Three uniformed movie employees stand with arms folded in front of rows of empty seats. Text: The Flick by Annie Baker

The Flick

“Ms. Baker specializes in moments of intimacy that are awkward, hilarious, and ineffably touching,”
- Charles Isherwood, NYT

by Annie Baker

September 27-30, 7:30 p.m.
October 1, 2:00 p.m.
Studio 88 Theatre

Directed by Saffron Henke

Tickets: $12 Adult, $9 Senior, $8 Student

Meet the staff at The Flick, a run-down movie theatre in New England. Sam has a thing for Rose, but she’s not much interested. Rose is drawn to newcomer Avery, who finds the movies a perfect escape from life. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, this Pulitzer prize-winning play explores the boundaries of class and race as the characters search for connection in the face of change.


The Cast

Sam: Ben Cobb
Avery: Josh George
Rose: Kate Herman
Skylar: Tanner McCormick


Designers and Production Team

Assistant Directors: Tanner McCormick, Colin Shimrock
Scenic Designer: Laura Schorsch | advised by: Gion DeFrancesco
Costume, Hair and Makeup Designer: Rachel Scardina | advised by: Melanie Mortimore and Meggan Peters
Lighting Designer: Cassie Mings
Assistant Lighting Designer: Erin Speno
Sound Designer: Chuck Hatcher

Stage Manager: Shelby Scaffidi
Assistan. Stage Manager: Caroline Avolio
Dramaturgs: Mario Formica, Rachel O’Reilly | advised by: Christiana Molldrem Harkulich
Light Board Operator: Melissa Rowan
Sound Board Operator: Mackenzie Broshear
Props Master: Aidan McBreen
Property Crew: Nick Karakianopoulos
Wardrobe, Hair and Make-up Crew: Rian Sondag, George Swarn and Megan Eakin


Selected Dramaturgy

by Rachael O'Reilly and Mario Formica

“It’s just like different and that like scares you. People always freak out when like you know when like art forms move forward.”
- Sam, The Flick

The Flick strongly encourages a deep evaluation between theatre and film, with an emphasis on the role of the audience. Taking hyper-realism to the extreme, this play is the realer than real. For some this play may move at slower pace than what is usually witnessed at a theatre production, but keep in mind that Annie Baker loves silence and showing you the messier sides of life. Being the forefront of bringing hyper-realism to the visual arts has put pressure on Baker, but she pushes right back by standing by her writing and daring to be different.

Before Annie Baker made her way to the playwriting scene, she was a child who loved the idea of what the movies could bring the individual. Her inspiration for writing of The Flick came when she went to see one of her favorite movies and they switched the showing from film to digital, making everything feel “off” about the production. Baker encourages the characters onstage to fully engage with the realities of the world. The audience offstage is then encouraged to answer questions of authenticity, loyalty, and humanity.

Hyper-Realism: An Arts Movement

Hyper-realism is an art form that is so highly detailed it looks real even though it is not. This movement started with painting and sculptures looking almost picture-like in the 1970’s and was present in both America and Europe. 21st century hyper-realism was further developed based on the aesthetics with ‘photorealism’. Jean Baudrillard coined a philosophical term for hyper-realism stating, “it is the simulation of something that never really existed,” which in turn creates a false sense of reality.

Hyper-realism didn’t start appearing in the visual arts until much later within the movement. Annie Baker is known for her groundbreaking word as a hyper-realist playwright, creating worlds and characters that are similar to what the average person sees everyday. This becomes about showing all slices of life and not feeling compelled to skip over natural silences. Hyper-realism in the visual arts encourages the audience to engage with not only the plot, but also the interior motives of the characters. There is a specific application of everyday aesthetics that can be applied in dramaturgical structures so that the author can focus on the play by play between characters, without heightening their circumstances of the dialogue itself. The audience is then invited into this relatable world that blurs the line between fiction and reality.

