Valencia, CA, April 24, 2009--The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) School of Theater  will premiere Handcarved Coffins, a comedy about an aging Truman Capote's struggle to write his last 'true crime' story. Written by Amy Tofte, (MFA1) Writing for Performance student, and directed by Pacho Velez, (MFA3) Film and Video student, Handcarved Coffins will premier on Friday, May 8, 2009 at 8:00pm in the Bijou Theater at CalArts (24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia). Ticket reservations are not required to attend this event. Handcarved Coffins forgoes the literal-minded, documentary style of recent Truman Capote biographies by willfully confusing many aspects of the story, including the characters' genders, ethnicities and ages. Through these playful confusions the film captures the spirit of this brilliant, but haunted, writer facing his own honest statement: "Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act."
Amy Tofte received her BA in Theater from the University of Iowa where she worked with writing mentors, John O'Keefe, Keith Huff and Art Borecca. Over 25 of Amy's plays, screenplays and solo pieces have been produced in the Midwest, New York, Mississippi and Los Angeles. She's a founding member of Fierce Backbone, a Los Angeles theater company that serves all stages of play development. Currently pursuing an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts Writing for Performance program, Amy was selected to participate in the Last Frontier Theatre Festival in Valdez, AK and the Kennedy Center's MFA Playwrights Residency during the summer of 2009. Amy is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.
Pacho Velez has directed two full-length documentaries: Occupation (2002), and Orphans of Mathare (2003). His films have won several prizes, including the Rosa Luxembourg Award at the New England Film and Video Festival (2003) and the Best Documentary Award at the Ivy Film Festival (2003 and 2004). His films have also screened at many festivals, museums, and on television. In 2006, the US Department of Education awarded him a Javits Fellowship. He is currently pursuing an MFA in filmmaking at CalArts.
CalArts is unique in its multidisciplinary approach to studying the arts through its six related schools: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theatre. CalArts encourages students to recognize and explore the complexity of the aesthetic, social and political aspects of the arts. It is supported by its distinguished faculty of practicing artists and provides its BFA and MFA students with both the hands-on training and the engagement with the cultural community necessary for artists' growth. CalArts was founded in 1961, and opened in 1969, as the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. specifically for students interested in pursuing degrees in all areas of the visual and performing arts.