Q&A With Director: Rebecca Remaly 0

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company has built a strong reputation over the past 10 years or so. Their productions include many of my favorite Colorado theater artists. The quality of the work and approach is of such a high standard that even when a particular script doesn’t resonate with me, I still have respect for the work.

This weekend BETC presents the regional premier of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter. The many devoted fans of the NBC drama “This Is Us” certainly recognize the playwright as writer and producer of that award winning series. 

After seeing the opening night performance of Going to a Place Where You Already Are (we couldn’t stop talking about it, even through breakfast the next day.) I was able to connect with the director Rebecca Remaly for this Q&A:

(Remaly is also the BETC Managing Director)

Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Eden Lane:

What was the genesis of this production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are at BETC?

Rebecca Remaly:

We read the script a couple years ago, when it was commissioned and developed at South Coast Rep. I was drawn to the well-crafted characters, the relatable dialogue, and the way Bekah explored the central themes in the play without taking sides. After the 2016 election, as a company we’ve really started focusing on plays that present different perspectives. Theatre fosters empathy in a way that no other art form can. I’ve really been invigorated by taking a deeper dive into the potential of theatre to put a person in someone else’s shoes and really feel what that’s like.

EL:

The entire production design, sets, lighting, projections, was elegant and simple. That restraint seemed to support the storytelling.  Tell me about that approach.

Anastasia Davidson, Anne Sandoe, and Jim Hunt in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Anastasia Davidson, Anne Sandoe, and Jim Hunt in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

RR:

I wanted to create a world that flowed from one setting to the next, without big scene changes that can sometimes pull the audience out of the story. Time is a big theme throughout the play, and my goal with the scene transitions was to create a feeling of time moving and standing still at the same time. Each individual design element is so cohesive with the others, that it’s hard to tell where the set ends and the projections begin. The sound and lighting function together almost as one element. They all work together to serve the story, and the characters’ journeys. Tina Anderson (set), Jonathan Holt Howard (sound), and Andrew Metzroth (lighting and projections) are a phenomenal, collaborative team to work with!

Anne Sandoe in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Anne Sandoe in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

EL:

Even now, the morning after seeing the show, I’m still not certain of my reaction. How did your views on the questions presented in this play impact the approach to the production?

RR:

Although I have my own personal views on the afterlife questions presented in this play, as a director I saw my job as presenting the play with no slant either way. Or rather, highlighting both possible answers/viewpoints. The script really does walk that thin line between one side and the other. And I wanted to honor that. Was it a hallucination or was it real? The sweater may have just been knocked off by the impact of the door closing. The glasses may just have fallen out of his coat pocket. Or not. I suppose that, in the end, neither side can really know that they are right. They can certainly believe that they are right. As a director, I am compelled to speak for each character’s core beliefs.

The multi-generational themes really spoke to me. My relationship with my grandparents (who are still alive at age 91 and 89) has taken a very similar path as the one portrayed in Going to a Place. How is it that it can be so difficult sometimes to say the things we really want to say to the people we love the most? Those awkward conversations about technology, jobs, life goals, and certainly religion and politics, can be so fraught.

EL:

What else would you like to say about this production?

RR:

Not a lot of modern plays have leading roles for actors in their 70’s. I’ve so enjoyed working with Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe, and they’ve risen to the challenged and then some. I also relished the challenge of finding a disabled actor who was perfect to play the character of Jonas, and Trenton Schindele came along and blew my socks off.

Trenton Schindele and Anastasia Davidson in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Trenton Schindele and Anastasia Davidson in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe in BETC's 2018 production of Going to a Place Where You Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (photo: Michael Ensminger)

For Tickets

Going to a Place Where You Already Are
by Bekah Brunstetter
A regional premiere
April 12 – May 6, 2018
Grace Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center

Previous ArticleNext Article
Eden Lane is a freelance journalist based in Denver Colorado

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Q&A with Playwright Rebecca Gorman O’Neill 0

And Toto too Theatre Company is presenting two one act plays THE WAY STATION & THE SOUTH STAR by Colorado Playwright Rebecca Gorman O’Neill.

THE WAY STATION is the story of three strangers from different places and times, each pulled out of their travels and dropped off at a mysterious way station. At this surreal crossroads, no excuse, lie, or self-delusion holds up to scrutiny, and each person must find the strength to face his or her own dark secret, only then may they move on.

