Farragut North - Director Cathy Linder's Notes

Described as a taut and plot-twisting story of political, emotional, and sexual intrigue, FARRAGUT NORTH was written by award-winning playwright Beau Willimon, the creator of Netflix's original series “House of Cards.” In FARRAGUT NORTH, Director Cathy Linder takes on his fast paced “behind the scenes” look at what goes on during a Presidential election campaign. She has directed productions in Los Angeles and Connecticut and previously worked as Vice President of Production at HBO, where she oversaw their original movies and series.

FARRAGUT NORTH takes place during a hotly contested Presidential primary. The press secretary, a wunderkind who falls victim to his own hubris, makes a wrong turn – and everyone’s life spins out of control. The play will seem familiar to most of us; after all, we have just lived through a real-life version of campaign events. The story reveals the human struggle between ideologies, conflicted personalities, and unbridled ambition. Cathy Linder describes this fast-paced, roller-coaster play as “…exactly the kind of 'edge of your seat’ theatre that I find stimulating to work on as a director.”

After a successful stage run, author Beau Willimon’s play was snapped up and filmed under the title, “The Ides of March,” which starred George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, and other Hollywood notables: “This is not about the issues of a political campaign, but rather the gamesmanship of the campaign and how that affects the characters’ choices and the sacrifices they’re willing to make morally in order to win.”

On March 27, 2017, Director Cathy Linder was interviewed about FARRAGUT NORTH, a play which is obviously close to her heart.

Director Cathy Linder - Photo Courtesy of Cathy Linder

DID YOU HAVE ANY FEARS ABOUT TAKING ON THIS PIECE? DO YOU HAVE A METAPHOR FOR WHAT IT’S LIKE TO DIRECT THIS PRODUCTION?

CATHY LINDER: While we were waiting on the approval for the rights, I had a lingering, mysterious kind of pneumonia; and I didn’t know for sure before I had to commit to the theater if I would be well enough to actually do the show. So, yes, there was a moment or two of fear. But I remembered the proverb: “Leap and the net will appear.” My doctor figured out what was wrong with me, and I was able to go forward with the play.

As for a metaphor about directing this production, it’s a bit like running in front of a speeding, unstoppable train. The plot and subplots are so intricate and well-written that it’s imperative to stay out in front – not only of the script, but of all the design elements. There are nine scenes with seven locations. We’re lucky to have great designers and a great cast who are passionate about the play.

Jack Tynan and Margaret Fegan - Photo by Pat Halbert

HOW DID YOU ORIGINALLY GET INVOLVED WITH THIS PROJECT?

CATHY LINDER: I saw it at the Geffen Playhouse and just could not forget how riveting it was. When I read it again last fall, I still had the same reaction. I’d like to work towards keeping those initial reactions alive until our very last performance. These are likeable, charismatic characters who are full of surprises. They will give you a sense of being “on the edge of your seat” about what will happen next.

While the play is about politics and elections, I like what Beau Willimon said about the play. He chose the arena of politics to tell the story, but it is about any setting where groups of people come together to work. It could be the entertainment industry or Home Depot. When two or more people come together, there are always “politics” of a sort.

I guess you could say that I always kept FARRAGUT NORTH in mind for a play to tackle, but it took a few more years for all the right elements (producers, cast, and theater) to come together for this production in Los Angeles.

HOW HAS YOUR UPBRINGING INFLUENCED YOUR WORK AS A DIRECTOR?

CATHY LINDER: I’ve been putting on shows since the fifth grade. I guess that being around the arts and having access to a theater arts department in public high school has had a tremendous influence on my choice of career and on my work as a director. Getting that education and support when you’re young helps to build confidence. Most schools no longer have that! After getting my BA from the Department of Fine Arts at UCLA, I started my career in television and eventually worked as a line producer at HBO and Showtime. I later became a vice president of production at HBO and supervised over 60 films and multiple series. At that time, my late husband, Stu Linder, an Academy Award winning film editor, encouraged me to rekindle my early desire to direct and helped me to reconnect to the belief that I could do this. Being an observer to the process of the films he made with directors like Barry Levinson, Robert Redford, and Tony Bill has certainly informed my understanding of the shaping of the work that I take on.

Jack Tynan and Margaret Fegan - Photo by Pat Halbert

HOW HAVE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS INFLUENCED YOUR WORK AS A DIRECTOR?

CATHY LINDER: I worked on a Presidential primary campaign right out of college. I think it very much informed my understanding of a fast-paced world like this one – but I didn’t even get the chance to meet the campaign manager. I saw all of the spin that goes on behind the scenes…it was a whole other education! I am working on connecting that experience, the time that the play takes place, and our current political climate in a way that keeps it timely. It deals with the back room politicking that we never get to see in elections. But, regardless of my own politics, it’s more important to make sure that the questions are raised and that audiences can decide for themselves. It’s astounding how different the impact of some of these scenes was before the current election – and after.

Jack Tynan - Photo by Pat Halbert

WHAT’S AT STAKE IN THIS PLAY?

CATHY LINDER: Everything. This is humanity and the eternal struggle between the individual’s ambitious drives and his ideals. In my corporate experience, I was around powerful people who make big decisions – and yet were really so vulnerable and could make mistakes and indiscretions. It’s a stark reminder of human fallibility. Once you get off-track, is it easier to cover your tracks or do the right thing? This play presents good questions for any arena we work in – not just politics.

Farragut North Graphic - Courtesy of Kiff Scholl

WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?

CATHY LINDER: Hopefully, Paris! Oh, you mean really? I’m always looking for new projects, the kind of plays that resonate with me as well as with the Los Angeles community. I’d like to make my next project a new play, a world premiere production. We have such a wealth of great talent here. On any given weekend, I would guess that there is as much – if not more – good entertainment in our intimate theaters as there is anywhere else in the world. That should make us all proud, and I hope the growth continues.

FARRAGUT NORTH opens as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre from April 15, 2017,and runs through May 21, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (no performance in Sunday, April 16). The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets are $30. For information and reservations, call 323-960-7788 or go online.

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