35 mm vs. Digital Cinema

The Flick was a real theatre in Worcester County at 18 Lymann St., Westborough, Massachusetts. Though the real theatre has been demolished due to failed finances, Baker sets her play here. The switch from 35mm film to digital was inconvenient for many theatre houses because it was expensive and soon people stopped going altogether, according to film professor, Dr. Kerry Hegarty. In the play, Baker paints the picture that The Flick isn’t in great financial standing, with rumors that they too may switch over to digital.

35 mm film is the film gauge more commonly used for chemical photography and motion pictures.The name of the film informs users of the width of the photographic film. In this instance the numbers would be 34.98+0.03 mm (1.377+0.001 in) wide.

This film was originally introduced by William Dickson and Thomas Edison. It allowed around 4 performances, or shots per frame and was later accepted as the standard in 1909. While it used to be the only way for the movie theatre to put on motion pictures, that changed in 2008 due to companies encouraging the use of the digital film instead. This transition is an easy choice to make financially because digital film could be reused and was also not flammable, making it better for safety reasons.

Digital came around when theatre houses stopped using film and moved to other forms of presenting movies. This was a good move for theatre houses because it was a more cost-efficient standard and was safer, as film strips are highly flammable. It was not until the late 1990’s that this system was considered in full swing and was being used in most theatres. A sense of nostalgia for the past is felt with Avery’s desire to keep the film stips around, and he gets a job at the last theatre showing movies that way.

Some Movies That Appear in The Flick

  • A Trip to the Moon (1902)

    The 1902 French film A Trip to the Moon, written, produced, and directed by Georges Méliès, was an international success when it hit the market. Inspired from multiple Jules Verne novels (From the Earth to the Moon & Around the Moon) this movie tells the story of a group of astronomers who take a trip to the moon and find more than what they were looking for up there.

    A Trip to the Moon ranks as one of the cinema’s first (if not the first) science fiction films, combining spectacle, sensation, and technical wizardry to create a cosmic fantasy that was an international sensation (Dixon 12).” Later, in the 20th century, directors such as Edwin S. Porter and D.W. Griffith, attest Trip… to be their inspiration to go into filmmaking. Literary and film scholar Edward Wagenknecht has said that Méliès "profoundly influenced both Porter and Griffith and through them the whole course of American filmmaking.” (Wagenknecht).

  • Pulp Fiction (1994)

    At the time of its release, Pulp Fiction was an instant success as the winner of the Best Picture Award at the Cannes Film Festival, and sky-rocketed director Quentin Tarantino’s career. The film pays homage to many films that preceded and became a staple of the American Film Industry. Pulp Fiction revitalized film noir and the career of John Travolta as well as introduced Uma Thurman to mainstream audiences.

    Not everyone who saw Pulp Fiction liked its intensity and darkness. Some critics have chosen not to watch it due to the gore and language that it uses. The film also received some complaints for the use of “N” word throughout. However, despite the violence and the language, most critics agree that this film is the best example of a postmodern movie by demonstrating its non-conforming narrative style and skepticism for truth. It stands on many critics lists as one of the best films of all time, and it was preserved in the National Film Registry in 2013.

  • Avatar (2009)

    The highest grossing movie of 2009, Avatar, is a digital film. Director James Cameron began working on the project in 1994, however he was certain that the technology at the time would not suffice in creating his vision. This epic science fiction film was lauded by critics everywhere for advancing technology in motion pictures. For example, a new camera was developed for the filming of Avatar, one that would be placed on the head of the actor. After filming the Na’vi people this way, during the process of editing, the visual effects coordinator would be able to still use the actor's expressions while also painting them blue. It was not the first film to use digital, however; since then, almost every action/fantasy film has followed in its footsteps.

Realer Than Real

by Rachael O'Reilly

Artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, Tim Sandford, stated in a New York Times interview that “I respect your right to dislike the play, and I hope you understand why we chose to produce it, and respect our right to stand by it,” referring to producing Annie Baker’s The Flick. Baker is currently breaking ground with her use of hyper-realism in theatre, a style of art that began in the visual arts in the 1970’s. Hyper-realism challenges the normal theatrical experience. Engaging with hyper-realism means depicting not just a slice of life, but rather an unedited, messy version, of reality that delivers more than just the ‘best parts’.

