As we make our way through the second half of the performing arts season, we start coming across the harder hitting material that makes local theatre thrive. --- This Week, Pygmalion Theatre Company bring us The Women Of Lockerbie, tells the story of a mother searching for her son's remains at the site of a plane crash, where she meets a group of women fighting the government by turning an act of terrorism into an act of love and caring, by washing the clothes of the dead and returning them to their families and loved ones. Today we chat with the director for this play, Fran Pruyn, as well as three of the actors about the show and their thoughts headed into opening night. (Photos courtesy of PYG.)
Fran Pruyn, Daisy Blake, Kent Hadfield & Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin
Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Fran: I am the Artistic Director of PYGmalion, and as such get to participate in just about everything we do in one way or another. I try to direct at least one show a year. I have been active the Salt Lake Theatre scene for the past three decades... done a little bit of this and a lot of that in a bunch of different places. The last two productions I directed were Cheat and In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). I have some horses, a very intense day job, and an extensive but very quirky wardrobe.
Daisy: I grew up in Bath, England and my degree is in theatre, film and television and then I am also a trained journalist. I love working with other actors, rehearsing and being on stage but auditioning makes me super-anxious. Hence, my last full length play was Stop Kiss with Pygmalion Productions in spring 2009 and I made the decision to "retire" from acting after that. So much for that. I returned to the stage for my fourth SLAM for Plan-B last year, and late last year, read The Women of Lockerbie and couldn't resist auditioning. As an actress, my plays include Living Out and Popcorn for Pygmalion Productions. Polish Joke, Hold Please and Big Love with Salt Lake Acting Company. Talking Wales One and Two with Utah Contemporary Theatre and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew with Salt Lake Shakespeare. Other work includes voicing Dandelion in the Xbox 360 game Amped 3 as well as other video games, commercials and short films. I work in the Art Lab at the Leonardo, while also running my own PR company. I will be Lythgoe Family Productions' associate producer for Cinderella this Christmas at the Rose after doing their PR last year. I was theatre and arts writer for IN This Week and also write freelance for The Salt Lake Tribune. I also skated for the Red Rockettes roller derby league for two years. I live downtown with my extra-talented husband Jay, who is an actor, and our cat Chessie, who is weird in a really cute way.
Kent: My name is Kent Hadfield, I've been an actor for over 25 years and this is my first Pygmalion show. Last time I was on stage in Salt Lake City was The Odd Couple for Pioneer Theater Company. I'm from Logan and have performed for several Old Lyric Rep. Co. seasons, and one Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater season, in "non-singing" roles, I don't usually venture into musical areas.
Dee-Dee: My name is Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin I am playing Madeline in the show, the mother who is grieving for the loss of her son I live in Sugar House area of you tell I lived here for over 20 years I've been involved in the theater for about in Utah for 15 years.
Gavin: What have you all been up to over the past year in local theatre?
Daisy: The "Best of" SLAM last May, and then I did PR for Lythgoe Family Productions' "A Snow White Christmas" at the Rose Wagner, which was a truly amazing experience.
Dee-Dee: I just completed The Vagina Monologues with my daughter, Darby Mest. That was awesome to be able to do that with her prior to that. I did Fences for Good Company Theatre, and before that I did Nothing Personal with Plan-B it's been a great year for me.
Fran: Helping PYG mount 12 Days of Christmas and A Night With The Family, working with the Performing Arts Coalition on Rose Exposed, and directing Cheat by written by the stellar Julie Jensen. It was a wonderful process, and (I think) a lovely production.
Gavin: Fran, when did you first come across Women Of Lockerbie and what were your initial thoughts on the play?
Fran: Robin Wilks-Dunn introduced it to the company as a possibility for production. I was overwhelmed by the possibilities because of the power of its message, the beauty of the language and the contrast between the more realistic/naturalistic scenes and the more formal Greek form. The impact of loss, and the depth of grief are very universal. The very personal and individualistic nature of this specific act of terrorism makes the after-effect of the bombing of Pan Am 103 so powerful.
Gavin: What made you decide to bring it to Pygmalion for the season, and what made you decide to take it on?
