nytheatre.com q&a preview by Allie Mulholland
September 15, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Director, Floundering Father of ReGroup.
Do you like to read plays, or just perform them?
(Author's note - for those that don't know me, aka: EVERYONE - please read this with a sense of humor!) READ PLAYS? What's the point! Who reads anymore! Of course, I read plays! Before I founded ReGroup, I took almost 3 years off and gave myself a "MFA in Theatre". My professors were Odets, Wilder, Williams, Miller, Lawson, Ardrey, Hellman, Howard, Inge, Jones etc. What better teachers could anyone ask for? I read at least a play a day, even including the really horrible stuff (***********, *******, ***** REDACTED). It helped me cement my opinion on what makes a good, worthwhile play. Something I am afraid we have lost is the play as a piece of literature. The best plays work as a piece of writing, granted their ideal form is a great production, but the best plays, the ones that stand the test of time, are capable of working as literature. It is really shocking to me, at my ripe old age of 30, that so many students fresh out of school and people twice my age come up after EVERY ReGroup performance and say, "I've never seen a play like this! It was great." They are about bigger matters than semantics or petty relationship troubles. They are written in a heightened language, a THEATRICAL language, that has been, for the most part, lost. Having been told be a playwrighting teacher, you should record overheard conversations in order to learn how to write.... and having been told by my own manager that "reality tv has sophisticated audiences as to what is REAL", I look at the Odets plays, and Harold Clurman's essay Will They Awake and Sing in 1970? 40 years ago, people were saying Odets language was "dated". Clurman wrote that NO ONE spoke like that in the 1930's, it was the Odets style, (from my experience - VERY "heavily borrowed" from his idol John Howard Lawson's style). Yet, when it is done today, it is done in modern, "realistic" tone or schlock 1930's Cagney voice. No wonder it sounds dated to the public! You need to take people to that world Odets created. The #1 biggest movie of all time is Avatar. If we can sit for 3 hrs and be transported to a world of blue people, why can't we be transported to a time in the past without it being "dated"?
Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
Silly question!! But without the playwright, there is nothing. Directors, actors, etc can ruin a bad play (for example, see _____) but they can't really make a bad play good. 1931- is an unusual piece. Entire portions of the play are 'unscripted', just suggested in a paragraph. This allows for a lot of improv and experimentation. I've never seen a play quite like it. It's quite cleverly written, but in the wrong hands, it could be a disaster. It requires a lot of research on the part of everyone involved. Yet, remaining true to the play and the story, as much as you improvise, it all comes down to honoring the playwright's vision. If you're not going to do that, then you should write your own play. (This should be the director's Hippocratic Oath! Half the directors would be locked away for malpractice!) ha
Are there any cautions or warnings you’d like to make about the show (e.g., not appropriate for little kids)?
This show is not appropriate for anyone wanting to see fluff. That's not to say you will not be entertained. After our reading of the piece in 2010, we received emails stating, "I hated the play. It's had me so depressed ever since I saw it! That's NOT why I go to the theatre!" That was the key comment that let us know we had done it correctly. Had people walked out with a "ho hum" response, then we failed the piece. It is a complex play. If you go to the Theatre to check out and escape reality, then this isn't for you. If you want to have an experience, then join us! The best reply was, "My wife asked me if I enjoyed the play last night. I told her "No, I did not ENJOY it because it made me feel so many things, but I am sure glad I saw it. I have not been able to get it out of my mind." 1931- is not medicine. It has light moments, and an amazing cast, but if you don't want to go on a journey, this piece is not for you. This was the reason it flopped in 1931 (with a cast of Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, Phoebe Brand, Sandy Meisner, Bobby Lewis and direction by Lee Strasberg, nonetheless). Hopefully, people are more willing to join us for this journey than they were 81 yrs ago.
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
Not sure what this has to do with anything, but I'll gladly say Groucho is king. "I didn't like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions - the curtain was up." "Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted." The audio recordings of You Bet Your Life are a must! Where is wit like this today?
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
If not, what good is it? It seems everyone is so concerned for their career, few are concerned about the Theatre as a whole (not a hole, which it often is!) Who's minding the store? Theatre has so much power, we just have lost sight of that by trying to replicate what we see on the screen. Movies finally got wise and have begun capitalizing on 3D films. Theatre has always been 3D, but we seem to forget simple things like that. If Theatre isn't about change, than it might as well be reality tv or pornography. So come see 1931-, "and tell 'em Groucho sent ya!"