To be as real as real life, it is necessary for the play to contain long silences, during which mundane tasks are accomplished, which are challenging for an audience used to snappy dialogue. Baker is passionate about the silent beats within her play and feels they should be emphasized even if it feels uncomfortable. This bold move presents challenges for actors and audience members alike. Actors must portray the real while making choices that don’t feel instinctual; and audience members are either fully engaged or leave the theatre in a fit. Either way, The Flick will spark a strong reaction from all of those involved.

Baker’s The Flick premiered at the Off-Broadway theatre Playwrights Horizons in March of 2013. This theatre company is known for producing exciting new works, many of which win Pulitzer and Tony awards. Baker has a history of developing plays with Playwrights Horizons; one of her other well-produced works Circle Mirror Transformation premiered there in 2009.

In 2014, The Flick won the Pulitzer Prize and was subsequently produced Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre. The remount of the original production opened in May of 2015, using the original cast as directed by Sam Gold in 2013. The play was then produced in Chicago at the Steppenwolf Theatre which ran from February 2016 to May 2016, and the at the National Theatre in London in 2016.

The Flick has consistently been produced in the professional, educational, and community levels of the theatre world. Annie Baker has received numerous grants and later the Steinberg Playwright Award for her work. Baker’s new style of realism is refreshing to the audience and sparkes reflections about art and daily life.

Society and Mental Illness

In today’s society, mental illness pops up more and more in conversation. Twenty years ago conversations revolving mental illness were often under wraps, as it was seen as abnormal. Phrases such as "man up" and "buck up" have long been used to tell people to suppress their feelings and conform to the societal norm. However, through open dialogue and advocacy groups such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, mental health experts have been able to bring the mental health conversation to the forefront.

The most prevalent mental health issues seen in The Flick are depression and anxiety. According to Psychiatry.org “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed” (Parekh).

We see some of these traits in Avery and Sam. Avery’s depression possibly stems from the sexual assault that happened in his life as well as his mother who abandoned him. Male victims of sexual abuse face a culture that says their abuse results from either weakness or homosexuality. Because of this, some men don’t tell anyone about their abuse. However, when people don’t acknowledge or talk their abuse, they might be internally refusing treatment that would help resolve the feelings of depression (Sexual Assault). An example of Avery’s depression would be when he is barely able to bring himself to go to work on his first day, and then makes up an excuse as to why he was late.

We also cannot ignore the rhetoric that Avery uses when asked about his sexual orientation. He says he “does not want to answer these questions.” On college campuses roughly 85% of the student body identifies as heterosexual, and about 12% of students recognize or identify as gay, bisexual, or other (Weiss).The slang terms such as “gay,” “faggot,” and “homo” are thrown around frequently on college campuses, which can induce anxiety and fear in queer people. This could possibly be another reason for Avery’s depression as well as his anxiety. While Avery has a counselor, Sam does not seek formal help.

Sam’s depression most likely stems from his current status in life. His partner left him and now he is in his mid-30’s and lives with his parents. The life he is in is not what he expected. Adding to this is the relationship between Rose and Sam. When Avery is taught how to use the projector only weeks after starting, Sam seemly deeply hurt, acting out in anger and expressing his damaged pride. “In a historical context of global economic recession, the impact on men has not only been attributed to a more systemic financial failure, but more specifically because women are seen as taking jobs—including those in the technology fields—that are somehow the “natural” right of men (Banet-Wesier).” On top of this, Sam has an unrequited love for Rose. This pent up anger and lust causes Sam to lash out at Rose.

As the play comes to an end, we as an audience want catharsis. We wish to see a ‘happy ending.’ However, this hyper-realistic play shows the truth, and the truth is that the characters at the end of the show are still dealing with their mental health issues. We see Sam, who is realizing his true self and the kind of person he has become, and Avery, who has just been fired and seems down-trodden. The mental illness in this play is depicted not as a disease seeking a cure, but as a lived-in experience that we can all relate to.

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