Fran: The show speaks directly to our mission statement, it has several wonderful roles for women, and it has great integrity as a piece of dramatic literature. The show also gave us an opportunity to do a production that was not firmly rooted in naturalism – so we have been exploring more presentation styles of theatrical production, complemented by simple, direct communication. In Lockerbie, Deborah Brevoort wrote a play that is very Greek in form — it is it structured with odes, dialogues and episodes — and much of the language is, very literally, poetry. At the same time the play is Celtic in spirit, which means it is a little more earthy, a little wilder, a little more lyric. Therefore, we can tell many parts of the story by directly addressing the audience, using music and movement; shapes and forms. It is a great opportunity and a great challenge.
Gavin: For the cast, what were your initial thoughts on this play when you first read it?
Daisy: I was still on the fence about whether I wanted to do a show. I have been having panic attacks for the past year relating to deaths in my family and other events, so in a way when I read Lockerbie I thought it would be the stupidest decision ever to do it. But on the other hand, it is such a beautiful show I thought it could be cathartic and good for me, like walking through fire.
Dee-Dee: New Jersey, who is grieving and after very little time to think about that I thought yeah why can't I play a mother from New Jersey who is grieving. I talked about colorblind casting all the time and it was actually myself who went to the audition thinking there was no for me.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you auditioning and eventually getting your parts?
Dee-Dee: I honestly think that because I was not prepared or as prepared as I could have been for the role of Maddie, that my audition was very raw and real and that that's what eventually got me the role. I would never going to another theater refer audition that ill prepared but in this instance did it work
Daisy: The audition was a very peaceful, enjoyable process, and that is partly due to Pygmalion itself and partly due to the fact that I felt that whichever way it went was the right was for me. But I was delighted to be cast, and also thrilled to see who else was cast because it's a brilliant group.
Kent: I saw the notices for the audition and was unable to attend at that time so I just chalked it up as an opportunity missed, but I was encouraged by a friend to pursue it and was able to arrange another audition time. I was glad that happened because as soon as I read the play, I wanted to be in it. It's a beautifully written script and I love the classic structure and it's poetic nature. It's not limited by naturalistic dialogue. I also appreciate that it is in no way a docudrama. The themes go beyond the events of one specific, horrific tragedy.
Gavin: How has it been for each of you fitting into your roles and developing the characters as you go?
Kent: The role of Bill is a challenging one and I find more of him, and more of his difficult relationship with his grieving wife, every time we run it. Luckily, I'm working with Dee Dee Darby Duffin and a very talented and supportive cast and director. I haven't been onstage with any of them before with the exception of Vicki Pugmire. (We shared the stage in Equus many, many years ago but even then I don't think we ever interacted onstage. She was the psychologist's colleague and I was a horse.) I feel fortunate to be able to work with Fran and the entire cast and design team. It's a beautiful production that I'm excited to share with others.
Daisy: I threw a lot of things into a melting pot. We have been watching all we can about Lockerbie; the place and the Pan Am incident. I suppose because I am English playing a Scottish character, some characteristics such as the intense patriotism and slight disapproval about showing intense emotion are the same. Doing the Scottish accent has automatically given my character certain physical characteristics, accents seem to work that way. My character Fiona isn't given a strong back story so I made some decisions about her and her life to flesh her out. Partway through the script these women are referred to as "tigers" and I have enjoyed playing with that too, how these small-town ladies show their ferocity and strength.
Dee-Dee: For me it has been house in the sense that to go to a place where I am grieving all the time is a difficult place to be n but I'm pretty adept at compartmentalizing and so I can remove Maddie the character from my real life I don't have to live eat and breathe that character all day long.
Gavin: What's it been like interacting with each other and putting the play together as a group?
Fran: Well, that is why I do theatre. It is exhilarating to work on a show and watch it take form as a result of the multi-faceted nature of the process. On opening night I often can't remember whose ideas were whose, because there are so many contributions to the final product. I love being stimulated, challenged, and entertained by all the people I get.
