We conclude our 16th Writer/Director Lab with Jerry Lieblich‘s new play D DEB DEBBIE DEBORAH, directed by Kareem Fahmy. This is the last installment in a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us for the fourth and final Lab reading at our theater at 46 Walker St, May 15 at 3PM!
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1. Briefly tell us about the play you’re directing.
D Deb Debbie Deborah is a wonderfully dark and comic play about the mutability of identity. It forces us to ask many fascinating questions such as: “How well do I really know this person that I think I know?” “Can I really ever know another person if I don’t know myself?” “Is my identity fixed throughout my lifetime or is it constantly changing?” The play also delves into the difficulty of human connection, fear of commitment, and the struggle to create great art. At its core is a complex woman named Deb who is embarks on a remarkable journey of discovery.
2. Who are your greatest influences?
Within “other” life – i.e. my non-artistic world – I work as a physical therapist. In the many years that I’ve been treating patients I’ve encountered a countless number of interesting people from all walks of life. The intimate experience of helping these people recovers allows me to have a great deal of access into their personal thoughts and feelings. I feel I often draw on these insights in my directing work – they help me paint a more accurate depiction of the human experience.
I’m very inspired by the works of those directors that tell large stories on a huge canvas. Some of my favorites are Ariane Mnouchkine, Ivo Van Hove, and Robert LePage (a fellow Quebecer!) I’m interested in creating theatrical events that feel both larger than life and deeply intimate. I want the theatergoing activity to be truly experiential for an audience – allowing them to create a really profound connection to the work and to the performers.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
What was really inspiring to me was the way the entire group – including our mentors – came together in a nurturing way. We all were sincerely wanting to make these plays the best they can be, and also make each other the best we could be. I think all of us brought our individual sensibilities to the table and in sharing those we all really learned something – not just about each other but about ways to approach the play development process. There was also something really wonderful about how each of us embraced all of these plays as our own – these characters, these stories, they feel close to us now and we’ve each contributed a small something that is now a part of that world.
4. Tell us about the ‘Director Project’ portion of the Lab.
I got to work with three really tremendous actors and we did a deep exploration of two scenes of the play. It was an opportunity to see if the central “device” of Jerry’s play – in which a character’s persona jumps from one body into another – is one that carries theatrical weight. It was also a fun chance to refine how language works in this play – what the variations in cadence, tempo, and tone do the story. It was also a great opportunity to explore the larger issues of how you bring a play from the page to the stage: the specificity of tone, the physical vocabulary, the style of performance. Usually that work is left for a much later stage of a play’s development – but in this case we were making those discoveries while the play was still very much in its infancy. I feel like the things we learned in the Director Project has become a part of the play’s DNA.
5. Sixteen years on the Lab has produced some pretty great plays. Looking over them, do any stand out to you?
What really inspires me about the history of the Lab is the wonderful variety of voices that have come out of it – both in terms of playwrights AND directors. It’s a truly astonishing group of artists who are continuing to bring so much wonderful creative energy into the world. I’m deeply honored to be amongst its ranks.
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Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born director of Egyptian descent. He has been an Emerging Artist of Color Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop, a Van Lier Fellow at Second Stage, is a founding member of |the claque| and is a core member of Rising Circle Theater Collective. He has directed and developed work with companies including NYTW, Second Stage, Sundance, Berkeley Rep, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Partial Comfort Productions, and Noor Theatre. Kareem is an NYTW Usual Suspect. MFA: Columbia.www.kareemfahmy.com