SOUTH STAR is set seven years in the future, during the second American Civil War, South Star is the story of a survivor, an inspiration, a reluctant hero who wishes she could just stop running. Stel finds herself in the company of two people – one an apparent victim, and one an apparent predator. What commences is a figurative game of three-card-Monty; the stakes are Stel’s life.

Here is my Q&A with Playwright Rebecca Gorman O’Neill 

Rebecca Gorman ONeill

Eden Lane:

 The Way Station and South Star are one act plays that share a few elements but do not seem directly related. How do you describe them, and did you conceive them as companion pieces?

Rebecca Gorman:

I would describe the Way Station as a mystery, and South Star as a suspense story.   The two of them do share some elements that I always find intriguing: 1 – a space that doesn’t belong to any of the characters – a space that is on the way to another space and 2 – a trap: a reason the characters can’t leave.  In The Way Station, the trap is physical, in South Star, it’s psychological.  Also, I love a 3-person play.  They provide a great opportunity to keep shifting alliances – one person is always against two, and you can keep shifting that dynamic around.

I didn’t specifically conceive them as companion pieces – South Star is much more clearly a companion to my full-length, The Greater Good, which And Toto Too was the first to produce – but I love the way that they’re coming together under Susan’s guidance. The actors, I hope, get to have fun showing some range, and, like any 2 pieces of art when you put them side-by-side, one gives a different context to the other.

EL:

After reading these plays I first thought of Rod Serling, (like you he also taught writing) not as a direct comparison, but simply as a salute. Is there any connection to his style for you?

RG:

Oh absolutely!  The Way Station is very much inspired by The Twilight Zone, which I think is a classic of American Literature.  I think that Rod Serling, (and Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King) are strong influences on my writing.  They are giants.  So if you see the salute, I’m more than flattered.  South Star a little less directly inspired.  That idea came from an immersion in literature about the WWII French Resistance movement.

EL:

What drew you to writing one act plays?

RG:

One-Acts are how I learned to write plays.  I started writing plays in college, and took the (two) playwriting classes my college offered.  My mentor, Peter Parnell, encouraged us to write for the One-Act Festival my school hosted, which is how I got my first productions.  The length and the limit of the one act suited me – I like compact stories.   One acts were all I wrote until grad school, because it’s all I thought I knew how to write.

EL:

On the New Play Exchange you write that you are “bored of cynicism and I appreciate cleverness.”, how did that point of view develop for you?

RG:

Thank you for reading my NNPX page!  I sometimes think I’m whistling in the wind on that one.  OK, so, I teach, and I’m a judge for a couple play contests, and the result is that I read a ton of plays.  (I also watch a lot of TV and movies) a ton, mostly by beginning writers, who tend to lean comfortably back into being cynical about the state of, well, everything.  But then I sometimes get to see cleverness – innovation – something I haven’t seen before. That’s so, so exciting.  Cynicism is a place where one can rest. Cleverness is like a call to action, innovation, and movement.

EL:

How would you describe working with And Toto Too Theatre Company?

RG:

It’s straight-up wonderful working with And Toto Too.  Susan and I figured out that we had been working together in some capacity since the first Play Crawl, 2010.  They produced a reading of, then a full production of The Greater Good , which went on to be published.  Susan takes such good care of her actors, designers, and playwrights.  She’s professional and focused, and what’s really lovely, is I always feel in very good hands.  I trust And Toto Too with my work, and I have always been treated with care and respect.  I’m really very grateful for this opportunity.

EL:

Anything else you would like to share?

RG:

The actors are wonderful! The set design is exciting!  The Lighting designer is talented!  I’m very much looking forward to seeing how And Toto Too brings the plays to the stage, and I am really, very proud to be working with And Toto Too again.

