Below is background, in Q&A form, on Delta Center Stage's experience
with Kattherine Snodgrass's long-form one act, The Glider.
"MTA" refers to the Mississippi Theatre Association, which
is the state affiliate that sponsors Mississippi's entries in the
AACTfest cycle every other year.
MTA: We are thinking
of stories for our upcoming newsletter, ...An article on The
Glider. This experience has taken 10 years. How did you
all become involved?
Responses below are from
Tim Bixler, production director.
In 1996 DCS produced a script from playwright Katherine Snodgrass
entitled Haiku.Our '96 production featured the same
three actresses who performed at MTA in 2005 in The Glider.
We won the MTA state fest in '96 and won again later that year at
SETC. While at SETC that year
we were invited by Irish theatre adjudicator Brid McBride to perform
at the '97 Dundalk Maytime festival. Snodgrass and I had established
contact during the rehearsal process for Haiku when
I called with questions about her script. When I called her after
the win at SETC, she accepted an invitation to Greenville for a
post-festival performance to let us share our success with her.
This was a very real act of trust. I could tell from our early phone
conversations that she had seen some badly rendered productions
of Haiku. It was understandable that she would be
cautious about seeing her work performed by Mississippi amateurs.
--Most all of her writing involves characters with a lot of inner
tension-a trait that lends itself to unnecessary histrionics if
an actor is trying too hard to "act" the role. She is
a difficult writer to produce in the sense that her work is so subtle
that it's easy to damage with heavy-handed acting or directing tactics
the actors are not restrained. But the festival process had provided
enough validation, I think, for her to make the trip down south
to see what we had done.
After her visit to Greenville she also agreed to attend the Irish
festival (the following year) as our guest. One afternoon we were
all touristing in Ireland, waiting for our performance date at the
Dundalk festival, and decided to picnic on the grounds of Monastaboice,
a famous ruin in the area. After wine and cheese in this idyllic
setting, she pulled some scripts out of her purse and handed them
out to our three actresses, and we first put voice to an early draft
of The Glider then. I may be incorrect, but I suspect
that this was the first reading that Kate had heard as well.
MTA: What has
driven you to stay with it for so long?
How could you resist after starting out the way we did? On a practical
basis, I knew that, from it's earliest reading, our three actresses
were well-suited to the roles that Kate assigned them in Ireland.
Another strong drive was the opportunity to be involved-even though
only slightly-in the process of creating theatre from such an early
stage. I believe she knew our actresses were suited to the roles
as well. -So the Haiku cast and I stayed in touch
with her. Occasionally over the years, as she would mention a new
draft or revision, we'd get another opportunity to 'read it around.'
Watching such material take form and seeing the process from the
inside, and from such a talented writer, was irresistible...so we
waited, and waited. Kate runs an equity theatre in Boston and has
access to many professional readers who were probably more intimately
involved...but her trust in letting us, as amateurs, peek over her
shoulder from time to time as it grew, was irresistible. Ultimately,
that is what has made this such a satisfying experience for all
of us --the trust. You could see the trust our actors had with each
other on stage, which all began with the trust of the playwright
to place her work in our hands.
MTA: What is your
and the casts' passion for this show?
Short answer-Seeing an excellent first production in Boston.
When we learned that Kate had (at last) put a final acting version
together and was going to produce it at
Boston Playright's Theatre, (this was October of '2004) we invited
ourselves up to see it. This first production was rendered on stage
exquisitely by three professional actresses with a set to-die-for,
and was just wonderful overall. We all knew the piece reasonably
well, --knew several of the sisters' secrets between themselves--
so hearing it in front of others in the audience and watching how
certain revelatory moments worked was chilling.
As we clearly stated in our programmes we performed an edited (cut)
version of this show
While in Boston Kate provided some advice
and I did a draft cutting of the longer form one-act to see if we
could make the main thrust of the play work in MTA's one-hour festival
format. The longer form has some luxuriously interesting backstory,
and I'll never forgive myself if we don't all get the opportunity
to do this without the insanity of the clock ticking away. If your
only experience with this script is what you saw in the festival
cycle, you haven't seen it all. -As an example... Fran's first entrance,
when done without the clock, could take as long as 4-5 minutes before
you hear a single line spoken.
MTA: What is the
"story behind the story"? What made her want to write,
to write about this, etc....
In answer to the question "What makes her write?" I wouldn't
want to speak for her, although I don't believe that the main thrust
of her writings are that closely tied to personal experience-certainly
not to the so-called 'story' of a play. She is a producing theatre
professional and I believe that what motivates her to write is more
to create material for actors to feast upon. She has a way of creating
(or observing) a situation...a set of circumstances between characters...and
then getting out of the way as much as possible. I don't think she
considers her role to be that of telling a story...that is someone
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