Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One is the Road

One is the Road
By Mark Loewenstern
Directed by DeLisa White
Produced by WorkShop Theater Company

Nomination: Mark Loewenstern is nominated for Outstanding Original Short Script

         Photos by Gerry Goodstein

About this Production
Our protagonist drives home from vacation with his wife, whom he has put on a pedestal. He relates to us the 7 things he is thinking and doing moment-to-moment over the course of perhaps 2 minutes.

This was produced as a part of an evening of short scripts titled Super Shorts 2013.

Playwright Mark Loewenstern and Director DeLisa White talk about this production that unravels the mental processes of a man as he contemplates his current relationship.


What attracted you to this project?

Mark: I wrote this script because, back in college, I heard about a series of early cognitive psychology experiments which suggested that on average the human brain keeps track of about 7 different things at once. That idea stayed with me for a long time. What are the 7 things each of us is tracking moment-to-moment? What if you told a story by describing each of those 7 things at key points?  I tried writing it first as a poem, and that didn't work out so well. It had no shape. And then years later I went back and tried writing it as a play and it just flowed. Who the characters had to be, and what had to happen to them, and how the story had to end -- it all just came together like a dream.

DeLisa: I have had the good fortune to work with Mark before and his writing is so deeply compelling to the mind, the dialogue so juicy for the actors, and the questions it poses so close to the nerve it’s always a treat to work on something of his. The rhythm, poetry and deep subtext of this piece demands that everyone involved in any production be at the very top of their capabilities and it’s wonderful to get the kind of script that challenges you to be at your very best. Scary, but wonderful.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Mark: My director (DeLisa White) and my actor (Tom Berdik). Seriously, they were awesome. My schedule at the time was crazy and I was only able to attend about 90 minutes of a single rehearsal. And yet, when those 90 minutes were done, I walked out of there utterly sure that my team knew exactly what they were doing and that my script was in the best possible hands. For a worrywart like me, having that kind of certainty was nothing short of miraculous!

DeLisa: There was a constant discovery process of questions that Tom Berdik absolutely had to answer VERY specifically and communicate in ways that were clear but never too overt. We had a lot of great discussions about why long-term relationships work and don’t work – and in what ways - the kind of discussions that make you a less judgmental and hopefully better and continually growing person. It was a really great rehearsal process and Mark gave us just enough room to find our way into it before we shared it with him. That’s very courageous of him and allowed it to be a deeper experience for us. It’s also the kind of piece that’s repetitive enough that it’s surely astonishingly difficult to memorize. Tom was essentially off-book at the second rehearsal. His hard work was my massive luxury.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

DeLisa: Knowing that the piece is complex enough that there are probably 20 different ways to do it and still be true to it and sticking to the one that felt right to us, and hoping it would feel right to Mark as well (and what if it didn’t!) Also - how do you create what feels like being on the hood of moving car and peering in the windshield and into someone's mind while on a teeny blackbox stage?  Duane Pagano (set and lights and NY Innovative Theatre Award winner) accomplished that for us with great aplomb.

Mark: A few audience members asked me to explain the conceit to them, because they just didn't get it. For me it is no fun having to explain what I wrote, because it means that for those people at least, the work didn't speak for itself. And then I have to wonder: maybe I didn't do my job as well as I could have?  I suppose anytime you attempt to innovate, you run this risk. But for me, those are the least fun moments of the production.

In your opinion, what is the most innovative aspect of this production?

Mark: Unpacking a moment, and looking at it from 7 different points of view, and then unpacking the next moment, and so on, and using that to tell a meaningful story. It is a different way of looking at time and at the mind. It's not processed and unified like a monologue. It's more raw and impressionistic. And I think it works well in live theater because it has the immediacy of live theater.

DeLisa: Firstly, it’s stream of consciousness times seven. (Read it on indietheatrenow and you'll see what I mean - I'm not even kidding.) THEN it’s stream of consciousness that feels like the most naturalistic off-the-cuff dialogue even though it’s a poetic monologue. Further, it’s stream of consciousness that masks part of what the character is feeling while still giving the actor a chance to reveal that to the audience even while he's not entirely honest with himself!  Lastly, I have never once read or seen anything quite like it.

What did you want your audience to take away from this production?

DeLisa: I think the hope is that the finished piece inspires the kind of discussions that working on it did.  What does being a loving, committed, grown-up, responsible person in a long-term relationship mean and how wide a berth do we need to give ourselves and each other in the course of that goal?

Mark: First, I want them to take away a new way of experiencing their own minds, taking stock of how their attention is split, and what it is split on.

And then, I want them to experience through that prism what it means to choose a partner for whom you are trying to take care of everything, what it means to choose someone whom you put up on a pedestal instead of treating as an equal partner. 

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