Lila Rose Kaplan Based 1 2 3 on Her Connection to Domestic Terrorism

For a long time, Lila Rose Kaplan has been thinking about the story that became her latest play, 1 2 3.

At a playwriting workshop in Los Angeles, when the teacher asked participants to list five stories they felt they needed to write, a play about children of parents imprisoned for domestic terrorism was at the top of her list. It’s both theatrical and historical, Kaplan says — and for her, the story is personal as well. One of Kaplan’s close friends growing up was the daughter of members of the United Freedom Front, a small American Marxist organization captured by the FBI in the early ‘80s after a decade of political actions.

“When I was 5 years old, we would play 'jail,' and we used to build prisons out of pillows,” she said. “This story has been with me a long time.”

The play tells the story of three sisters and how they deal with growing up without their parents. The poster calls 1 2 3 “a play about abandonment and ballroom dancing.” Kaplan used to dance and most of her plays have a lot of movement in them. She sees dancers as strong and tough, like the sisters in the play.

“They’re all heroes of their own stories,” she says. “It’s about transformation and finding your way out of a tough beginning.”

Kaplan says she’s excited to see the dancing at the premiere in SF Playhouse’s Sandbox Series. Lauren English has done an excellent job directing the play, Kaplan adds, and gets what she is trying to do with 1 2 3. The artistic director of the Playhouse, Bill English, calls it an “empathy gym,” which is how Kaplan thinks of theater as well.

“I like theater that isn’t afraid to be political and poetic and magical and care about the characters. We can practice empathy in a time when we’re all so individualized and in our phones so much,” she says. “This play is about trust and authority and taking care of who you’re supposed to take care of.”

1 2 3, Aug. 12-Sept. 5 at the Tides Theater, 533 Sutter, 415-677-9596. 

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