“DIRT” Talk With Director Ann Bronston and Producer Maia Danziger Interview - Showing at Raven Playhouse

 

 

A complex mélange of comedy, drama, satire and political theatre, “Dirt” can be hauntingly deep and visceral. It prods audiences to look at the world through a very different lens, one that makes most people somewhat uncomfortable. But, isn’t that part of what theatre and entertainment is all about, taking you out of your comfort zone? This is a play with big ideas, and along with the poetry of language the actors connect viewers to the humanity behind these ideas. Minds are whirring with possibilities throughout, both literal and theoretical. What is the meaning of any one life? What holds us together? These are questions that we as sentient beings are left to contemplate and further explore.

Director Ann Bronston and Maia Danziger (producer/actress) both observe that this play evokes strong reactions from people, which is one of the reasons that they were drawn to it. “When presented with a snapshot of life colored by the awareness of mortality, we are reminded through laughter, sadness and a little discomfort to try and do it better,” says Bronston who often performs and directs in Los Angeles.

Stage Raw recommended this play as “fertile food for thought” and “intellectually stimulating.” Written by Bryony Lavery (“Frozen,” produced on Broadway and nominated for four Tony Awards), it follows five people whose lives intertwine. It’s like life, a bit dirty and unpredictable, which is why these two women thought that it needed to be produced here.

 

 

EBS: How did you come across this play, and why were you so intrigued by it?

Maia Danziger: I was asked to read for it when they did the workshop in Washington, DC. It wasn’t something that I could do (being based in LA), but the play haunted me—the language, the themes. I had never read anything like it, and it moved me on a very deep level.

Ann: Maia, who produces and plays the role of May in the show, asked me to direct a reading of the play. I was not particularly intrigued by it. I thought it was wordy and very much about “ideas,” which can sometimes make for bad theatre. But as soon as the actors spoke the lines, I heard the poetry in the language, and the humanity behind the “ideas.”  

EBS: Are you in touch with the playwright? Has it changed much since you first read it? If yes, how so? 

Ann: Yes, we have been working with playwright Bryony Lavery on this rendition of the script. She has been so generous in her willingness to rewrite and to consider our comments. She truly embodies the spirit of theatre as a unique collaboration of many voices, actors, director, designers, etc.

The present script is more condensed than it was originally. Some of the relationships were deepened, particularly that of Harper and her mother, the character of Matt (Harper’s boyfriend) was more defined and the structure changed. Before, where one scene followed another there are now places where three scenes happen simultaneously. This forced us to reimagine the blocking.

 

 

EBS: Why do you think that audiences should see this play?

Ann: “Dirt” is a very moving play, with a bit of comedy, drama, satire, and politics. It is about big ideas, quantum mechanics, chemical pollution, consequences of desire and impulse, and it is very much about death, which is another way of saying that it is about life.

Maia: This is a play that asks the really deep questions; who are we physically and metaphysically, what is the glue that holds us together (scientifically and emotionally), what is the meaning of any one life in the context of the lives around it? It’s about the wild, crazy, messy thing we call life, and the way we all bumble through it, not always knowing how precious it is, and how easily we can lose it. It’s funny and sad and a little uncomfortable—hopefully leaving the audience looking at the world differently.

EBS: It’s the kind of experience that people seem to have very strong feelings about. Does that scare you?

Ann: Yes and no. Theoretically I like the idea that people have strong feelings about it. I want people to like it, but also to have strong differing opinions as to its meaning.

 

 

EBS: What was the most challenging part about rehearsals?

Maia: From the actor’s perspective this text is like a piece of music—there are moments that are played out to the audience, moments when we interact with others, moments when we speak to or about ourselves. Finding the rhythms of the language and yet keeping the characters real and true was the real challenge.

Ann: Directing is like putting a puzzle together, you don't actually know if all the elements will come together into a cohesive whole and you really can't know until you have all the pieces. So, there is a lot of trust and patience required. That said, I think that casting is the most challenging part. It is a major element of how the story is told.   

EBS: Have you decided yet to approach your next project as a director or as an actor?

Ann: Many people have asked me to read their scripts and that thrills me. There is such an abundance of great writers out there. But my most immediate project may be taking over the part of May for a weekend.

The cast includes Catherine Black, Maia Danziger, Jack Krizmanich, Mandy Levin, Lou Sandoval, Ryan Walsh, and Mark McClain Wilson

DIRT runs at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm on Sundays through April 17, 2016. The Raven Playhouse is located at 5233 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, CA 91601. This is a co-production from Rogue Machine and SRS Production Wing. Tickets are $25. Reservations: At Raven Playhouse

 

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