nytheatre.com q&a preview by Addie Johnson Talbott
September 29, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Do you like to read plays, or just perform them?
I do like to read plays, but I don't understand them very well when I do. If I read them out loud, then I understand them a little more. But plays are action, and they are alive in space, and they are an intimate conversation, and when I read plays on a page I often see them as prose or poetry, and things like font and style affect me a lot, and too much is lost in translation. I've trained myself to be able to read plays and give feedback when I have to, but I don't trust that way of working, or maybe it's that I think it can get you somewhere, but nowhere near where you need to be. I actually decided to try an experiment for plays we produced in our Cino Nights series with our company Rising Phoenix Rep: to not read the plays we were producing at any point in the process. To watch rehearsal if and when I could or they wanted me there, and to see the performances, but really to only ever encounter the play off the page and alive in space. And it was thrilling. It made it a little awkward when I was prop shopping and didn't know if we needed a steak knife or a bloody butcher knife for a scene, or why, but I wish that could be the experience of reading all plays that are new to me. By the way I'm reading them all now multiple times as we edit and get them ready to be published by Indie Theater Now in our two Cino Nights collections, and that's a wonderful experience too, to read them and get so intimate with the texts after the fact.
What was the last show you saw that really excited you, and why?
Can I say two? The first was the workshop production of Daniel Talbott's (full disclosure - my badass husband) new play 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' in San Francisco. It's a play commissioned by Rattlestick here in NY and Encore Theater Company out there in Cali, and they did a short and furious rehearsal process to get the first draft up on its feet and alive in space with some of our absolute favorite actors and people on earth, and the play and work they all did on it completely blew me away. I think it's Daniel's best play yet, and among other things it has the alchemy that all his plays do, of simple plot and sparse language that is so fiercely lived in and active that it actually transforms the physical space it happens in, and the people in that space, in the process. Like on a chemical, atomic, emotional level. I know his plays, the text of them, top to bottom, and I cannot even begin to tell you how he does it. It's genius. The second one is the touring production of Larry Kramer's play 'The Normal Heart' that we saw in SF at A.C.T. We'd seen the staged workshop benefit they did of it that led to the Broadway production, which blew me away, but I didn't get to see it fully realized until this summer. The play is so exciting, and raw, and you sit on the edge of your seat the whole time, and you are not allowed to rest or judge or even think; you get to just sit and experience. And that experience is a flow of emotions and questions and thoughts and memories, and everyone in the audience is overtaken in the play. That was so exciting to be a part of.
What was the most memorable/funny/unusual thing that has happened during the development and rehearsal process for this show?
Well this show started as a Beckett project for Matthew and Jerry, directed by Daniel. And I was so excited to watch that take shape. And then it took a sharp left turn, and they asked Crystal to write a new play, inspired by the Beckett in whatever way it happened, and they added the incredible Kathryn Kates as an actor to the mix. And then Kathryn got a few jobs she couldn't refuse, cause she's a badass, and Crystal was thinking about the play and rethinking the relationships and she and Lanie (Zipoy, our brilliant producer) and Daniel all had the thought that I could do it. And I am so flattered and excited and daunted by that in the best way, and I told Kathryn that I'd really love the chance to take on any and all parts she can't do. :)
Which famous New Jerseyite would like your show the best: Snooki, Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison?
THOMAS EDISON!!! Why has Crystal not written a musical about Thomas Edison? I just read that at the exact moment of his death, all the clocks in his home and workshop reportedly stopped working. He had said in interviews he was working on a machine to talk to the dead. I have to call Crystal right now.
If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
Okay I'm back. I left her a message. :) This is something Daniel and I have dreamed about and love to think about. Right now I think we would do two things - we would buy an apartment building for some of our favorite theatre artists to be able to live in and afford in this city. I think home is really important, and we just don't have the amount of money in a consistent way to ever feel comfortable paying market rents, and it's put almost everyone we know in very hard or at least unorthodox living spaces and situations. And that takes a lot of emotional and physical energy that we don't always necessarily have to spare as we all make a life in the theatre, and I think it would be a huge gift to alleviate that for a few people at least. And the rest of it I would want to find as many small meaningful ways to spend money as possible, anything from babysitting money for working theatre families, to sanding and refinishing the floors in someone's rehearsal space, to buying dinner for everyone at the closing night of a show, to sponsoring weekends away for people doing new work together, to buying someone the perfect pair of shoes they would never get for themselves. Just literally find the joy of those kinds of small luxuries we all so often deny ourselves, and spend it til it's gone. Anonymously whenever possible, like little gift goblins.