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To Dream of Trees

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Lily Raabe
August 17, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director.

What is your show about?
To Dream of Trees is a post-apocalyptic tale (told through movement, music, and maskwork) of a young girl searching through a desolate landscape to find the magical creatures of her dreams.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I love to work on edgy, provocative theater that brings diverse artists of all fields together in a collaborative maelstrom. I want music, text, movement, puppets, masks, film, photography, anything that an artist can offer up - I want all of it to collide and create something magical and enchanting. I want to be seduced by the grotesque and transformed by the sweetest, smallest moment. I want theater that reaches out and touches you. I want it to be raw, gripping, and anything but traditional. "To Dream of Trees" does all of this. It's grotesque, it's beautiful, it's enchanting, and it's true to the voices of each one of the artists involved with the project.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
There is nothing like the intimate immediacy of theater. In theater, an actor can walk into the audience and interact. In theater you experience those magical moments when the entire audience is on the edge of their seat, palpable silence filling the room, as something happens on stage. I've never felt that in a movie theater. Live theater allows us to experience raw, human emotions 20 feet away from us. I never forget moments in great plays, but films blend together for me. Theater stands out because it's there, it's immediate, it's real.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
I jumped at the chance to work on "To Dream of Trees" because I love Lavinia Robert's writing and I adore Ahmed Alabaca's music. I really enjoy that these two encourage me to work collaboratively with my entire team (actors, designers, crew). They are always ready to take a risk, make a change, or allow one of the actors to mold part of the show in order to illuminate the story. I get really jazzed about incorporating so many elements into one production. "To Dream of Trees" has masks, puppets, movement/dance, text, songs, and an original score. My actors come from all sorts of backgrounds and have put so much of themselves into the work that I am blown away by what they have produced. I am always down to work with people that are this dedicated and so damn talented.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
This show is all Harpo. It's physical, it's expressive, and it's full of talent. Although we have amazing text to work with thanks to Lavinia, I think you could understand the entire story through the images and movement that the actors are using. Harpo never spoke a single word in any of his movies, but somehow he was a constant presence that you completely understood. He was the perfect ensemble member, never drawing focus, but holding up the entire team and adding so much to the Marx Bros world. I see each one of my actors doing that. Whether or not they're taking the lead in a moment, they are always communicating to the audience, they are funny, they are sad, and they're just wonderful.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity is one of the primary goals of any piece of theater that I work on. I want my actors and entire creative team to come from all around the world and I want them to have a huge variety of backgrounds and experiences. The richer the diversity of the creative team, the richer the product that you can create. I believe that theater is about understanding the human experience, and that means that humans of all sorts need to be represented in this work. It should never be a secondary consideration - it should be a given. Art imitates life, and life happens on every corner of the globe. We should see it all.