At the beginning of the play, tiny father’s main character Daniel is not prepared for fatherhood. At all.
“Daniel is essentially the tiny father,” said Chautauqua Theater Company Guest Artist Andy Lucien, who plays Daniel in CTC”s mainstage production. “Out of the blue, he finds himself in a situation that he did not expect to be in.”
In Mike Lew’s tiny father, directed at Chautauqua by Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, Daniel finds himself in the NICU after a casual relationship results in the premature birth of his child. He meets a nurse named Caroline, portrayed by Guest Artist Jennifer Ikeda who helps him to find his footing in fatherhood.
The play, produced in conjunction with Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts as a co-world premiere, opened with previews last Friday in Bratton Theater. With a run slated to last until Aug. 17, CTC has had to cancel performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and at 2:30 p.m. today because of confirmed COVID-19 cases; at press time, CTC leadership was hopeful that performances could continue later this week, and any updates will be noted in the Daily.
Lucien has been involved with tiny father for two years, having initially joined the project when it was being workshopped in its early stages. He was particularly struck by the portrayal of the story through the lens of Black fatherhood.
“When I was reading this, I was really excited about the opportunity for me to go through the story and honor a lot of the young Black fathers who were in my life,” he said.
The story helps to examine how implicit bias and structural systems that prop up our society impact marginalized groups, Lucien said. He described Daniel and Caroline as having formed a bond through an emergency situation, and noted how that bond evolves.
“There are times where there’s great allyship and partnership between them, and there are times when you have a system that may not be able to recognize humanity and how it pushes down on people,” he said. “At times (it) inadvertently pits them against each other.”
He sees tiny father as a valuable way of exploring and understanding how invisible pressures and stressors can drive a wedge between people, and he believes this conversation is more relevant than ever.
“There’s a whole bunch of things where there are people who probably agree with each other a heck of a lot more than they disagree,” Lucien said. “However, given a certain circumstance, they may find themselves at odds. I think any opportunity to examine that, that’s really important for us to examine right now.”
Lucien said he wants theatergoers to consider whose humanity is forgotten in situations like the ones portrayed in tiny father, and he hopes people will leave more cognizant of structural biases that impact marginalized communities and ingrained biases that can lead to unfair assumptions.
Lucien said he is particularly proud of Daniel’s character development — especially regarding his confidence and ability to be a parent to a prematurely born infant.
“There’s a moment where, as Daniel, it feels as though Caroline has a little more trust in me than initially,” he said. “In that moment, as Daniel, I was like ‘Oh, I think I screwed up a little less today than I screwed up yesterday.’ For me, as I go through that journey, it’s one of the first times Daniel really gets the feeling of ‘I think I can do this.’ ”
One of Lucien’s favorite aspects of the production is having the opportunity to work with the cast and company of tiny father. From acting onstage with Ikeda to working with Lew and Von Stuelpnagel and other behind-the-scenes crew, he said he has really enjoyed working on each stage of the production — from its first workshopping phases to the co-world premiere.
“Being able to go from ‘Hey, here’s a script. Let’s read it online,’ to ‘Let’s put this on its feet,’ (I’ve enjoyed) just how much fun that whole journey has been,” he said.