This Special Edition of The Playwright’s Playground begins ‘The Playmaker Series: CATF 2015.’ In a series of in depth conversations, I speak with the artistic teams associated with the plays at this year’s Contemporary American Theater Festival. Playwrights, and the Directors share revealing behind the scene insights about their inspirations and the development of their new plays.
Meet Everything You Touch’s director May Andrales.
If the role of the artist is to tell the truth, what does Everything You Touch reveal?
With a play as complex and as rich as Everything You Touch, there are many truths to reckon with. Here are the three that most speak to me:
(1) The path to self-love is often a lonely, thorny, uphill one.
(2) There comes a point of crisis in one’s life that the measures that one once used to validate oneself need to be re-examined and reinvented.
(3) And lastly, what does it mean to be a successful artist? Is there any point when art mixes too heavily with consumerism that it no longer is art?
When in your childhood or later did you know that you wanted a life in the theater and the arts?
My exposure to theater came relatively late (early 20s). Shortly after I moved to NYC I saw a production of Mnemonic by Theater de Complicite and was enthralled. I loved the combination of language, immediacy and spectacle. I didn’t decide to dedicate my life and career to the theater until I saw Jessica Hagedorn’s play Dogeaters at The Public Theater. It was the first time I had ever seen my family and culture on stage in front of a diverse audience. It was then that I realized that I, as an Asian American, could have a place in the American Theater.
You are an experienced director who has helmed many World Premiere plays. What has been your directing process with this play – a play with it’s 2nd outing? What has changed or expanded from the original direction?
I approach each play with a similar methodology. I read the play over and over and even tediously retype the script so that I don’t glide over any details. I often have a sketch book next to me as I do this work and write down images and thoughts that occur as I study. When I looked through all my musings I had written — destruction, ravaged, self-mutilation, violence, self-doubt and self-love. Those musings found its way in all design and the acting. It was my first step into the world of the play.
You have a talent of nurturing Playwrights and developing emerging artists. Tell me how working with CATF came about for you this year and what it has been like working with Sheila Callaghan and the cast of Everything You Touch.
I’ve always loved Sheila’s work. She is a singular unique voice in the American theater. When Ed called to gage my interest, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. How CATF found me is an unknown blessing. Knowing many of the esteemed group of alumni writers, I’ve wanted to work here. I grew up in a similar rural town in Southwest Virginia, so in part, I also wanted to do this just to be around the same Blue Ridge mountains.
What was your approach to revealing the subtleties and nuances of the dark comedy, Everything You Touch?
I work closely with the actors to bring out the subtleties and nuances of the dark comedy. We are finding new things every single day. With characters as complex, rich and wonderful as these, there are so many different layers to unpeel.
In a play that looks at struggling identities and reconciling public and private personas, what did you learn about yourself?
In the play, Victor is an artist whose self-worth is intertwined with his work as a fashion designer. I’ve been working professionally in the theater since 2006 and my identity is tied to being a theater artist. Because making theater is wholly physical and spiritual experience, it has been intrinsic to my understanding of myself. But then does the work define me? Do I define the work? Who am I if I am not working?
I also learned how the expectations I had of myself in childhood and the expectations of my parents and family are still very much the expectations I have for myself now. I demand perfectionism for myself and for my work. And when it falls short of that, I am filled with shame. Just as Jess does in the play, I also have to unburden myself from expectations and perfectionism and find a way to love myself and these so-called imperfections. It’s an ongoing life lesson.
What do you hope audiences will take away and think about after seeing the play?
I hope they have a good time! Laugh a little. Shift in discomfort at moments of recognition. Jump headfirst into the story. Fall in love or love hating one of the characters. Choose sides in one of the arguments. Root for a character. Enjoy the music! Enjoy the spectacle! Love the exquisite and explosive language in the play.
Everything You Touch plays through August 2, 2015, at the Contemporary American Theater Festival performing in the Marinoff Theater – Center for Contemporary Arts/II – 62 West Campus Drive, in Shepherdstown, WV. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 876-3473/(800) 999-2283, or purchase them online.
The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 1: Playwright Barbara Hammond on ‘We Are Pussy Riot’
The Playwright’s Playground is a monthly in-depth conversation with local female playwrights and artists in the D.C. theatre community. Female theatre artists make up more than 50 percent of those involved in the theatre, yet the number of female playwrights being produced is dramatically lower. In this continuing Column, I will also interview and introduce DCMTA readers to the many talented playwrights in the DMV area to learn about their writing process, their inspirations, and their motivations.