We conclude our 15th Writer/Director Lab with Elizabeth Irwin’s new play MY MAÑANA COMES, directed by Sarah Krohn. This interview with Sarah continues a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us the reading at Soho Rep. on May 13 at 7PM.
1. Briefly tell us about your directorial thinking on MY MAÑANA COMES.
MY MAÑANA COMES is set in the back of house of an Upper East Side restaurant and follows four bus boys over the course of eight days. The dynamic range of the play is huge. We see the height of the dinner rush when the kitchen’s a blur of swinging doors, and in the next scene, a reflective late-night conversation unfolds as two of the characters make silverware wraps. Because the play has this beautiful, overwhelmingly musical quality, Elizabeth and I have been thinking about it musically—in terms of tempo, repetition and tone—in addition to approaching it through a psychological lens.
So much of the storytelling is physical and the play is almost cinematic in its detail. There’s a really fun, back-of-house workplace culture of macho banter and one-upmanship, but it’s also a culture where people don’t often say what they mean. On top of that, some of the characters don’t understand English well, and there are even a few scenes in Spanish as well as moments when the play crosses into fantasy. So, language is often an obstacle or a red herring for the characters as well as the audience, whereas something as simple as changing clothes at the end of a shift or a momentary wince can be enormously expressive. It’s a wonderful, complex play that requires and rewards attentiveness on the part of the actors and also the audience.
2. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining? How are the directors utilized?
Witnessing the birth of five plays as they moved from conception to first draft. Each of the writers has a completely different process and I’ve loved being in the room from week to week. As lab directors, we’re brought into the conversation much earlier than usual. It’s been an incredible gift and also a little scary to witness and respond to the plays at these fragile early stages of development. Jenny and Ken are amazing leaders and manage to always keep the conversation constructive.
The Lab also functions as a cultural and intellectual exchange in addition to being a new play incubator. I really enjoyed engaging in spirited discussions about theater making with my lab mates because our perspectives are so diverse. It’s different from a classroom setting, where you and your fellow students are all drinking the same kool aid. In the Lab, there’s usually lots of wine, but not a drop of kool aid.
3. How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?
The Lab has definitely expanded my dramaturgical arsenal and deepened my appreciation/awe/empathy for the playwriting process. It’s also introduced me to a phenomenal group of colleagues and future collaborators.
4. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Lab! Looking back over the history, which plays that have come out of the Lab are you inspired by and why?
One of the first opportunities I had in New York was assistant directing Clubbed Thumb’s production of PRECIOUS LITTLE by Madeleine George. I’m a huge fan of that play and learned a lot by being in the room with Hal, Madeleine and the cast. I also worked on Clubbed Thumb’s production of TAKARAZUKA!!! last summer as an associate producer. It’s inspiring to know that these and so many other great plays began their lives around the same table where I’ve sat every other Sunday for the past eight months!
5. Do you have any advice for emerging young freelance directors?
Find ways to be the engine of your own work. Work on the plays and ideas you love, even if they’re strange, or impossible, or unmarketable, or don’t adhere to your idea of your “brand.” Even if you’re just gathering a few people in a room for a few hours every month to explore a script. A passion project, pursued on your own terms in collaboration with artists who excite you, can be a really magnetic, invigorating thing.
Director Sarah Krohn has been based in New York since receiving her MFA from Carnegie Mellon in 2011. She co-conceived and directed VICTOR FRANGE PRESENTS GAS, an adaptation of Georg Kaiser’s GAS I, which was presented at Incubator Arts Project in 2012. Upcoming projects include: HORSE GIRLS by Jenny Rachel Weiner at Ars Nova’s ANT Fest; the 2013 Sagal Directing Fellowship at Williamstown Theater Festival, where she will direct a new play by Joshua Harmon; and the musical PARADE with the Yale Dramat. Sarah is originally from Meadville, Pennsylvania and received her BA in English from Columbia University. In addition to the 2012-13 Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, she is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab and the New Georges Jam, and a past recipient of CMU’s Henry Boettcher Award for Excellence in Directing. www.sarahkrohn.com