We continue our 16th Writer/Director Lab with Jiehae Park‘s new play UNTITLED HIGH SCHOOL MACBETH, directed by Lillian Meredith. This is the second installment in a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us for the second Lab reading at our theater at 46 Walker St, May 8 at 3PM!
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1. Briefly tell us about the play you’re directing.
The brief answer is that Untitled High School Macbeth is about two girls who will do anything to get into the perfect college. The real answer, though, is that this a dark comedy about race and identity, about quotas and who gets to fill them and why, about what defines success and the increased pressure we put on teenagers to attain it, the stress and fear that accompanies a college process glutted with test-prepped over-achievers, and the holy grail of the elite expensive college degree.
2. Who are your greatest influences?
Well, I mean, my work is really focused on the intersection of theater and community, and the way an audience can be included as collaborators in the creation of a live narrative. In that respect, I’m really excited by the work of directors like Rachel Chavkin and Lear DeBessonet. But on a much more intimate and permanent level, I’d have to say my friends and peers, the people I trained with at Vassar and the National Theater Institute and Actors Theatre of Louisville, who I still work with consistently. I’ve been incredibly lucky to spend the last decade surrounded by these incredibly creative, smart, experimental artists who are curious and generous and adventurous, and they’ve really shaped who I am as a person and director more than anyone else.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
It’s the whole thing, the way it’s structured. We’re all developing these four plays together, finding our voices as individuals and as playwright/director pairs and as an entire Lab group. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. And there’s really nothing better than sitting around for four hours every other Sunday, eating candy and reading and discussing new plays.
4. Tell us about the ‘Director Project’ portion of the Lab.
Oh it was so cool! We each took fifteen minutes of our playwright’s play and staged it in the Soho Rep office. At the time, Jiehae was working on a different piece about time and space and cartography, and the section I chose was set in the internet’s physical network hub under Hudson Street during Hurricane Irene. The power goes out, leaving the protagonist trapped in a control room with the hallucinated specter of his ex-boyfriend and a leaking ceiling. Because of the confines of the space, I got to experiment with audience orientation and perspective, how I could make the ghost appear and disappear in the darkness with the use of a flashlight and the silhouettes created by the big windows overlooking Broadway. I love that kind of work – making theater in alternative spaces with only what you can beg, borrow, or steal. I learned a lot – not just from the challenge of staging Jiehae’s piece, but also from watching how the other directors used the same space to create the totally different worlds of their plays.
5. Sixteen years on the Lab has produced some pretty great plays. Looking over them, do any stand out to you?
The only one I’ve seen is Marie Antoinette, which I loved. It was at the start of the Lab and we all went together. I felt just so excited to be there, to be part of the Lab and Soho Rep, to see what we would create together over the next eight months.
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Lillian Meredith is a director, performer, writer, and native New Yorker. Most of her work is site-specific and explores the boundaries of performance and the role of the audience in live theater. She has developed work for Dixon Place, Culture Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, UglyRhino, Galapagos Art Space, Hunter College, The Secret Theater, Ashby Stage in Berkeley CA, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, among others. A proud alumna of Vassar College and the National Theater Institute, Lillian is also the creator and producer of the annual Communal Spaces: a garden play festival, a co-founder and member of FullStop Collective, an associated artist of foolsFURY Theater Company in San Francisco, and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. www.lillianmeredith.com