Dee-Dee: Interesting I enjoy the process of putting a play together and this is been a very interesting process
Daisy: Fantastic. I love and respect Fran, the director, and the creative team. I have done five shows with Lane Richins and none with any of the rest of the cast but I knew of everyone's work and often find myself just sitting and watching in awe. We seem to all come from the school of acting from the inside out and that's always fascinating to watch.
Gavin: Considering the message of love that goes through the play, how has this production affected each of you?
Dee-Dee: As I'm in the process I hope that what I take away is that I become more mindful of people's feelings but the process of learning to play like this and then performing it is grueling so I haven't really grasped or I haven't really mastered and implemented fully that take away
Daisy: There are tons of issues discussed that are relevant to all our lives; how we deal with grief, whether life events such as the plane crash are fated or random, whether it is possible to come to a place of forgiveness after an event like that. Where love is concerned, this show has re-enforced my belief that you need to revere those around you and show them you love them every single day because you never know what life will bring.
Kent: There are lines in the play, like "convert hatred into love," that I think about all the time. There are some ideals that are seemingly impossible to adopt without some radical change in oneself, and maybe not even then. I've been more conscious of my knee jerk negativity as I've been working on this script. I've also been realizing that grief and loss are experienced in highly personal ways that are different for each person and difficult to let go of once we've assimilated them into our identity. It seems heavy, but there is humor in the show and I truly believe that audiences will find this a satisfying theatrical experience. I look forward to the audiences. They bring an energy and immediacy that makes shows like this breathe and grow in the moment.
Fran: Perhaps the most interesting part of the process for me has been learning how different people and different cultures grapple with loss. Love, compassion, kindness are the only things that help; and in the whole, as humans we recognize that.
Gavin: What are all of your thoughts going into opening night?
Fran: I challenged myself to work outside my comfort zone this year... and this show certainly has let me do that. Fortunately I had the incredible talents of the cast, designers, crew and company at large with which to collaborate – to bring new ideas, interpretations, vision to the experience.. I think that the audience might be surprised by the nature of the show, and will be moved by the power of the experience. Of course, I will be holding my breath opening night, and watching the audience more than the actors – but that is part and parcel of directing in general, and particularly directing something so wildly different than I am accustomed to doing.
Daisy: I'm very excited to share the play with an audience. There are some parts that are naturalistic but others that have their roots in Greek tragedy and it's a thrill to present a play like this because this type of theatre is not seen as frequently. The audience sits on three sides of us, very close, and it is almost as if they are another character in the show, I can't wait to see how they will react.
Dee-Dee: I'm just hoping that the audience reads that my character Maddie is batshit crazy, that I do that well but that they have some empathy for her.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you over the rest of the year?
Kent: After this, I may be working on an independent feature length film with friends that I've worked with before, which could be exciting. As for theater, who knows?
Daisy: After this show closes, I turn 40, so a couple of small trips (including to Snowbird with a $500 giftcard I won from 2News on Valentine's Day) and four weddings, which is pretty exciting! Hopefully no funerals. My husband Jay and I are going to London in August to visit my Dad and somewhere during this time I will start my work associate producing Cinderella. I am really looking forward to the rest of this year!
Dee-Dee: I'm hoping to do some more music this year putting together working with some smaller to companies and hoping to get back into my first love which is singing other than that I'm just adjusting for whatever looks interesting I'm going to take a break after this because this is my fourth show since October and uh I'm tired.
Fran: Motherhood Out Loud – a touching comedy about, well, motherhood, opens in May. I think it is going to be a lovely piece to take your family to for Mother's Day. And then we will do another When PYG's Fly – an open mic, cabaret night – the date isn't set quite yet for that, but it will be in the Spring.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Fran: During this production we are doing a clothing drive in cooperation with the YWCA. In Lockerbie they collected and washed 11,000 pieces of clothing and returned them to the families of the victims. We hope to collect 1,000 pieces and donate them to the women and children helped by the YWCA.
Daisy: I'd love people to come and see Cinderella in December. It's traditional British panto, done with an American cast and it really is impressive, the Lythgoe Family puts on a classy and exciting show!
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