Goldie is a director in Philadelphia.

Maura is the Artistic Director of Orbiter 3

 

Maura

Should we start by emptying our pockets?

 

Jane

I worked with James Haro, who wrote Something Resembling when he was a student at Drexel.

I have also worked with Noah Levine, who wrote and performed Dream Sequence. And the director of Dream Sequence, Amelia williams is a friend of mine.

 

Maura

I am friends with James Haro and have dramaturged for him before. I’m also friends with Noah and Amelia.

Oh, and my roommate Emily Schuman served as Outside Eye on What It Looks Like.

 

Jane

So we saw these two shows as part of SoLow, do you want to look at them together or separately?

 

Maura

I feel like we should separate them.

 

Jane

Sure. Let’s talk about the design on Something Resembling. I was kind of transfixed by the walls, because the wallpaper wasn’t even in a very particular way that evokes a cheap motel. But I was distracted by how specific those walls were, versus how unspecific the items in the room were- a found bench and a found table.

 

Maura

I thought most of the design was effective, and totally within a scrappy SoLow aesthetic. The specificity of the walls were kind of integral, wasn’t it? Since we needed to be in the motel room with the performer.

 

Jane

Nothing within the walls created a specific environment, and I think that disparity was distracting. I think I would have prefered to have the room brought to life by small details.

 

Maura

I didn’t mind that very much. It didn’t distract me. I did mind the large amount of props, but I think that is a personal bias. Sometimes I find it difficult to click in with a performer and stay there when it feels a little like they are juggling a series of Interesting Props. I did kind of love the chicken though, I’m not entirely sure why it was the representative of the beloved thematically but I enjoyed its presence.

 

Jane

I thought it was made of tofu. Was it chicken?

 

Maura

No idea, it looked like a rotisserie chicken from a grocery store though and that cracked me up.

 

Jane

I also did not understand what it meant, but it did help me understand what level of absurdity to meet the piece at.

 

Maura

Agreed. I think it communicated early on that we were to be skeptical of the depth of feeling.

 

Jane

I did think the costumes were really effective, too.

 

Maura

Agreed! I liked the costumes a lot, especially Garcins whole vibe.

 

Jane

Garcin the barker?

 

Maura

Oh, we should probably add to my pockets that I haven’t read No Exit in maybe… 7 years

 

Jane

Yeah, I also did not do my homework on No Exit.

 

Maura

The barker?

 

Jane

The gambler? I understood there to be three characters: Jay, the lover, Stella the lovee who leaves and then Garcin a sort of intermediary.

 

Maura

Oh, no. I think it’s Jay Garcin? And then someone else who might be Ms. Cricket? Who is the intermediary and singer?

 

Jane

Hmmm. I am now somewhat confused.

 

Maura

Me, too.

 

Jane

I was taking the character with the hat as Garcin.

 

Maura

Oh, I thought that was the stranger? Ok, so I think we can establish that there were three distinct characters but that their names and relationships were somewhat unclear.

 

Jane

Yeah, I think Stella was clear. In fact, although I really enjoyed the character when she spoke. Still, I kind of liked it better when she only existed to haunt the person who loved her. It was fun to guess what kind of relationship it really was.

 

Maura

I liked the writing of Stella’s character the best in the piece. I agree that I preferred guessing as to the relationship, but at the same time I did think it was clever to have the object of affection be the most real and human character, because typically they are the opposite of that.

 

Jane

I think that’s a really good point. And I also liked that writing the best.  As for design, I don’t think Plays and Players offers much in terms of lights and I think that they were fine.

 

Maura

They were a little harsh, which I was down for. I sort of love the SoLow aesthetic of throw it all together. I don’t think we as a creative community have enough places to just TRY things, to mount our work for small audiences, and so I love the sense of permission that surrounds SoLow Fest.

 

Jane

I totally agree. I’m thrilled that So Low exists, and I don’t expect too much from design in these shows, but I think it’s good to think about how design affects an experience even when it’s understood to be shoestring.

 

Maura

But lights are one of the most cost-prohibitive design elements, so I expect almost nothing out of them for SoLow shows. I did kind of wish there was a hotel lamp, though. I don’t know if practicals were possible or fades from those main lights, but playing with the misery of hunkering down in an ever darkening space would have added something for me.

 

Jane

Good points, both.

 

Maura

Then again, part of the point of No Exit is that the characters stay in an unchanging space? So I don’t know.

 

Jane

What did you see as being the relationship between No Exit and this piece?

 

Maura

I think James  was definitely in dialogue with that play, in terms of setting — the room, the door — and very much talking about how we make our own personal hells quite handily in our brains.

 

Jane

I think that the relationship to No Exit made this quirky little relationship play too big, and that leaning towards the grandiose in that way is common in first plays for new writers.

