The Man Behind the Hand

Director Steve Rothman brings Sam Shepard’s sci-fi western to Cal State LA.

Joshua Letona, Reporter Intern

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The State Playhouse opens its doors for the last show this Spring semester with the sci-fi western “The Unseen Hand”.

Written by playwright Sam Shepard, the show follows Blue Morphan (Joel Eddington-Morrison), an nearly 120-year-old cowboy living in 1960s Azusa, California, as he comes across the alien named Willie, The Space Freak (Jess Jones-Gauslå). Willie offers to resurrect Blue’s brothers if they help liberate the alien’s planet, but before they can go, they are disrupted by a high school jock who has ideas of his own.

Director Steve Rothman was influenced by the spaghetti westerns that he thought Shepard was inspired by. The show became a must for the theatre director, who called it “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” meets a sci-fi flick.

“For me, there’s always a director’s bucket list. This one has been a favorite of mine for a couple years. Now, in a way for me, I’m finally directing my spaghetti western,” said Rothman.

The director responded to the themes Shephard was exploring at the time he wrote the play, comparing the old west and America today with the heart of the story centered on the brothers.

It was important to Rothman to stay true to what Shepard wrote.

“The key in directing theatre is you must respect the script, but obviously I am an artist. I’m bringing my interpretation. Sam Shepard may have been smoking some strange stuff back in the 60s, but I really love that it’s an out there piece so I’m going to keep it out there,” said Rothman.

Casting was very critical because Rothman wanted a team that could operate as a troop for the extended one act play.

“It can’t be about me, it’s got to be about us. I casted the show very carefully; casting people who were very open and willing to try anything once,” said Rothman.

Rothman went on to acknowledge the challenges theatre faces as it becomes less popular with younger audiences.

“Our opening night is the same as ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ People want to see that but there’s a magic of live theatre, acting before your very eyes that moves you. This is a chance to see what else theatre can do.”

“The Unseen Hand” will have six showings at the State Playhouse on April 26-27 at 7:30 p.m., April 28 at 2:30 p.m., and May 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at for $5.