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Irina's Birthday Party

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Cynthia Croot
August 8, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director and Co-writer.

What is your show about?
The women of Connis Avant Garde Restaurant are entreated by Miss Conni to dive into Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters to find the play, and what ensues is a raucous redux of the hallowed text, as the actresses grapple with Chekhov’s great female roles.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I come from a family of storytellers – deep sea divers, cross-continental hikers, concert violin players, carpenter accordionists, Spanish-Dutch plumbers, intrepid Idaho homesteaders and many other deeply funny, humane, and loving people. I think storytelling on stage is a natural extension of the joy one finds in family, in community. It is an act of generosity as much as it is an act of creation. Some pivotal performances I witnessed which helped me catch the bug: Lawrence Olivier’s Lear (on TV when I was 6 or 7), and Pierre Chabert performing Krapp’s Last Tape in French during my undergrad education. I couldn’t understand the language, but I could feel what he felt. It was mesmerizing, and irresistible.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this summer that...?
combines borscht, Anton Chekhov, and the Violent Femmes.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
A very faithful production of "Three Sisters" I created years ago was the inaugural production at the Brick. It is amazing to revisit this text through a new lens - to simultaneously honor the text and crack it open, especially with the gifted performers on stage: Melody Bates, Connie Hall, Kelly Hayes, and Rachel Murdy. It is a labor of love.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Audra McDonald?
Ang Lee! His movie "The Ice Storm" was a revelation to me.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Through humor and pathos, community and provocation, honesty and towering, tremulous hope, it can show us a world we crave, or a world we fear. It helps hold a mirror to who we are, and asks "Why?" and "What will you do about it?".