 

Maura

I do actually think that it is important to remember that this is James’s first production of one of his plays.

 

Jane

And that that is what SoLow is for. I’m really glad an opportunity existed for him to try this.

 

Maura

I am too. And I liked that he invented some of the characters I remember from No Exit — the odious Garcin character in the Sartre became an emotionally needy person who was trying to create meaning through a relationship, which I think is what one of the women in the Sartre also did?

 

Jane

I think it is safe to say that both of us are a little shady on the Sartre.

 

Maura

So there are probably some things we missed. Which brings up a greater question of needing context to enjoy a piece of theatre, and I’ll say that I’m not a huge fan of that.

 

Jane

No, me neither. I find it alienating, which I don’t like for myself, but I especially don’t like for theatre’s larger relationship with its audiences.

 

Maura

But I think James set himself a challenge and did some good writing, and I hope he keeps going.

 

Jane

I agree. I think this is exactly what SoLow is supposed to do. Let people try stuff out and flex muscles.

 

Maura

I found Meryl Sands, the performer, pretty charming.

 

Jane

I think she was charming, too. I think, like James, she was learning and playing with stuff.

 

Maura

I think she could have been directed further, but given a short rehearsal time I think she was making good choices about the body language of the characters.

 

Jane

I think it would have been much better to bring in a director, rather than the playwright directing with a consultant. The material was clearly very personal. I think it’s important and difficult to learn to be able to hand something personal like that over to a trusted interpreter, and I think the show would have benefited a lot from that.

 

Maura

Yeah, I agree. And that’s not to cast any shade on James as a director, but more an observation on added perspectives sometimes making a piece more legible.

 

Jane

I totally agree.

 

Maura

I recently learned I should not be directing my own writing, though, so I may be informed by that too!

 

Jane

It’s a tough lesson for all of us who write and direct.  

 

Maura

James’s tacos were really great. So my experience was overall pretty positive. Albeit somewhat confused.

 

Jane

Same. I love that SoLow made this experiment possible. And I felt the same way about Dream Sequence.

I think that something that worked in Noah Levine and Amelia Williams’ favor was that they have a really good sense of scale. The story, the ideas and the production were the appropriate size for the venue.

 

Maura

Dream Sequence really moved me because I am also in a place where I feel I am losing track of my time and ambitions, and I just lost my grandmother, who was really important to me and shaped who I am as a person and artist in many ways. After she died, I definitely felt like I was privileging my arts career over the people that love me, and I think Noah explored that quite beautifully.

 

Jane

That’s another thing I really appreciated about Dream Sequence. I think it was about a topic that is really important and not commonly explored. I think it is uncommon for a younger artist to do that.

 

Maura

What do you do when you’re always “busy” but have nothing to show for it?

 

Jane

And mounting this show in his tiny bedroom supported that idea. He leveraged the space to trap us in there, too. I think Amelia Williams’ direction was really expert. It kept the piece moving and kept it in check.

 

Maura

I again thought there were a few too many loopy dream props. Like, I didn’t need the banana or the curtain rod, really.

 

Jane

I didn’t mind them.

 

Maura

I also was fine with the costume changes, but I think that the return to the bed was not the best move.

 

Jane

You mean when he was up in it? I loved that! I felt like a horrible time troll sitting under his bed stealing minutes. There is something about that loft bed. My friend called it the “divorce bed” because it’s the bed you buy when your life is not where you want it to be. It’s the failure bed. So maybe I was having a personal connection.

 

Maura

I get loving it — I liked the exploration of removing the performer visually — but it took me out of the piece a little. It felt too realistic for where we’d entered and what we’d already been playing with.

 

Jane

Well being trapped there with two other people and no social norms was awkward for sure.But I still liked it. I liked that I kept getting surprised in that tiny space, like when the sheet comes down and creates a curtain.

 

Maura

I loved that!! That was my favorite maneuver. So simple and communicative. Also Noah’s vocal changes and conversation behind the sheet as the continuation of UTACO were great and hilarious.

 

Jane

I agree. And I think Noah’s performance was really endearing, but I also would have loved to see that in the hands of another actor. Just like with Something Resembling a degree of removal would have added something.

 

Maura

I hear that, but I love Noah doing Noah. The piece was so personal and confessional that it would’ve struck me as less honest had another person been performing. I’m also less skeptical of performing one’s own writing, and I think adding Amelia Williams as director/dramaturg was pretty crucial and helped add some clarity.

 

Jane

I thought the production was delightful. And it wouldn’t have worked if it were any bigger. So again, props to SoLow

 

Maura

Yay SoLow, I wish I’d gotten to see more of you.

 

Jane

Yay, Time is on Our Side, SHREW, SoLow. I love what’s happening in our theater world right now and young artists are a huge part of that!

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