The Way Station & South Star

The Way Station & South Star by Rebecca Gorman O'Neill. April 19-May 5 got tickets https://www.andtototoo.org/buytickets/

Posted by And Toto too Theatre Company on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

April 19-May 5, 2018
Thursday-Saturday-7:30pm
ASL performance April 27

For Ticket Information

The Way Station and South Star-Two one Acts
by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill
Directed by Susan Lyles

Starring Kate Poling, Seth Palmer Harris and Austin Lazek

Set & Sound Design Darren Smith
Light Design Alexis K. Bond
Stage Manager Carol Timblin
Fight Choreography Benaiah Anderson

 

 

 

“Honorable Disorder” – Q&A with Jeff Campbell 0

As artists continue to take charge of their work so they can create authentic representations of their own experiences many find ways to produce their work outside of large arts and culture organizations. Jeff Campbell built an audience in 2013 with a powerful and provocative piece called “Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?” doing just that. He has returned to Denver and to it’s theater community with a new work and a new theater company.

Set in the dynamic landscape of present-day Denver, Honorable Disorder is a story of reconciliation, growth, and recognition for a young black veteran.

Honorable Disorder by Jeff Campbell at Emancipation Theater Company
Honorable Disorder by Jeff Campbell at Emancipation Theater Company

Eden Lane:

For your first piece since returning to Denver you founded a new theater company (Emancipation Theater Company) and serve as Producer/Writer/Actor/Director for the premiere production “Honorable Disorder”; How did the company come together? How was if formed?

Jeff Campbell:

The concept of Emancipation Theater Company is inspired by the Marcus Garvey quote: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” Also inspired by the 1958 Academy Award Winning film “The Defiant Ones” starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. The film is about two escaped prisoners, who are chained together, one Black, and the other White, who must cooperate in order to survive. The ETC logo depicts two abstract characters, not specifically representing races, but rather the dynamic opposites of the human spectrum, bound together by their humanity, who must work together to overcome the matrix of forces that inhibit their experience as human beings. When I came home from Georgia, after being gone a year, I knew I wanted to form a company that represented freedom, justice and equality, and approach theater in for profit business model, like a film company, and donate to it’s non profit community partner organizations. I raised the money on my own, working my construction job. It’s a single member LLC, and I function just like a general contractor who hires tradesmen to create a finished product.

EL:

In “Honorable Disorder” you show us the world some Vets experience, and take us through the story of a neighborhood changing without appreciation of the existing community. The character Nancy says she doesn’t understand why people move to a neighborhood but don’t participate in the community. “Most of these folks move to this neighborhood, don’t ever become a part of the community once they here. Are they afraid of their neighbors or something?” How did these stories come together for you?

JC:

Veterans are disproportionately represented at the bottom of the socioeconomic landscape and in a rising housing market, they are disproportionately affected. I learned about the difficulties veterans face accessing their benefits while working for the veterans resource center in Georgia. I’ve been watching Five Points change over the last 15 years, but when I left in 2016, and returned in 2017, the change felt even more drastic. I chose to talk about those things simultaneously because they are so connected.

Theo Wilson (DeShawn Foster) in Honorable Disorder photo by: Celia Herrera

EL:

The intersection of arts and political activism has a long tradition. What do you think the role of the artist is in this community today?

JC:

Not only social commentary and “telling it like it is” but utilizing your power as a catalyst to gather the community in a way that folks on the frontlines of social justice can be highlighted and supported through your art monetarily. You cannot simply call yourself an activist because you “tell it like it is” in your art. Raise the awareness in the community of the people doing the work in the movement, and back them with dollars. Collaborate with organizations and individuals who are working towards social change.

EL:

How will you measure the success of this first production for Emancipation Theater Company?

JC:

If the community is inspired to continue the dialogue and take action.

Although there are 6 characters in the play from an archetypical point of view, there are really only 3. The Mother and the Sergeant are the same, they represent the embattled sages of wisdom. The veteran and the social worker are the same, both have the savior complex. The uncle and platoon buddy are both cynical co-dependent anti heroes. I approached the writing in that way in order to draw parallels in their lives and allow their commonality to be organically expressed through their point of view. Often we get so wrapped up in issues, and identities, that we forget that people are the same, no matter who they are. The antagonist isn’t a person, it’s our lack of understanding, compassion, and empathy for one another.

 

Honorable Disorder

Apr 7 – Apr 29Cleo Parker Robinson Dance

For Tickets visit

Emancipation Theater Co.

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes with the company of “Honorable Disorder”

Meet the cast

Posted by Emancipation Theater Co. on Wednesday, April 4, 2018

(My interviews with Jeff Campbell for Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?“)