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Theatre Meets Merry Go-Round at the Santa Monica Pier with 'An Illegal Start'

An early spring night is haunted by the sound of thunderstorm, over which roars the sound of a charging vehicle. Lights flicker and flash across dormant carousel horses, and for the next 90 minutes, the audience that stepped in off the Santa Monica Pier isn’t in Santa Monica anymore, but in the dramatic grips of An Illegal Start.

Presented by the wayfaring Santa Monica Public Theatre (SMPT) and directed by Tony-winning actor and SMPT founder Paul Sand, An Illegal Start is an original play with an extraordinary stage – the famed merry go-round inside the Santa Monica Pier's historic Looff Hippodrome building. Under the direction of Sand, An Illegal Start follows an unlikely friendship forged by a life-changing event, spirited by emotions that are humorous, heartfelt, complex, and ultimately relatable. The play premiers on Friday, February 9th, and continues Fridays and Saturdays through March 10. Tickets are now on sale for $30, and can be purchased online.

Written by Santa Monica Pier Deputy Director James Harris, the drama begins on a thunderstruck night in 1980’s rural western Colorado, where an old merry go-round in an abandoned amusement park becomes refuge for two young men after a near-fatal accident, catapulting an unlikely friendship into an intimately intertwined journey through the trials of two starkly different life paths. As each scene develops with every turn of the merry go-round over the story's 18-year period, the play's two leads explore the inexplicable type of love that exists between two friends, hopefully stirring within audience members a profound desire to revive a lost friendship.

An Illegal Start was originally conceived for performance on the traditional stage with a minimal set consisting of little more than a telephone pole. At Sand's suggestion, Harris adapted the play specifically to be performed in the Santa Monica Pier Merry Go-Round Building, and Sand brings the gears of the amusement park machine to life in imaginative ways. The retrofit adds a fascinating dimension to the production as the merry go-round plays third wheel to the dynamic dueling performances of Irish Giron and Cameron Tagge, the plays two leads.

The production marks a return to the Santa Monica Pier for Paul Sand, whose company previously produced Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel on the observation deck of the landmark in 2013 – an experience that inspired him to bring extraordinary theatrical experiences to unique venues in the Santa Monica area. Sand has had a long and impressive career on stage as well as in film and television. His work on Broadway in the 1970’s earned him two Drama Desk Awards and a Tony Award. In 2013 he conceived of, produced and directed Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel in a cozy little room on the west end of the Santa Monica Pier.

As for local playwright and pier historian Harris, the violent crash that kick-starts this drama is drawn from his own history. “When you reflect on your life, you find these moments that had a bigger effect than anything else,” says Harris. “For me, it was certainly that car accident. We both could have, and maybe even should have, died. “It’s something I think about every day. How lucky we were.”

Tickets for An Illegal Start are now on sale for $30, and can be purchased online!

An Illegal Start

Event Page for Tickets & Showtimes

Tickets: $30


February: 10, 16, 17, 23, 24

March: 2, 9, 10

*more dates may be added

Santa Monica Pier

200 Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 458-8901

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