Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Setting the 2nd Stage: An Interview With Jeffrey Lo

Since the 2nd Stages series is designed a an opportunity for Bay Area artists to explore personal projects and grow as theatre producers, we will be asking each producer to answer a couple of questions about their production and their growth. To kick it off, here's what producer/director Jeffrey Lo had to say about his 2nd Stages project, Some Girl(s) by Neil LaBute.

1. With 2nd Stages you had the opportunity to select any work you wanted. What drew you to Some Girl(s)

Some Girl(s) is a play I've wanted to direct for years. Since college, really. I'm also a playwright and being discovering this play really opened my eyes to ways that contemporary stories and relationships can be told on stage. I was really drawn to how minimal and real the dialogue felt. It felt like I was spying on four pairs of exes trying to navigate what their lives have become since they were together and that really excited me.

2. How did you first encounter Some Girl(s)

 I can't remember why I decided to pick Some Girl(s) up but I do know that I got it at the Langson Library back at UC Irvine. That library has a wonderful collection of plays and before Winter break I went over to pick up every play I could find by Neil LaBute, Tracy Letts and Stephen Adly Gurguis. At the time I wasn't familiar with any of them but a professor of mine who read my writing recommended I take a look at those three and see how it would effect my writing. The first thing I read that winter was Some GIrl(s). I honestly think it was because I liked the cover of the book. Lucky for me a great script was sitting between the covers.

3. They say that half of being a good director is good casting. Have you found this to be true with Some Girl(s)

Absolutely. My day job is as the casting assistant at TheatreWorks so I have a deep knowledge of how important casting a show is. If you cast the show wrong, there is only so much a director can do. Theatre is a collaborative form of storytelling and, in the end, you need the right actors to carry out your vision. We have an absolutely phenomenal cast for Some Girl(s). Each of our women capture these unique characters in really nuanced and heartbreaking ways and Evan is doing a great job playing our Everyman. By nature of the play, Guy is going to be a challenging role. He is meeting up with four women who - he acknowledges - he's hurt in some way. You have to work really hard to keep him as charming as possible. We have to know why these women fell so hard for him or else we lose the audience right away.

4. With this off your bucket list, are there other shows that you’d love to direct in the future? 

My two favorite plays are Julia Cho's The Language Archive and Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. I've worked on The Language Archive in different roles a number of times and will be the dramaturg for the City Lights production coming in May but I can't wait to get my directorial hands on that beautiful poem of a play. I think I'm at least a decade away from being ready to touch Uncle Vanya but hopefully there's a point in my career where I can do that play and do it right. The lonely, frustrated and good hearted Vanya is a character that has always stuck with me and one of these days I'll get the opportunity to explore him.

5. What advice would you give aspiring young playwrights or directors? 

Keep learning. It's easy, as a director or a writer, to feel like you have to know everything but don't fall into that trap. So much goes into putting on a production that no one will ever see but taking on all of these duties will help you realize how special and humbling our work is. There is something to learn from every person and every opportunity coming your way. Make sure you are open and ready to catch them as they come.

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