wefso — “Myth” centers on two men who find themselves taking up residence at an abandoned military fort near Yellowknife, Canada in the Yukon Territory. The younger of the two men, Jason (Jack Wefso), is on a mission to find the most elusive creature in North American folklore: Bigfoot. In his pursuit, Jason encounters Cass (Jack Casperson), who forces the younger man to wrestle with truth, faith and the question of whether to protect or publicize an eternally evasive beast.
An early version of the script came across Fox Executive Producer Charles Packard’s desk some two years ago, and it didn’t take long for the self-descibed Bigfoot super fan to become enamored with the concept.
“It rang with me because I’m kind of Bigfoot obsessed,” said Packard, who’s directing the upcoming production. “And I was thinking about this notion of ‘life on the margins of polite society,’ which is what’s driven our whole season, and it struck me that both of the characters in this show are very marginalized people … And then it’s extra fun that it’s in the middle of the woods and in the Yukon.”
The set in the Fox’s intimate black box studio features more than a dozen recently felled trees that were donated by the nearby DeLaney Community Farm. The dead trees were removed during routine maintenance at the local farm.
Although set in a distant corner of North America, the show’s roots trace back to the tiny tourist town of Deadwood, South Dakota, where playwright Charles Wefso bartended for about three years at a wild west-themed bar named after “Wild Bill” Hickok, a folk hero of the American west.
“I’ve always been interested in the psychology behind the sort of people who look for Bigfoot and aliens and ghosts and things like that,” Charles said. “I would listen to the ways people (at the bar) would tell stories and then other people at the bar would chime in and say, ‘no, that’s not what happened,’ and tell me another version of that same completely unbelievable story.
“I got really into those sort of modern myths and how easily simple things can shift. That is really what gave me the inspiration to throw myself into the script.”
The production is intended to be an homage to the growing band of Sasquatch “believers,” but not an exorbitant tribute that only appeals to die-hards, according to Sound Designer El Armstrong.
“It’s a little bit of a tight rope walk,” Armstrong said. “The community of believers has a very definite idea of what (Bigfoot) sounds like, but a lot of what it sounds like on those early tapes seems kind of silly to the people who haven’t been exposed to the community of believers … I’m trying to find a balance that keeps both sides of the fence happy and serves the artistic focus of the show.”
Also on that tightrope is longtime metro-area actor and Aurora resident Casperson, who describes himself as somewhat of a Sasquatch agnostic.
“Personally, I don’t believe in anything because that stops your thought process,” the 78-year-old Casperson said. “If you believe, it’s like you’ve acquiesced to it so you don’t have to think about it any more. That’s where I draw the line because I know there’s more.
“But I think everybody has seen things that we don’t understand.”
The production, which marks the Fox’s first world premier in recent memory and the first since Packard has been at the theater’s helm, opens Jan. 20.