We will conclude our 17th Writer/Director Lab with Dipika Guha’s new play UNRELIABLE, directed by Andrew Neisler. This is the sixth installment in a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us for the final Lab reading at Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, 107 Suffolk Street, April 24nd at 7PM!
1. Briefly tell us about the play you are directing.
I’ve been just completely delighted and mesmerized working with Dipika Guha on her play UNRELIABLE. She’s written this elusive text that feels constantly out-of-reach in the sexiest way. UNRELIABLE follows three “prisoners” all trapped in their own way: a suspected terrorist being held at Guantanamo, an old woman in an assisted living complex, and her 35-year old daughter who lives with her. It’s all about who you can trust, who has the right answer, and having the freedom to change your mind. And there may or may not be tea. Like really, there may or may not be.
2. Who are your greatest influences?
I’ve been very heavily influenced by directors and companies whose work feels like they are having so much fun making it: Alex Timbers, Lila Neugebauer, The Debate Society, Rude Mechs, The Dance Cartel, and lots more. There’s a type of on-stage rigor and precision, especially comedic, in Anne Kauffman, Rachel Chavkin, Liz Swados and John Tiffany’s work that I’m always striving toward. Joe Papp and Bob Moss are huge inspirations for my work with the arts development company I co-founded and co-direct, Fresh Ground Pepper.
Also, Ars Nova. I owe so much of my growth and inspiration to Ars Nova and Emily Shooltz and Jason Eagan and all those crazy people.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
As for entertaining: Ken is the king of the feedback quip. His quips and then Jenny subsequently not quite getting it or hearing it…it’s like a whole routine that I just look forward to every week. I also get a lot of entertainment when we read from watching everyone release their inner actor.
4. How have your dramaturgical skills developed over the course of the past nine months?
I’ve noticed how often we will just sit in silence. We’ll come back from a break, or finish reading a play, and literally sit in silence for a full minute before anyone talks. At first it made me sooooo uncomfortable, but I’ve slowly re-calibrated myself, and I think I’m a better listener now. To my fellow Labbies, to the play, and to myself and my own impulses and reactions.
I’ve also learned so much from hearing how other directors and writers talk about plays. There are so many more dramaturgical threads and structures than I ever really knew how to talk about. My eyes have been, without a doubt, blown open.
5. Seventeen years on the Lab has produced some pretty great plays. Looking over them, do any stand out to you?
There are so many writers and plays and directors that I didn’t even know went through the group until we got in the office and all those posters were all over the wall. I mean it’s INSANE. So many people I respect and admire and so many friends and good people. I do truly feel honored to be a part of it all.
I saw Clare Barron’s YOU GOT OLDER this past year and just loved it. I’ve read Evan Twohy’s PERMISSION and Jerry Lieblich’s D DEB DEBBIE DEBORAH, and they’re both risky, wacky, really good plays.