Friday, September 19, 2008

Backstage with Pillowman

Dreamwell - Dreamwell's next show is The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh, a seriously disturbing tale laced with dark comedy about a writer in an unnamed totalitarian state who is interrogated about the gruesome content of his short stories and their similarities to a number of child-murders occurring in his town. It's a Dreamwell show, all right. We recently had a chance to talk to the director of this show, Josh Sazon.

Let's just put it out there right from the start - this is a dark, dark show. So why Pillowman? What is it about this show that made you want to direct it?

Josh: Because it's a good story. At the most fundamental level, it makes you want to find out what happens next.

A good friend of mine insists there is a lot of humor in this show - having read the play, I'll admit I didn't see it. What do you think - is there humor? How is it used in the show as a whole?

Josh: This play is not Noises Off, but there is humor, quite a bit of it. But it is a dark dark show, and the humor can very easily get lost. At this point I don't know if the humor will be appreciated by the audience seeing the show for the first time. But it is there.

Martin McDonagh has really burst on the theatre scene in the last ten years or so with his Leenane Trilogy and his Aran Islands Trilogy. How does Pillowman fit with his other work? It seems very different.

Josh: It's diffent in the sense that the story seems much more contained, not as sprawling. Also, it doesn't take place in Ireland! Thematically I think the themes of the play, on the nature of art and storytelling, are a bit more ambitious as well. But the use of language remains masterful, as is the use of admittedly black humor.

It's my understanding you have some new faces in your cast: Alex Moore and Kevin Moore. First the obvious question - are they related? Second, what can you tell me about their past experiences?

Josh: Alex and Kevin are not related, as far as I know, though they do play brothers in the play! Alex is from Chicago and has lived in the Iowa City are for only a couple of months, but he has done professional work as an actor. Kevin has lived here for a couple of years now, but this is also his first work in the area. He is a theater graduate from Wisconsin.

What about Gary Barth? Has he done work in Iowa City before?

Josh: Gary has worked as a professional actor, and is a member of SAG. He has lived in Iowa City for a number of years, but has not done any work in the area.

Now is your chance to tell me about those familiar faces to the Iowa City theatre scene. I'm thinking of Chuck Dufano, Robyn McCright and Jeff Emrich ... anything from the rehearsal process that you'd like to share?

Josh: I have worked with Chuck, Robyn and Jeff before, and their certainly do not disappoint. I can say without equivocation that this part is unlike anything I have seen Chuck in. Overall, it's been a very interesting experience in working with these actors, three of them I've never worked with and whose work I've never even seen before. It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with them on such challenging material. Their work has been wonderful.

As a huge fan of Chuck's work, I have to say I can't wait to see him in this show.

Josh: I should also mention the invaluable contribution of Rich Riggleman, who is billed as assistant director in this production. I had gotten myself involved in another production, but Rich has done yeoman's work shepherding this production through much of the initial rehearsal period.

Talk to me a little bit about the tech side of things.

We are very fortunate to have the services of Scott Schoonover, who is an MFA student at the University theater department, to do the set design. Given the limitations of the space and budget there's not much we can do, but then again, this particular play doesn't necessarily need the bright lights and flashy effects.

What sort of challenges have you faced during the rehearsal process?

Josh: I suppose the biggest challenge the actors faced was just learning the lines! And they have all done a wonderful job! The sheer volume of words has also threatened to render the play a bit static, but hopefully we've managed to deal with that.

Anything else you feel we need to know about this show?

Josh: This play is not going to be for everyone! But I think it is well worth seeing.

Thanks, Josh. Break a leg!

The Pillowman opens Saturday, September 27 at 7:30 pm (a new start time for Dreamwell shows) at the Unitarian Universalist Society building. It runs October 3, 4 and 11. Tickets are available online here.

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