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Ebbie and Mol and the Apocalypse Song

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Sammi Cannold
August 8, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director.

What is your show about?
The show is about how the apocalypse leaves Ebbie and Mol as the last two women on the planet--together they are charged with living to the end of time and trying to find meaning in their pseudo-solitary existence.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
My parents both work in the entertainment world, so I've been fortunate to have been around and had amazing exposure to theater my whole life. They tell me they knew I was destined to direct when the only activity I was interested in as a 3-year-old was putting on shows with little shampoo bottles. For me, it really clicked when a teacher of mine took a leap of faith and hired me to direct musicals at a summer program when I was 14. I started to realize that being apart of creating something larger than myself and having the ability to really make people feel is something that theater provides in an unprecedented way. Also, I’ve always been passionate about education and history and there’s a strong overlap between the fields in terms of theater’s capacity to teach about different historical subjects.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I think theater is unique in it's ability to bring audiences together. I'm probably borrowing this logic from others, but when you go to a movie or watch TV, you sit back and eat popcorn and aren't expected to clap when you enjoy what you're seeing. Theater asks the audience to be active and engaged--that's why every performance of a show is different. And I think that contributes to a larger exciting sense of feeling alive and bonded with those you share the experience with.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
When Hannah [the playwright] sent me the script, I was immediately captivated by how the play gets at a core human question about what it means for our lifetimes to be finite. Even though we aren't in the apocalypse now (I hope), everyone can relate to being aware of foreboding endings. Not to spoil it, but I think the play provides a very unique answer to the question of why it all matters, but you'll have to wait for act 2, scene 11 to know what that is. I was also drawn to the piece, because my dream is to direct musicals, and as a playwright, Hannah has a very rhythmic, almost melodic, style, so I was especially grateful to her for the opportunity to work on it!

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
Probably surprising more than anything else. There have been a lot of pieces about the apocalypse, but I think this is unique in how it tackles what it would be like to be stuck with just one person for the rest of eternity. And what's even more surprising is that the relationship between Ebbie and Mol is not what you'd expect, but at the same time, it feels natural and uncannily relatable. Accordingly, the piece really brings up questions like--What would happen if everyone you knew started dying and you didn’t? Who would you choose to be the last person on the planet with you if you could? Would you want to go first or ultimately be left alone? And as Ebbie says in the play 'does Parisians mean anything if there are no more Parisians anymore?' I think that’s really powerful to think about. The cast and crew are also incredibly fierce and hardworking and that brought an energy to the piece that really lifts it and should hopefully provide several interesting surprises for audiences.

Who are your heroes?
My mom (Dori Berinstein) is my number one hero and always will be. I think that's true for a lot of people, but I can also really look up to her in a professional sense since she's carved out a very successful career in the arts and done it with such tenacity! Other than her, I am endlessly inspired and in awe of director and producer Diane Paulus. She's built a career on a larger crusade to get theater back into the forefront of American society, to get the audience to matter and to expand the boundaries of theater. I think that's amazing. It's also sadly rare that you see female directors being incredibly successful in both the world of musical theater and the world of business (she's the artistic director at the ART in Boston) and I’d love to do something similar one day, so her work means a lot to me. I also really admire Jerry Mitchell, Kathleen Marshall, Leigh Silverman, Michael Mayer and Mia Walker--they're all outstanding directors, but more-so, I've had the good fortune of getting to know them somewhat and understanding that they're equally outsanding people--so willing to go out of their ways to help young people get exposure. I've appreciated the examples they set and their guidance an enormous amount.