nytheatre.com q&a preview by Joanne Zipay
June 11, 2013
What is your job on this show?
What is your show about?
FASHION is a screwball comedy about NYC society and the nouveau-riche country-yokels who inhabit that society, trying to imitate the manners of Europe - and failing miserably (and quite hilariously) - with intrigue, gossip, scandal, blackmail, imposters, clever servants, long-lost relatives, tests of virtue, and...slapstick.
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I love to work on classic plays because of their enormous passion and energy - and the huge, difficult, often unanswerable questions they ask about human nature. And another thing I love is comedy...
What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
I founded Judith Shakespeare Company in 1995 and have worked on over half the canon - as dramaturg on all, and as director on most - This includes the entire 10-play history cycle. Each of our casts must include at least 50% women, and we've explored many different approaches to non-traditional casting - including cross-gender and gender-blind. I directed a woman as Prospero in The Tempest in 2001, and a woman as Richard 3 in 2005. I've also directed a reverse-gender Julius Caesar in 1999 and Two Gentlemen of Verona in 2010. Plus brand new plays in our RESURGENCE series.
Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
The founding of the ON HER SHOULDERS series was driven by Susan Jonas, an amazingly passionate dramaturg and strong advocate for women in theatre, whom I'm fortunate to be friends with. Susan partnered with Lillian Rodriguez and Andrea Lepcio to create this series - to give readings of plays written by women throughout history - to make those plays known to us now - since we are amazingly abundant in our ignorance of them! Many of these women playwrights were the most popular playwrights of their day, earning a serious living writing the most successful plays of the time - and yet how many of them can we really claim to know? I told Susan I'd love to be involved and direct any play she wanted to match me with, since I have so much to learn about any of these writers. For various interesting reasons, it turned out to be "Fashion" written in 1845 by Anna Cora Mowatt. It's a comedy that still resonates today - about pretentiousness which is eventually won over by good old American common sense. It has its challenges since there were some different ideas about what was funny back then - stuff we'd feel uncomfortable about today. So we found a wonderful adaptation by Bonnie Milne Gardner, and with our dramaturg Celia Braxton we've been doing a bit of further development on the piece as we rehearse. It's very exciting, and we're learning a lot. There are so many terrific people involved with the project, including my wonderful cast!
Which mythical character would like your show the best: Cyclops, Cupid, Paul Bunyan or the Easter Bunny?
Hmmm...I cannot help but observe that these all seem to be male characters - I have to go outside the box here and say that some mythical characters who might like this show are: Lady Liberty, Edna Mode, Hera, Tinker Bell, Mistress Page, Jane Eyre, and Eris.
How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Very. It's a hallmark of the work I do. Who's represented and how they're represented is critical to the autobiography of our time, the self-portrait of our time. It's not only what we see (which is a lot of diversity in our world right now) but also what we want to see - all of us are in this together, and we should never forget that. It's joyous, it's exciting, it teaches us, and it'll help us survive. I believe that.