Christopher Ashley, Playhouse Artistic Director and director of "Chasing the Song"
Gabriel Greene, La Jolla Playhouse Literary Director
Meg Miroshnik, playwright for "The Tall Girls"
Related Story: La Jolla Playhouse Launches DNA New Works
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Most theatrical productions do not emerge fully formed from the pen of a writer huddled over a cluttered desk. Plays develop and take on new life as they are performed. A series aimed at showcasing new plays while they are in the process of development is about to be presented at the La Jolla Playhouse. It is called the DNA new work series and joining me to describe what audiences will see from these works in progress are my guests. Christopher Ashley, La Jolla Playhouse artistic director and Christopher welcome to the show.
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: Thanks very much.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Gabriel Greene is literary director with the Playhouse Gabriel, welcome
GABRIEL GREENE: thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Meg Miroshnick is playwright of the new work the tall girls. Meg, welcome.
MEG MIROSHNICK: Thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Christopher, what does a new play need to make it awesome?
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: I love that you said a writer with a pen because unfortunately most of them are joined at the hip with their computer these days. The new work I think more than anything needs time to develop and discover itself and and meet the actors and develop character and story. Then it is an audience to help and get all the way home. To teach it where the story is strong, where the story needs more work, so the goal with DNAs to give the artist time and introduce them to the audience for the first time.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You mentioned time Christopher. It is precious time at the La Jolla Playhouse precious time and resources for the DNA network series wide you feel it's important to give this to these playwrights?
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: The hardest thing you can do as a theater is open yourself up to the new and the next. And I found that the relationships with writers we've already worked with are incredibly satisfying the parties thing to do is to find out who is the next writer, or the emerging writers that we have to invite into the Playhouse. So if you like resources more important than those resources that form new relationships with artists and for audiences.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You yourself Christopher are working one of these place, Chasing The Song tell us about it.
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: This is by the same team that made the musical Memphis which was the first show I directed at the Playhouse when I arrived here five years ago. It is Joe DiPietro and the music is by David Bryant from the rock group Bon Jovi. And the choreographer on Mrs. Sergio Trujillo we were good as well so it is kind of old home week if that was like that freshman musical we all worked out together this is the sophomore outing.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And finally, Christopher this is the first year for this DNA New work series, what defines success for a program like this?
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: If we end up with four new relationships, for new players for new authors, a couple of new directors if we've identified some new exciting place that we want to develop and really helped those plays move the ball down the field, help them develop, help them find themselves I'm going to be the happiest camper in the parking lot.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Christopher Ashley, La Jolla Playhouse artistic director, thanks for taking the time.
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: Absolutely. I'm running back in to rehearsal.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: My guests in studio are Gabriel Greene, literary director of the playhouse and Meg Miroshnick, author of the new work the tall girls. I think audiences to the La Jolla Playhouse are kind of familiar with the page to stage program that also encourages works in progress. What is the difference between a page to stage in the DNA, Newark's program?
GABRIEL GREENE: They both share a philosophical leaning toward wanting to develop the work and provide the rider with a safe harbor in which to do so.So neither page to stage where the DNA Newark's series is open to review by critics. They never officially open and the creative team stays for the entire process including other public performances. What differentiates this is in terms of its scale. Page 2 stage productions, though they are not as lavishly produced as full productions in our subscription season, they do have more of a design just your then we have for the DNA Newark's series.
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: This is Chris, I'm still on. I know, just expanding on that I would say for me the page to stage for me are like the adolescence and the DNA new work series is like the first day of grade school.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, are you going to go away now?
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY: I am. Now I will go to rehearsal.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Bye-bye, so, therefore when an audience member goes to see a DNA performance, what are they actually going to see on stage?
GABRIEL GREENE: Actually they will see a completely different stage that they've seen before we are producing the two productions the tall girls and Bromany, the second play by (DV Cappelli) one of two rehearsal rooms, the new play development center we are putting about 50 or 60 seats into the rehearsal room. The design of your going to see a produced play. It's going to have a limited design element in terms of costume and lights and scenic and props, but really just as with the page to stage program, we are privileging the role of the text here, and by, this is going to be a much more stripped-down, more organic process perhaps that people have seen but they're really going to see this play, this new play as Chris put it in the relatively beginning stages of its production please.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, what an experience for the audience to be able to almost like see this piece of art being created before their eyes, this theater piece taking shape before that.
GABRIEL GREENE: And as with the page to stage program we will be holding talk backs after each performance because as Chris said, a lot of plays are developed in these rather airtight rooms with directors and actors and playwrights, and until an audience shows up and votes by laughing and applauding or holding back you learn so much by holding this in front of a live audience.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Meg, what is it like to be selected for the program and be part of the development process?
MEG MIROSHNICK: Well it's a remarkable opportunity as Chris was saying, it's an invitation into a theater that I would previously have no relationship with. So it's a wonderful day when out of the blue a playwright receives a call from an institution that I'd never worked with before and you know, got this invitation to come down and work.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are your expectations?
