Q&A with Meridith Friedman 0

Curious Theatre Company continues the Serial Storytelling initiative with the Meridith Friedman play,Your Best One. Friedman was a Playwright-in-Residence at Curious Theatre Company and the first play in this series The Luckiest People was produced at Curious last season.

Curious Theatre production of Your Best One by Meridith Friedman
Curious Theatre production of Your Best One by Meridith Friedman Karen Slack (Laura) – Eric Sandvold (Richard) – John Jurcheck (David) – Colin Covert (Josh) Colin Covert, Josh photo: Michael Ensminger

Meridith Friedman has been a Dramatist Guild Fellow, and the recipient of a Downstage Left Playwriting Residency at Stage Left Theatre and a Dramatist Guild Writers Alliance Grant. She was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama at Kenyon College during the 2011-2012 academic year, and taught screenwriting to undergraduates while completing her graduate work at Northwestern University. She has also taught playwriting to talented high school and middle school dramatists at Interlochen Center for the Arts and Curious Theatre Company.

This is my email Q&A with Meridith Friedman after the opening performance at Curious Theatre last weekend.

Eden Lane:

Even though this new play “Your Best One” is part of a series commissioned by Curious and began last year with “The Luckiest People” it stands alone for anyone who didn’t see the first play. How did you approach writing the story across the plays and individually?

Meridith Friedman:

The challenge of a trilogy, particularly one that is told chronologically, is creating a series of plays that speak to each other while also maintaining their autonomy. My hope is that as the audience progresses through the trilogy their experience is enhanced by knowing what came before, but it isn’t hindered without that knowledge. It’s a tricky balance, indeed, and one I found through trial and error. With each play, my early drafts were loaded with exposition. Over the course of many workshops and public readings, I learned what information was pertinent and slowly chipped away at the rest.

EL:

This play touches some difficult concerns yet makes space for the relief humor can provide.  How would you describe this play?

MF:

Our wonderful director, Dee Covington, described it as a meditation on loneliness and that sounds about right to me. I think each character in the play is feeling some version of alienation or exile, and reaching out, in their own way, for connection. In Your Best One, the humor tends to emerge from darkness – laughter erupts from moments of great despair.

EL:

Meeting characters who aren’t always easy, but remain like-able makes it easier to enter the world of this play. How did you approach creating these complex characters?

MF:

My process as a writer is essentially the actor’s process in reverse. An actor’s process typically starts with “table work” – detailed analysis of the script. They map out their objectives and the tactics they will employ in pursuit of those objectives. Then they get on stage and listen and respond in the moment, trusting that all of the energy and time they put into crafting their performance has saturated their subconscious.

I work backwards. I stare at an empty page and start typing furiously, impulsively, without the interruption of judgment or editing. Then I go back and examine each line of dialogue and try to figure out what it’s doing – what objective it is pursuing, what character arc it is advancing. I move from subconscious to conscious.

I’ve never been very concerned with creating like-able characters, but they must be understandable. We don’t have to agree with what they do, but we have to understand why they do it. I think theatre, at its very best, is the practice of empathy – seeing from someone else’s vantage point and hopefully, in the process, gaining a greater understanding of their journey through the world.

EL:

Will we see another play with these characters? If so, what can you share about it?

MF:

Yes, the third play in the series is tentatively titled I Can Go and takes place two years after Your Best One.  I can’t give too much away about the plot, as it will spoil what happens in Your Best One, but it explores how we find the good in goodbye. How we move on, and move forward, on our own terms.

EL:

When you reflect on this experience with Curious, how do you describe it?

MF:

It really means the world to me to see my work on Curious’ mainstage. Almost a decade ago, fresh out of grad school, I did a year-long playwriting residency at Curious sponsored by the National New Play Network. Over the course of that year, Curious became an artistic home for me, and Chip Walton became a mentor and friend. His belief in my voice, and advocacy for my work, is how and why this project came to fruition. Taking a chance on a relatively unknown voice is a risk, and I am forever grateful for Curious’ bravery.

EL:

Anything else you would like to share?

MF:

I think that covers it – great questions!

 

About the play:

The Hoffman family rallies together – and against each other – as they battle over health insurance, child custody, inheritance, and superfoods. Former couple Richard and David tentatively dance around each other as they each navigate if second chances are ever really possible. Featuring a family of Curious all stars, you’ll see wit, wisdom, and reminders of your own family as they grapple with challenges we all face. From Chicago Med writer and award-winning playwright Meridith Friedman, Your Best One captures the love and heartache in every family.

Eden Lane's e-ticket
E-Ticket is an Eden Lane Top Pick

Your Best One

May 5 – June 10, 2018

For tickets visit Curious Theatre

My season 7 interview season with Curious Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Chip Walton about Serial Storytelling 
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Eden Lane is a freelance journalist based in Denver Colorado

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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?“)