-What prompted you to choose this play?
I was interested in the grief aspect, the trauma and attachment issues for the survivors, as well as the enduring love of Rose and James. Grief and enduring love are not really getting much airtime in our current theatrical climate...I wondered if this fresh voice could deliver on what the play promises. I believe it did. I also shared that I really wanted to choose the work of a female playwright and explained that the ratio of female roles/playwrights/composers/directors was low when I was a child in the seventies but it is far lower NOW which is just ridiculous. The 2nd Stages Series is a tremendous opportunity for burgeoning artists!
-What was the secret ingredient in the muffins?
I asked a ton of chefs, bakers, & foodies...The limitation of 1 teaspoon greatly limited the options in terms of what would make a difference. We tested some muffins that our Rose (Mary) brought in that did the trick...I'll never know what the playwright had in mind but Mary's idea was not just poetic but also culinarily appropriate. She used rose extract...Get it?! I love the message within that. Put yourself in what you do, what you make, how you live! Hoping Emma caught onto that!
-The ending left us with so many questions... what happened to Rose?
As a cast we made no firm decisions on the ending. But we did decide that Rose was declining over the course of the play. She ages a bit more, gets a little less agile, and you see her coughing/fighting to breathe in one scene. We opted to never do that when Rose knew someone could hear. We also made a decision that she wanted to die looking her best. She had her pride! No one would choose her outfit, do her hair, etc. but her...she dresses up, in our production (it was not suggested in the script) because we see her intentionally seeking to re-experience her glory days of dancing with James. I work with some clients who struggle with clinical depression, so I wanted to be careful to not hint at a glorified suicidal trek to the lake. I cannot be guilty of triggering suicidal ideation. Instead I chose to belief that, like many others who seemed fine, she just died when it was her time. My own mother died at that age and seemed pretty well until a few days before she passed.
-On the same note, do John and Emma get together?
Again, we honored the author's resistance to answering that question in the play. We did decide to not pretend this was Emma's great love story. We viewed their connection as friendship mixed with attraction, loneliness, and shared grief. It is certainly possible that something could have happened, but I'm inclined to let people heal and do their personal work individually before encouraging that they dive into a new romance. We can't rescue each other from grief.
-Who chose the music?
Our wonderful Sound Designer, Lance Huntley did a wonderful job selecting transitional music along with the sound effects. It was important to mark the passage of time as many scenes are either morning scenes or nighttime ones. Toggling back and forth, with such a small cast and the need to change clothing etc. required some blackouts although we did eliminate about a third of them by combining transitions and improvising stage business wherever it added to the characterization. If it would just be repetitive we went with a blackout.
Lance is a sensitive, romantic soul and a great jazz lover. He came up with the songs and I really only said no to one spoken word piece (Walt Whitman reading his poetry quite quickly) because it was distracting from the emotions we were seeing unfold in John. He knew it was a wildcard and had another option ready to go. Drew Jones, our assistant director, was in charge of transitions and I had a strong desire to accomplish a few things in those. I wanted the audience to see the story unfold with the physical environment changing the more James is removed from their world. We ended up realizing most of that would happen AFTER the last scene. I was also determined to show how Rose got food, clean clothes, etc. This music was a true gift, it gave us a larger canvas to paint on. Even in the dark! It never occurred to me that our audiences would laugh to see Rose waiting for Emma to walk away before snagging get lunchbox, or rushing to turn out the light for fear of being caught waiting up for Emma after the big date with John. Life is funny, no jokes required!
This also brings up silence. We felt, from the start, that slower pacing and silence were important for this piece. I tend to be a fast walker/talker/thinker and can frequently be found directing folks onstage to pick up the pace. For this story about one small family in 2 rooms dealing or, rather, not dealing with their grief - rushing was forbidden. My battle cry became, "Give me my ellipses!"
-Since they lived by a lake, not an ocean, why would there be seaweed in James' hair when he dies?
This is something we wrestled with too. Mary checked it out and found that it's still called seaweed regardless. One audience member recounted that he grew up in Illinois, surrounded by lakes, and they always called it seaweed. Another fellow discovered there was also a particular type called lake weed (courtesy of his smart phone.) Either way, we happily blamed the playwright who was unable to see our production due to working on a television series. Lol!