Dado comes back in A Red Orchid's 'Megacosm'

February 1, 2012

"I love directing Brett’s work, but it’s a joke between us that we had to move to LA to work together," says Dado, director of Brett Neveu’s brand-new Megacosm at A Red Orchid. She and the playwright happened to move to Los Angeles the same month in 2007, and right away she pitched his American Dead to Rogue Machine Theatre. "They snatched it up, and it did so well," she says.

Making pitches—to corporate America—is a big part of Megacosm, set in a bizarre sci-fi world uncomfortably like our own but amped up to satirical, hysterically funny levels.

Thanks to set designer John Dalton, it has what Dado calls a “Death Star” look. Both Dalton, who does a lot of commercial work, and Neveu, who’s still living in LA, “have had the weirdest meetings in the weirdest rooms to pitch their ideas,” she says. “We wanted a place that looks like it’s been moved and redesigned and put back together haphazardly.”

“I believe when Brett wrote Megacosm he was writing in response to the BP spill,” says Dado. “Which is great for me because I live down in BP-land.” In 2009 she left LA and moved back to Whiting, Indiana, where her family lives. (“I come from a long line of union ironworkers and carpenters,” she adds. “Our maternal grandmother, however, was ‘in the vaudeville.’”)

“My town is three-quarters refinery and one-quarter town,” Dado says. “So when Brett told me the play has so much to do with how corporations spin things, suddenly it all clicked into place.”

The antagonists in Megacosm are an inventor and the CEO of an undefined business. But “I don’t think I chose a side when I directed this play,” says Dado. “Instead I wanted the audience to want to protect the megacosm.” That is, a box containing tiny people—so small they can only be seen through a microscope, a view represented onstage on multiple TV screens.

“I shot that footage,” Dado says. “I specifically chose those actors. I directed it, in [media designer Seth Henrikson’s] wonderful facility. He let me stand there all day and just yell at them, ‘Pick up your hand! Move your leg! Jump up and down!’ It was all MOS—no sound.”

“I’m not a filmmaker like Seth is. He helped me so much—we had to figure out so many things. It was so much work.” But definitely worth it, as these perfect miniature human beings innocently dancing around in their box get under our skin in a big way.

While she was still in LA, Dado also directed a 13-minute film, Convo, scripted by Neveu. And she’d like to make another film, she says, “especially after the Megacosm experience.”

Since she moved back, Dado has done a lot of things she didn’t envision in 2009. “I didn’t think I’d be doing any more acting or directing,” she says. “I was just gonna be a schoolteacher.”

“I didn’t mean to start acting again.” Then director Zeljko Djukic (“an amazing artist!”) asked her to perform in Trap Door’s production of Werner Schwab’s First Ladies. “To be asked to do something like that,” Dado says, “after seven years of not acting? I was really honored.”

Next acting gig was another critically praised Schwab/Trap Door production, Overweight, Unimportant, Misshape. “We were eating people,” she says. “First Ladies was all about poop and blood, and in this one we literally raped and killed the people and ate them. It was very X-rated, in a good way. But my children [8 and 12] didn’t see it.”

In some ways, directing Neveu’s Megacosm was the result of (reluctantly) turning down his The Meek in 2006 at A Red Orchid, where both are ensemble members. Instead she directed Pinter’s The Hothouse. “Flash-forward to opening night 2012,” she says, “and Brett turns to me and says, ‘You know, I wrote Megacosm largely in response to Hothouse.’”

“I’m a creature of instinct in a lot of ways,” Dado adds. “You just have to make decisions on the basis of what’s shaping your life at the moment, and try not to think ahead too much."