Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ Part 2: Director Rosemary Hartman By Richard Durkin

Veteran director Rosemary Hartman has directed 40+ plays for regional and community theatres in New England, Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia. Previous VTC productions include The Prisoner of Second Avenue and Over the River and Through the Woods. She appeared on stage at VTC as Fonsia in The Gin Game. 

Director Rosemary Hartman.
Director Rosemary Hartman.

Some of her favorite directing efforts include Tennessee Williams’ plays, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Suddenly Last Summer, and Summer and Smoke. Other recent favorites include Rumors, Glengarry, Glen Ross, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, The Dresser, and The Violet Hour. She has also directed Three Tall Women for which she won a WATCH Award for Outstanding Director of a Play, and Twigs for which she won The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s Best Director award.

Richard: Why did you want to direct this play? 

Rosemary: It is a wonderful script. It’s beautifully written by Jon Robin Baitz. The story has humor, wit, pathos as well as underlying tension and an air of mystery. There is great substance to this play that provides great opportunities for myself as the director and the actors to delve into complexities of the characters and the storyline. It has been a fascinating challenge to develop the relationships and dynamics between the family members.

What is the play about?

It is about the Wyeth family. The daughter, Brooke, has come home to Palm Springs after a six year absence to spend Christmas with the family and to reveal that she has written a book, a memoir that will expose secrets concerning a family tragedy that her parents would rather have left secret.  The parents, Lyman a former movie star, and his wife Polly, are conservative Republicans who had been fast friends with Nancy and Ronald Reagan. They are staunch believers in “The American Way.” Adding to the tension is Polly’s sister Silda, a recovering alcoholic, who is financially dependent on the Wyeths and diametrically opposed to their politics.  Caught in the middle is Trip, the younger son who was too young to remember the family tragedy, and just wants to keep peace in the family. The tragedy referenced earlier relates to another son in the family who had been involved in a “Weatherman” group situation that ended tragically. I can’t reveal the details because it would be giving away part of the family’s deep dark secret. As the play unravels it reveals secrets of which even Brooke had been unaware.The tension created by the need for Brooke to tell the story and her parent’s determination that she not do so will have the audiences on the edge of their seats.

The 'Other Desert Cities' cast: Seated, L to R: Kathy Ohlhaber and Jeff McDermott. Standing, L to R: Jessie Roberts, Patrick David, and Susan d. Garvey. Photo by David Segal, 2015.
The ‘Other Desert Cities’ cast: Seated, L to R: Kathy Ohlhaber and Jeff McDermott. Standing, L to R: Jessie Roberts, Patrick David, and Susan d. Garvey. Photo by David Segal, 2015.

How long have you been planning to do this? 

The Vienna Theatre Company asked me to direct this play about a year ago. I immediately started recruiting designers and crew people with whom to work on this project. This is not an easy task and you really have to start lining people up a year in advance because designers and technical people are in great demand.

What research was required? 

I generally conduct considerable research on every play I direct. This play takes place in 2004 and references events that happened 30 years earlier.  Topics researched include timelines for the Nancy and Ronald Reagan reign, the Vietnam War, the Iraqi War, and alcoholism and its effects on a family.  I researched references to people and places in the script with which the whole cast may not be familiar such as Pat Buckley, the wife of William Buckley, Dorothy Dale, a dancer famous for her longevity, dancing until she was 87 years old. David Hockney, an artist, famous for painting, and Joan Didion, a writer.

What do you think the audiences will take away from this production? 

We have assembled a first-rate cast who are doing a remarkable job of bringing this fascinating story to life. Every family has secrets (perhaps not as dramatic a secret as the Wyeths), but I believe the audience will relate to the dynamic interaction of the family members and some of it will resonate in their own lives.


Other Desert Cities plays April 17-May 3, 2015 at Vienna Theatre Company performing at The Vienna Community Center – 120 Cherry Street. SE, in Vienna, VA. Ticket information is here.

Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’: Part 1: Jessie Roberts and Susan d. Garvey.


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