Cal Rep Questions Authority With ‘Quills’ a Sadistic Fable

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California Repertory Company presents Quills by Doug Wright, directed by guest artist Larissa Paige Kokernot, February 17-March 10. Set during the final year of the infamous Marquis’ incarceration in the insane asylum Cherenton, Quills explores the lengths some will go to silence an inciting voice. The production is presented in partnership with the B-Word Project, a CSULB campus-wide initiative examining what it means to be “banned, blacklisted, and boycotted.”

Playwright Doug Wright was admittedly responding to a growing climate of censorship within the arts when he was moved to write the play in the early 1990s. The play takes liberties with the historical details, imagining the increasing vulgarity of the Marquis’ expressive techniques and the escalating grotesqueness of his persecution. “It is a big part of the Grand Guignol. The idea of the ‘douche ecossaise’ – the hot and cold shower, the constant juxtaposition of something that is horrific and something that is funny. Putting them side by side so that you stay in the play,” Director Larissa Kokernot comments. Salacious words are set against cruel atrocities, begging the question what is more pornographic – de Sade or social convention?

Kokernot sees a subtler kind of censorship currently occurring in the arts, rather than the more public oppression that Wright was responding to. “Right now what is more disturbing to me is the idea of internal censorship, as opposed to how it was in the 90s when there were all these congressional meetings and it was all about shutting things down. For me the larger question has to do with what the Abbe de Coulmier is struggling with, an unawareness of the way you are censoring yourself,” she observes. “When it’s out there politically and there is somebody who is working to censor, you can rise up and combat and make people see. But how do you see the ways that we’re silently censoring ourselves?”

Larissa Kokernot has been working in the professional theatre for over 25 years.  Regional directing credits include work with Eye of the Storm Theatre in Minneapolis where she served as Artistic Associate for six years, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Ten Thousand Things, The Children’s Theatre, Guthrie Theater, The Playwright’s Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Carleton College, New Dramatists, Bay Area Playwright’s Festival and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she was the 2007 Phil Killian Directing Fellow.  Larissa is a founding member of Chalk Repertory Theatre where she has directed Three Sisters, Family Planning (Ovation Awards for Best Play in an Intimate Theatre and for Director), Stray and Full Disclosure. Larissa received her B.A. in Theater from Brown University and an M.F.A. in Directing from the University of California, San Diego. She also received a Jerome Travel/Study Grant to train with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company.

Cal Rep performances are in the Royal Theater aboard the Queen Mary. The production runs Wednesday through Saturday, February 17-March 3 and Tuesday through Saturday March 6-March 10 at 8 pm. There will be a preview performance on February 16 at 8 pm. Please note that this production features adult themes and nudity. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for students, military, and seniors (55 and older). Parking at the Queen Mary is $8 for patrons of Cal Rep performances, $6 for CSULB students and patrons who have dinner aboard the ship. Long Beach Public Transit also runs directly to the Queen Mary. For tickets and information please call (562) 985-5526 or visit For more information about the B-Word Project, visit

ABOUT THE QUEEN MARY- The Queen Mary is home to a 314-room Art Deco Hotel, where guests relive the excitement of cruising in the style of the 1930s without leaving port. She has played many roles during her illustrious career– from an elegant ocean liner to a World War II troopship. Now permanently docked, yet still afloat, her operation and preservation are entrusted to Evolution Hospitality, a leading independent management company. Located at 1126 Queens Highway in beautiful Long Beach, California, The Queen Mary is a must-see attraction. The historic ship offers a variety of historical, paranormal and educational tours, unique shops, meeting & banquet facilities, three award-winning ocean view restaurants and much more. For more information please visit or call (800) 437-2934.

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