Professional Appearances

A stenographer, a geographer, and a typographer walk into a bar ...

Most people go to work every day and do their thing. Some love their thing, some hate it. But how many of us stop to consider how that thing affects others? In some professions, the consequences are clear and immediate: A firefighter puts out a fire, a doctor saves or loses a patient. But usually there's a separation between our daily activities and their effects on the larger society. Adam Bock's new play, The Typographer's Dream (directed by Anne Kauffman), throws three folks in seemingly unrelated professions into a complex discussion about their jobs -- a discourse that turns into an investigation of the self, examining how truthful we are in society and how we place boundaries between ourselves and the rest of the world.

The characters are a stenographer, a geographer, and a typographer, none of whom appear to be acquainted at the start of the show. The stage is set with only a table and a few chairs, so it seems set for a panel discussion more than for a play; it appears as if the trio might merely be renting the theater on a dark night.

As they jabber on, the "-ographers" all seem terribly passionate about their chosen career paths. But as the evening unravels, it becomes clear that they also harbor negative feelings about their work, and their concerns about professional integrity begin to surface. The stenographer worries about his accuracy. What are the repercussions if he should get a word wrong in court? The typographer gets heady about the calculating nature of her work, as she considers the way in which choosing a specific type or layout for a novel or essay can change the way a reader interprets the text. And the geographer starts to think about her own trade: Is the purpose of making a map to illustrate the placement of countries, or is it to create boundaries that didn't exist previously?

Dreaming Is Free: A trio of "-ographers" in 
The Typographer's Dream.
Shawn Ferreyra
Dreaming Is Free: A trio of "-ographers" in The Typographer's Dream.

"Why is Russia pink, and Finland yellow, and Poland this ugly green color?" asks Lisa Steindler, artistic director of Encore Theatre Co., which is producing Dream. Steindler goes on to say that the essence of the play is less about careers than it is about grander themes like manipulation and boundaries. "It's fascinating and so truthful ... to take these three different types of work that nobody talks about and make them relevant this way."

In his signature style, Bock (known for his Bay Area successes Swimming in the Shallows and Five Flights) constructs most of the play as a direct address to the audience from the three characters (Michael Shipley as the stenographer, Jamie Jones as the typographer, and Aimee Guillotas as the geographer). But Bock also includes two mysterious flashbacks that give us clues as to how the three wound up here in the first place.

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