New theater troupe to debut ‘Rabbit Hole’

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Ryan Chase Lee, left, and Jency Griffin Hogan rehearse a scene from 'Rabbit Hole' on Monday at Hogan's backyard theater in Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Ryan Chase Lee, left, and Jency Griffin Hogan rehearse a scene from 'Rabbit Hole' on Monday at Hogan's backyard theater in Baton Rouge.

It’s all happening in Jency Griffin Hogan’s backyard.

  • Becca and Howie are working through the loss of their son while a family drama plays out around them. Theirs is the story of David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Rabbit Hole, which Rich Babin considers one of the best in American drama.

Babin is directing a production of this play in Hogan’s backyard.

Literally.

“My husband built this as his studio,” Hogan says. “He’s a photographer. I turned it into a rehearsal space.”

  • And it’s perfect for the small cast for which Rabbit Hole calls.

The play, however, won’t be performed behind Hogan’s home. The production opens Thursday in Theatre Baton Rouge’s Studio, formally known as the Second Stage.

“We’ll move rehearsals over there next week,” Hogan says. “But we’ve been here through the summer.”

Hogan is a Baton Rouge native and earned her degree in theater from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. She wanted to get involved in theater upon returning to Baton Rouge, and she wanted to present affordable theater to Baton Rouge audiences.

“We want to support the arts and make it affordable for people to come to the theater,” she says.

“There might be some people who never go to the theater because they can’t afford the ticket.”

This is why the Backyard Theater company is keeping its ticket price at $8, the proceeds of which will benefit the Transplant Dream Foundation after production expenses are paid.

“We hope to put on a production every summer,” Hogan said.

“Next summer, we’ll do a comedy,” Babin said. “I don’t know which comedy yet, but if I knew, I wouldn’t say right now.”

  • That’s best left for next summer. Focus now is on drama, and Rabbit Hole ranks in the top tier among American dramas.

The play was commissioned by South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. Its New York debut came in 2006.

  • Rabbit Hole is the story of Becca and Howie Corbett, who are mourning the death of their 4-year-old son Danny, who was killed by a car while running into the street after his dog. Becca wants to eliminate Danny’s existence, thereby erasing her pain. Howie is pushing Becca to have another child.

And all the while, they’re having to contend with a surrounding drama created by Becca’s mother, Nat, who lost her 30-year-old son to drugs, and then there’s Becca’s pregnant sister, Izzy.

Hogan plays Becca in this production. She and Babin invited other cast members to take part.

“They’re people we saw and knew, and they fit perfectly,” Hogan said. “Actors should act.”

This is Hogan’s motto. She’s an actor. She teaches private acting classes and now she’s acting.

“Actually, I took my first acting class on Baton Rouge Little Theater’s Second Stage,” she said.

She was just a kid, and Theatre Baton Rouge was known as the little theater at the time. Now she’s staging her own production on that stage.

She’s come full circle.

  • CAST: Jency Griffin Hogan, Becca; Ryan Chase Lee, Howie; Courtney Murphy, Izzy; Deborah Murphree, Nat; Joe Bridges, Jason.
  • ARTISTIC STAFF: Rich Babin, director; Katie Crawford, stage manager; Joshua Johnson, stage manager; Cecile Johnson, props.