nytheatre.com q&a preview by Mariah MacCarthy
July 9, 2012
What is your job on this show?
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
Raw theater. The kind that makes you feel so vulnerable to make it, you don't know if it's any good, you just know it's honest, and that's why it scares you so much. Dangerous theater, but not "dangerous" like, "Is that actor gonna be OK?" The kind of danger where ANYTHING could happen in the context of the play. Theater where people might start fucking or murdering each other at any moment, but they usually don't, which is what makes it so dangerous. The threat is scarier than the action. Joyful theater. Which isn't necessarily "happy." But there's a generosity of spirit to it. You can sense the joy with which it was made. Theatre of Compassion. I wrote a whole thing about that. http://nicefeminist.blogspot.com/2010/03/theatre-of-compassion.html Sexy theater, which might not necessarily have any sex or sexuality in it, but it's visceral and physical and generated by hearts, guts and crotches.
Complete this sentence: My show is the only one in FringeNYC that...?
...features a woman in pasties and a wheelchair. It's not the only show that might make you cry, and it's not the only love story, and it's not the only coming-of-age story (much as that term makes me throw up in my mouth), and it's not the only play where people get naked. But I am certain that it is the only play where a woman in a wheelchair rocks pasties. It's also probably the only show where you'll hear Kanye West covered on the ukulele, but I can't verify that for sure.
Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
Honestly, I don't know how I would have survived if I hadn't written this play. That sounds hyperbolic, but it's not. Writing this play might have saved my life. Frankly, I was terrified of this play. I tried to avoid writing it, because every new scene held up a new, clearer mirror to my face, and I really didn't want to look. I wanted my life to continue as it was. I thought if I didn't talk about my problems, they wouldn't be real. But then they would just come out in the play. The play is fiction, but the emotion of it is all true--which is why it scared me so much, and why I kept running away from it. But the universe kept giving me signs. Articles about dancers with disabilities would fall into my lap. I would have dreams about the play. I would see beautiful women in wheelchairs on the street. Burlesque crept into the corners of my life. I couldn't avoid this play, and because I kept writing, I eventually had to accept what the play was telling me all along: "You are unhappy. Fix it." And I did.
Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
My first instinct: Sexy. Because this show is chock-full of burlesque and longing. But actually...Surprising. I think it would be easy to approach this story two-dimensionally (girl in wheelchair: right! straight white dude: wrong!). But I've tried to avoid that. I think people will find themselves surprised by the allegiances they form with these characters.
How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Oh my God. Extremely. All-white casts are SO annoying to me, as are plays where every character is straight. It's like, really? Not ONE of these love stories could have been between two people of the same sex? And the lack of decent roles for women just seems so avoidable, you know? Just turn off the part of your brain that defaults to making most of your characters men. Ask yourself, COULD it be a woman? Maybe it couldn't! But I think you'll more likely find that reimagining gender takes your imagination to new and exciting places. And then there's the issue of diversity in relation to ability, which is a brand-new issue for me. As a result of working on this play, practically overnight, I suddenly realized: WHERE ARE ALL THE WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE VENUES IN THIS CITY?? Especially in the Off-Off world! There are SO few. People with disabilities are the last remaining group that it's OK to exclude from our audiences. You wouldn't do your play in a venue that excluded black people, or gay people, but we do them in venues that exclude disabled people all the time (and I've certainly been guilty of this). I'm aware that there are a LOT of obstacles to making venues accessible--financial, bureaucratic, logistical, etc. But it still seems insane to me, in 2012, that most of the theater in this town would be inaccessible to me if I used a wheelchair. And the dearth of accessible venues translates directly to performers. What's the motivation for people with disabilities to go into theater if they can't even get into most of the venues? My director, Christina Roussos, has worked with Theater Breaking Through Barriers for years; if anyone should have been able to find a kickass wheelchair-using actress for the lead role in this play, it's her. And we did search for months, because we both wanted very badly to cast this role authentically. Ultimately, we discovered two things: 1) the pool of wheelchair-using actresses is very, VERY small; and 2) the best woman for the job was Diana Oh, who has full use of her legs. Granted, Diana is phenomenal and one of my favorite actors to work with, so this is no sacrifice or compromise on our part. But the fact that a director and playwright actively WANTED to cast a wheelchair-using actress, and couldn't, still troubles me.