The stories and themes in Astonishment seem to be a great fit for Dreamcatcher. What’s your connection with the author, Jan Slepian?
Laura: There are a number of ways we’re connected: Jan’s been an audience member for a while, and through her we met her daughter, Anne Ellinger. She is a theatre artist living in the Boston area and taught our actors a workshop on Playback Theatre. We also have a mutual friend, Nancy Heins-Glaser, who is friends with The Theater Project folks, and she gave me Jan’s book with the suggestion that it might make a good joint project for the two theatres, something we’ve been trying to do for a long time. So I got in touch with Jan and asked if she’d be interested in seeing her piece turned into a play, and she said yes! So since last spring, there has been a flurry of activity in putting this project together.
Why did this show need to be “adapted,” and what does that entail for you?
Laura: Jan’s book is a series of essays that she wrote for her community newsletter. She has made appearances doing readings of the essays in their current form, but for the theatre I wanted to do something a little more interactive. With very little rewriting I’ve intercut related pieces so they comment on each other, turned some sections into dialogue, and varied the rhythm of the script so there’s a mixture of short exchanges, shared narration and straightforward monologues. I’ve also ordered the pieces so the overall play feels like it has movement from beginning to end, rather than individual pieces that stop and start throughout.
Dreamcatcher collaborated on this show with The Theater Project. What’s that all abou?
Laura: Mark Spina (artistic director of TTP) and I have been friends a LONG time – in fact, we go all the way back to the late 1980s, when we performed in Side by Side by Sondheim at Seton Hall’s Summer Theater in the Round! Since we started our own companies we’ve supported each other, given each other advice, and worked in each other’s theatres. In the past few years we’ve been looking for ways for the two theatres to work together—artistically and administratively—to connect our audiences, artists and staffs. Astonishment was one of the first real collaborations we attempted, and if I may speak for Mark, it went well!
How can we see Astonishment now that its public run at Dreamcatcher and The Theater Project has ended?
Laura: Astonishment is currently touring senior residences and other facilities. Most performances are private to the groups that booked them, but some are open to the public. Join our e-mail list to be notified of the public performances.
Is Astonishment appropriate for kids? What ages?
Laura: Kids who are about 12 or 13 and up would probably be interested, especially if they are close to their grandparents and want to understand their experience of life. It’s a lot of fun for older and younger audiences to enjoy together!