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For Casey Ballard, Method drinking pays off in Rogue Festival’s ‘Swill 2’

Casey Ballard is drunk.

I’m not saying she’s drunk right now, at this very minute, at 10:09 on a Saturday morning, as I scramble to write a feature story about the Rogue show “Swill 2” even though only two performances remain. (I can’t keep up with all the work I’ve carved out for myself. I definitely need a clone.) No, I’m saying that on this rehearsal night for “Swill” a good 12 days ago, quite a bit before the show opened (which, as you’d surmise, should have given me plenty of time to write this piece), as I sit interviewing Ms. Ballard on a seen-better-days sofa in a decidedly non-fancy church social hall south of Shields that would likely get a sniff and a frown from someone accustomed to North Fresno Mega-Church Designer Chic, there is one overriding fact to include:

She is drunk.

Pictured above: Casey Ballard, right, emotes with her arms in a rehearsal for ‘Swill 2.’ Photo: The Fools Collective

That’s because the premise of “Swill 2” requires one of the cast members to be heavily intoxicated. In this production (adapted by Haley White, directed by Heather Parish and presented by The Fools Collaborative), an hour or so before each show, the performers draw lots, and one starts pounding the drinks. Oh, and then everyone goes on and performs a truncated version of “Romeo and Juliet.”

I loved “Swill” last year at the Rogue. Highlights included hilarious distortions of “Twelfth Night,” repeated slams at AXE body spray, and a near fatality involving Miguel Gastelum (the designated drunk at the performance I saw) and a solitary piece of stage furniture.

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So I thought: Why not request a drunken interview to talk about this year’s version?

Which is why I’m sitting here with Ballard (a stellar local actor, by the way), whose blood alcohol level shall remain confidential. Here’s our conversation:

DONALD: So, hello.

CASEY: Drinking.

DONALD: Um, yes! So, in preparation for this, did you eat dinner?

CASEY: I did not. But I did have a very bad day of work.

DONALD: Great! I do not really follow that, but … And what are you drinking?

CASEY: It started — I’m very frat boy in how I drink. It started as a gin with a very fancy soda. I got here, and now it’s just gin, and some watered down version of the soda, and some boxed pinot grigio.

DONALD: How many have you had?

CASEY: I think four. But remember I’m an Amazon. I’m a giant. I’m 5 feet, 9 inches all. I’m fine. But that’s why my mom is in the corner. (We wave to Mom, who is happily perched on a chair on the other side of the room). She’s my designated driver.

DONALD: Give a rundown on the show.

CASEY: It’s “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s what you remember from sophomore English, but it’s not the same. I, myself, play five characters. The main ones are Mercutio and Lady Capulet.

DONALD: So this is kind of the scaled down, cheap version.


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CASEY: Not cheap.

DONALD: I’m thinking in terms of actor salaries.

CASEY: OK, yes, so it’s a shortened version where people are just saying shit. Is it OK to say that? Should I be saying shoot?

DONALD: No worries. I don’t work for The Bee anymore.

CASEY: But it makes sense contextually though. So I think Shakespeare people would understand.

DONALD: Thinking back to last year’s version, how many times did you play drunk?

CASEY: I was inadvertently drunk opening night last year because of nerves, and the fact that we were in the space for, like, only two hours before we started. Donald, that’s two hours! What am I going to do?

DONALD: So you were like a bonus drunk.

CASEY: There were four of us who were bonus drunks that night.

DONALD: Was that the night that Miguel got drunk?

CASEY: No, that was the next night. Miguel was hilarious.

DONALD: He was.

CASEY: Only because he almost fell down.

DONALD: He had an encounter with a bench.

CASEY: I was genuinely worried. I was thinking, “Are you going to die?”

The Fools Collaborative

A completely gratuitous photo of Casey Ballard partaking of alcohol.

DONALD: Who knew furniture could have its own volition? Moving on: Are monologues harder to remember when you’re drunk?

CASEY: No, they’re better when you’re doing an adaptation, because you can make up a lot of shit. Shoot? What are we writing?

DONALD: It’s OK. So, if you forget your lines …

CASEY: I can make stuff up. Or if I do forget, I can do the “Oh, I forgot my lines” look, which your fellow actors should recognize. It looks like this. (She makes a horrible, caustic face that would disturb not only children but all young mammals.)

DONALD: What are your thoughts — this is actually a very serious question — on AXE body spray?

CASEY: (whispers) Oh, OK, this is actually really controversial, Donald.

DONALD: You just got really quiet.

CASEY: I don’t mind it that much. I think it’s OK.

DONALD: Why are we whispering?

CASEY: Because they would kick me out of the cast. That’s OK. There are worse smells in the world.

DONALD: For people who are used to the original “Romeo and Juliet,” what is something about this production that would get them riled up?

CASEY: Oh, bless. Two ladies playing the leads — Romeo and Juliet.

DONALD: There you go.

CASEY: They might take issue with that, but I’ve said it before — with Shakespeare, about 98 percent of his characters are gender fluid.

DONALD: Are there other things in life that you think would be better if one of the participants were randomly picked to be drunk? I was thinking about jury duty.

CASEY: Let me pull out my list, because I have several. Book clubs? Better when you’re drunk. Family dinners when you are the black sheep? Better when you’re drunk. Work conventions. Gala dinners that you have been invited to and could not afford to go on your own. (“This is $700, but you’re paying, so, yeah, I can totally be there.”) Paint wine nights. But, also, you’re going to drink the paint water. Because I did. I went with my mom and my sister in law.

DONALD: That sounds actually dangerous.

CASEY: It was a little sip.

DONALD: OK.

CASEY: People were like, what? And I was, like, this doesn’t taste like a pinot grigio!

DONALD: They probably use non-toxic paint.

CASEY: I don’t think they did. I think I was actually more delightful that night because of the hallucinogenics that came from the oil paint. I don’t know. What else? Jury duty is hilarious. What else would you do?

DONALD: Hmm. How about a newsroom budget meeting where you decide what goes on the front page?

CASEY: That could go so well.

DONALD: I was also thinking of a faculty meeting, if one person had to be drunk. And how about Confession?

CASEY: Who, the priest or the confessor?

DONALD: I think it has to be random.

CASEY: That could be really good either way.

DONALD: Let’s ask one last question. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled pep-Peter-picks (stumbles).

CASEY: Are you drunk?

DONALD: I can’t say it, and I’m sober. Please repeat the question first.

CASEY: OK, wow. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, I think he would pick a pack of pickled peppers about four deep. Not for me. I don’t want them. I hate peppers. Well, I like peppers. But who wants to vinegar up a pepper?


Show info

‘Swill 2’ plays 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9, Tower Lounge (as part of the Rogue Festival). Tickets are $10.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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