What is it like to work with Ann?
We met when she directed a scene from my play at the Chicago Dramatists and I liked the way that she worked with the actors. I think we have a similar approach to thinking about the acting and I was very happy with her work. She told me she was opening up a theater this summer and I was very happy to work with her again.
When I sit in on rehearsals I’m just there listening but when I hear her speak to the actors she says things I would say. I’m expecting a great show.
Why did you choose to set your play in Berwyn?
Well I never dreamed the play would be performed in Berwyn. But the play is really a metaphor for a place that is somewhere between rural life and city life but I’ve never seen a play about people who live in a place like Berwyn. Berwyn is either a small city or a large town. We have one character that comes from the city who has very different values and he meets this young woman from Berwyn and the play is about how their worlds are going to fit together.
What do you think of the casting?
Casting is a very important part of the decisions. I left the final part of that to Ann but she welcomed and appreciated my input. Each of the actors has something special to bring to the story. Janna has read the parts over the course of a year and seen the play develop, I’m happy that she is able to do the role of Carlotta now.
When a playwright writes a play you’re really writing a blueprint for the actors to have an experience and for the actors to emotionally communicate that experience through the play to the audience. So the play is a blueprint for all this experience to happen. You also factor in the production people and the director, the designers, lights, costumes, sound and the people you don’t see like the stage manager, the technical folks…they add their talent to the blueprint and you have a wonderful new experience. This is what separates live theater from film, where each performance is a brand new experience.
I often describe the play as Romeo and Juliet in Berwyn. The play has many different themes running through it but ultimately is a love story. A lot in the play is about the importance of having dreams. While I worked on the play I came across a poem by Langson Hughes that reflected the themes I was trying to incorporate. We’re each born into families and cultures and circumstances and one of the central questions of the play is can you rise above the circumstances you’re born into? Throughout the play the characters are bumping into their limitations and seeing if they can rise above them.
The play is a comedy and a love story but it does address serious issues, I’m trying to explore serious issues while having fun with the characters and the story. This is a play where the characters are the story, not a part of the play but the play itself, very character driven.