By Sarah Shaefer
Directed by Daniel Talbott
Produced by Mermaid Sands Productions and Kid Brooklyn Productions
Nominations: Sarah Shaefer is nominated for Outstanding Original Full-Length Script; Kaitlyn Pietras is nominated for Outstanding Innovative Design; Jenny Seastone is nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role; Lesley Shires is nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role; Janie Bullard is nominated for Outstanding Sound Design; and Kia Rogers is nominated for Outstanding Lighting Design
About this Production
No longer able to self-medicate with alcohol and in a desperate search for escape, a young woman finds herself standing on the edge of the 1 subway platform. She faces the train as it roars into the station, and then faces the consequences as she commits herself to a psych ward in one last attempt to commit to herself.
What first attracted you to this project?
Sarah: I wanted to try a story as honestly as I could and that story morphed slowly into The Gin Baby, hopefully to shed some light on suffering - the way I've suffered and how other people have suffered because of mental illness.
Daniel: I feel so lucky to have gotten to be a part of The Gin Baby, and just getting to work with Sarah, Jack Doulin, and Jack Sharkey again was the first reason I jumped at doing this. Sarah is one of my favorite people on earth, and also one of the hardest working and most downright talented people I know.
Lesley: The women in this play are honest and gritty and painful. Their real. Sarah's bravery made me brave.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Daniel: Again I have to say that my favorite part was getting to work with all the extraordinary artists who busted their asses so hard to make Sarah’s play jump around butt naked so beautifully onstage. I loved the whole cast, crew, and everyone involved on this play and I’m so proud of what we were able to do with the crazy short amount of time we had to put up a new play. Sarah led the way with her beautiful and open writing, and everybody else dove in headfirst and gave everything they had on this show – it was ugly, tough, fast, brave, huge hearted work by the whole cast and crew, and again I couldn’t love those guys more.
Janie: The most beautiful part of this production for me was working with such a fantastic group of theatre people, particularly the women involved (the men were amazing as well, but there was an uncommon ratio of women to men involved in this production, which felt really good). The amazing design team worked so seamlessly with each other, and these designers really feel like a little family for me. The Gin Baby was super sound/lighting/projection heavy and Kia and Kaitlyn and I spent a lot of time working together to really sync up our elements into one narrative experience. We wanted to filter the experience of the main character, Amelia, into something that we could collectively express. I think we did a fantastic job.
Sarah: My favorite part of working on this production was watching everyone, the actors, the designers, turn the play into a living thing. I also learned so much about collaboration. Daniel Talbott really helped me sculpt the play. There were times when I would just hold my breath and cut a line or a bunch of lines. He taught me not to be precious with my work. I'm so grateful for that. That lesson has helped me so much.
Kaitlyn: Our tech process for this show was short, so the process was very intense and exciting. There was a wonderful collaborative energy among the designers and we were able to make quick yet thoughtful decisions and respond quickly to what was developing onstage.
Lesley: Working with women that challenged one another and pushed one another was the greatest gift of the production. There was a lot of respect between us.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Daniel: We had a really short time to work on a play that was brand new, and that Sarah was turning inside out with changes and transformation in a gorgeous way. On top of that, it was also very tech heavy. You always wish you had more time, but this one was crazy short for the type of show it was and for how much the play was shifting and opening up and growing. The lack of time made us all fight harder though and work harder to bring it all together, and everyone committed to that process in an extraordinary way.
Janie: This play is all about feeling what Amelia is feeling, and so that made working on certain sequences very taxing emotionally. It’s hard to watch a person suffer and it’s equally difficult to try and express that suffering through sound. Sometimes the sound for the show became difficult for me to listen to over and over.
Sarah: The most challenging part of working on the production not getting much sleep. Our rehearsal process was really short because we had to break for Christmas and New Year's. We rehearsed for a week, broke for the holidays and then rehearsed for another week and jumped right into tech. It was insane! I was madly rewriting and went through about six drafts during that first week with another huge overhaul during the break, so I was pretty wired! Also, and this is a producer thing, but another really challenging thing was finding good rehearsal space. There isn't enough cheap rehearsal space in this city and that was really difficult on our budget.
Lesley: The material. There was no standing in comfort.
What sound effect do think was the most impactful or meaningful for this production?
Janie: There was a long sequence following Amelia out of a bar and onto the platform of the 1 train. She almost throws herself in front of a train, but doesn’t, and immediately checks herself into a psych ward. The sound/lighting/projection experience traced the climax of her emotional vulnerability. As Amelia enters the train platform there is the sound of being underwater mixed with the sound of screams and a distant subway train approaching. Slowly the water sound transforms into a warped and distorted train platform. As the train enters the station we hear the sound of train horns and the ding of the train door warning over and over. We’re experiencing this train station the way Amelia experienced it in the suicidal state of mind she was in. As she turns away from the edge of the platform the sound climaxes in level and the sounds of destruction, a table saw, and weird digital blips push into her mind along with the sound of thousands of voices speaking languages that Amelia doesn’t understand. Then everything breaks away and the scene becomes a very oppressive psych ward filled with a harsh tonal sound and a buzzer that in reality is just a door buzzer, but in Amelia’s mind is a violent weapon that makes it impossible for her to focus on the questions a nurse is asking her.
We worked on this sequence for what felt like days. It ended up being a really tightly executed sequence and something that audiences really responded to.
What was the most surprising lesson you learned from this production?
Lesley: I had never done a full production with projections and Kaitlyn Pietras really enhanced our time and place and world. Her work was amazing and inspiring.
Sarah: I found a deal online and bought ten cases of bottled water for rehearsal, but I didn't really think past the fact that it was a great deal! I had ten cases of water taking up space in my very tiny apartment for about two months. It also meant I had to lug a suitcase full of bottled water to the different rehearsal spaces everyday. I'm never doing that again. I would try and force feed the actors water because I didn't want to lug the extra bottles home with me. Next time, I'm just going to buy a pitcher. All I was focused on was getting a great deal on water for the actors! Woo! A wise person once told me that the catch 22 of getting experience is that you have to get experience.
Daniel: This show offered some great reminders to never give up, and that there’s always a wonderful road you can choose to take with what you’re given, even if it’s not the road you think you should be going down or want to be going down. Sometimes because of time and necessity you have to make choices you wouldn’t otherwise jump at, but so many times those choices can end up being wonderfully simple, original, and perfect. Stay on your toes, keep your heart open, say you’re sorry, don’t blame others for your bullshit, and always adjust. I was reminded of all of this in a such a great way on this show.
What did you want your audiences to take away from this production?
Daniel: I didn’t want the show or the characters in it to be easy, and I didn’t want anyone to be able to sit back and relax with their hands behind their heads. I wanted the audience to have to go on the ride and be fully engaged with these messy, flawed, loud, extreme, and profoundly vulnerable people, and to feel as present in the room as the characters themselves did. I wanted it to be an exploration of hard earned action and empathy. And again I loved what we did with the cards we were dealt. I love Sarah’s play so much and I couldn’t feel more thankful to have gotten to work on it.