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The Past Is Still Ahead

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Sophia Romma
June 18, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

What is your show about?
The lyrical, cult and sexy life of infamous Russian poetess, Marina Tsvetaeva is blatantly exposed, as she fights against the tempest whirlwind of her exile to Siberia while hounded by the Soviet Secret Police and her poetical compatriot lovers, for practicing poetry.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I love the theatre of the absurd. I've been infected by the theatre bug ever since I read Ionesco's "The Lesson". I was never one that particularly cared for solving mathematical equations, and when I read a scene from "The Lesson" where the student protagonist responds to an equation, 2+2=4 but sometimes it equals 5, I was so very pleased to learn that there existed a playwright who took an absurdist eye to his ingenious plays. I am a child of La MaMa Experimental Theatre; I distort images, create phantasmagorical stage-plays which tackle the irony and absurdity of the bitter human condition. I find humanity portrayed in a slightly irregular way, in a mystical fantasy occult way, so mesmerizing to watch, as it unfolds in the holy shrine of the theatrical stage.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
Oh Gosh, I am the Ed Wood of Theatre. Here it goes: "Love, In the Eyes of Hope, Dies Last", Coyote, Take Me There!, and "Defenses of Prague" at La MaMa Experimental Theatre, "Shoot Them In The Cornfields" at the Producers Club Theatre, "Sickle" at the American Theatre of the Actor, "Absolute Clarity" at the Players Theatre, "The Past Is Still Ahead" at the Cherry Lane Theatre, The Pushkin House Theatre in London, Oxford University, at the Mayakovsky Academic Art Theatre in Moscow, the Millennium Theatre, and at the JCC Theatre, "A Sweet Word of Advice" at the JCC Theatre and at the Midtown International Theatre, "The Mire" and "With Aaron's Arms Around Me" at the Cherry Lane Theatre, "Doroga" at the JCC Theatre and at the Gene Frankel Theatre, Cabaret Émigré at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row.

What is one specific thing that you hope audiences will realize you’ve contributed to the production?
I hope that poetry and the lyrical mysticism of verse bleeds through each pore of this play. The fact that a brilliant female poetess could achieve such literary stature in a world ruled by male poets and authors, serves as a grandiose achievement back in the heady days of repressed Stalinist Russia and the hound-dogs of the Soviet Union's Secret Police. Love and poetry are devoid of boundaries. Marina Tsvetaeva was not afraid of falling in love with life, with both men and women and with the act of love itself. Thus, she wrote her little heart out like no other woman ever had before her. I hope I get that message across, that poetry and love are merciless but everlasting and ethereal.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Audra McDonald?
I'd like to attain a fan letter from Denzel Washington because I currently serve as the Literary Manager of the Negro Ensemble Company, my mentor is Colonel Leslie Lee, a brilliant African American playwright, and I would love to know what someone of Denzel's acting caliber thinks of my lyrical production on the subject of such a tumultuous hellish life, as the one led by my poetess. Mr. Washington has played many suffering heroic characters in film, so I am certain he will be able to identify with my heroine.

Why are theater festivals so very important?
Theater Festivals grant the luxurious opportunity for actors, playwrights, producers, directors and all other collective members of a theatrical production troupe to expose their craft to an array of other professionals working in the vast theatrical sphere. For example, due to the fact that my play, "A Sweet Word of Advice" was presented at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in July of 2010, Mr. Charles Weldon, the Artistic Director of the Negro Ensemble Company liked it enough to direct and produce the play at the Cherry Lane Theatre in the winter of that same year. The play was renamed "The Mire" and I received a brilliant New York Times Review. I was very content to say the least!