The play is about a suicidally sad clown, but it marks a very happy occasion for Rowen Haigh.
The Danville native is returning home with her Maryland-based theater troupe, White Flag Performance Group, to present the theater's original play Really You Should Use Bullets at Actors Guild of Lexington's South Elkhorn Theatre.
The surname Haigh has cachet in Lexington theater. Haigh's father is Centre College theater professor and director Anthony Haigh.
"You grow up thinking things are normal, and then you suddenly realize, oh, everybody else doesn't play Shakespeare-themed Trivial Pursuit and everybody else doesn't take their kids to experimental theater performances," Rowen Haigh says.
As a child, Haigh was bitten by the theater bug, hanging around her father's theater department and working at Danville's West T. Hill Community Theatre in high school and middle school. But when she went to Reed College in Portland, Ore., she was determined to shake the family art. But ...
"I got sucked right back in," she says.
"Dad's been really fabulous," she says. "Anybody that's in the same field as their parents, it's just kind of zany. You have not only everything in common familially, but everything you're working on you're trading ideas back and forth and butting heads about style. At this point, Dad and I are both very much directors, and we talk about ways to devise new work and create work that's original and that's pretty fabulous."
Rowen Haigh is now at Towson State University in Towson, Md., just north of Baltimore. That's where White Flag was born.
"In the grand tradition of young companies, we met in grad school," Haigh says. "We decided that grad school wasn't hard enough."
They also were itching to do work outside the curriculum.
Really You Should Use Bullets was the group's first project.
Through a workshop process, the idea of a sad clown emerged. It was a clown sad enough to commit suicide, flying in the face of the idea that clowns are supposed to be happy and fun. That illuminated the idea that the flip side of comedy is tragedy. So they explored the idea of a sad clown and what would make a clown so sad she would take her own life with comedic results.
"We're looking at this big human scene through this comedic lens — alienation, loneliness, how do we exist without other people," Haigh says.
She emphasizes that though a clown is at the center of the show, it is not a children's play, or its content is not appropriate for children.
Like the show, there is a dark humor to the company's name. Haigh says the moniker White Flag Performance Group was inspired by the scary state of theater today, with groups closing and losing funding in the face of the recession and the rapidly changing world of arts and entertainment.
"As young artists, it's really terrifying," Haigh says. "You wonder, 'Oh, my God, how am I going to live?'
"So we're trying to approach this with curiosity and say, we're going to surrender our fear and find a way to make this work."
And really, despite the rapidly changing theatrical landscape, Haigh can say she's living the dream.
"I have, since I was 13 years old, had the idea that I wanted to start an ensemble theater company," she says. "So after going through the process of creating this show, we said, this is amazing, and we really want to capitalize on it — this moment and this energy in our creative lives — and create a structure in which we can continue to do this sort of work."
In this case, she's been able to bring that work home.