MEG MIROSHNICK: I am hoping to really dig into the text and see the shape of the play. I think as Chris was saying you know, meeting the actors and the characters and space is such an important part of the process.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, the tall girls has to do with something about basketball, right?
MEG MIROSHNICK: Yes, it is about high school girls basketball team in the 1930s and. I was really interested in the period in which immediately following the invention of basketball in the 1890s it flourished in high schools around the country before it disappeared for another couple of decades.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just to talk about some of the range that you are dealing with, here, Christopher Ashley is helping to develop the musical, you are doing this play that is a period piece about basketball, and you mentioned Bromany, that is a very different piece as well.
GABRIEL GREENE: It is, briefly but it is a play disguised as a stand up comedy routine. There are two characters in this and this is by and. That unique appeal this is the first in a trilogy and each of the plays will deal by one of the Hindu deities this is Brahaman that could (inaudible) to tell very cheekily the story apartment and Edie has drafted that character (inaudible) an intersex person, a hermaphrodite and is most and as comedians will do, Brahman minds is personally for a comedy but what emerges in the midst of very traditional stand up comedy is a sneaky play about identity, be it gender identity, geographic identity, culture identity, so very different projects.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Meg, you are saying is going to be interesting to see your work in space with actors and of course with an audience there and you will be getting audience reaction. What do you think you're going to be doing with the audience reaction? Do you think that will refocus the play for you, or do you think it might change it in any way?
MEG MIROSHNICK: Yeah and one of the remarkable aspects of the DNA series is that there is a rehearsal between the first public set of public transport presentations and the second set some public to take the time to make changes in response to things that I learned with an audience about the play.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Isn't it possible, isn't there a phrase that a plate and be workshop to death? In other words, the idea that just having it exist too long in a state of being unfinished is not necessarily good for play, Gabe?
GABRIEL GREENE: Absolutely it is a common lament, and I think it has to do somewhat with that idea that a lot of times the development takes plays away from an audience. But also of course I think part of the criteria for selecting plays we think a great deal of makes work in the play, but of course they would not be here if they didn't think it would be helpful, beneficial to the play as opposed to just going to the process for the sake of doing it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Meg you are the final arbiter you to decide what goes in the play no matter what the audience does?
MEG MIROSHNICK: It is not development by committee. I will be interested to discover things along with the audience so something has to ring true to me as well in order for it to be a useful change to the script.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well there, came, the different levels of performance in the way the audience sees the place?
GABRIEL GREENE: In between the three different projects?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I mean all of them will be some seated readings as opposed to some actual staging going on
GABRIEL GREENE: Right, the two workshop productions again the tall girls and Bromany will be workshop productions they will be up again as we go to page to stage because changes are coming fast and furious you might see that are sold pages of another scene that were put in that day or you might hear an actor call for a line but probably the end of the tall girls will both be workshop productions they will be a bit staged. Jason personas a staged reading with Elizabeth staging, the choreographers. Sergio Trujillo was here for a few days doing songs but yes we are also doing a series of what Naomi public readings which are completely free to the public. In those two weeks in between performances for the tall girls and when somebody starts and more information will be released of Hudson.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay so in total the DNA new work series do you have any idea how many plays are involved?
GABRIEL GREENE: Two workshop productions onstage reading of chasing the song and six Monday readings of new plays
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How many plays get submitted to the La Jolla Playhouse on sort of a yearly basis would you say?
GABRIEL GREENE: In the various forms in which they come in, we get pitched about 500 projects per year.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh my, so in other words people who are working on their plays will just send it to the La Jolla Playhouse to see if you have any interest in putting on, or do you read them all?
GABRIEL GREENE: Absolutely we do. They come in various forms, literary agents or playwrights from we have relationships understood that we do invite any unrepresented writer to send a 10 page sample of their work that way allowing a foot in the door as they were.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do they always get a response?
GABRIEL GREENE: Often times it's later than we would like to finish your elders and I should be back in the office and I am left a chance to get back to.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Meg what are you hoping for the result of the DNA new works project for your play to come across.
MEG MIROSHNICk: I have an opportunity to workshop the play the Ohio national playwrights conference this summer and got to dig into it for a very short period of time. It was only a few days of rehearsal so I am hoping to respond to some of what I learned that and then also as we are working on our feet and working with a basketball coach I'm hoping to get a better sense of what this play could be in production.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, okay. It sounds very exciting when to when? It starts now?
GABRIEL GREENE: The first performances begin a week from Thursday which is the 24th I believe January 24 and the final performance of Bromany is in early March, March 3, second or third.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Terrific. You've given us a really good idea what this is and I appreciate I've been speaking with Gabe Greene he's literary director of the La Jolla Playhouse and Meg Miroshnick, playwright of the new work the tall girls. Thank you.
MEG MIROSHNICK: Thank you.
GABRIEL GREENE: Thank you.