Written by Morgan McGuire
Directed by Jenny Beth Snyder
Produced by The Shelter
|Photos by Michael Bernstein|
About the Company: The Shelter is dedicated to growing and protecting the creative class.
About the Production: The Hodges have gathered at a family house in the northern reaches of California. As the sentencing of their son and brother’s murderer nears, questions of justice and forgiveness arise and the family seeks to sift through what has been lost. As they pull at the threads of these questions, new truths begin to unravel.
Producer Dave Lankford and nominees Christopher Bowser, Meghan E. Jones, Michael Kingsbaker talk about creating this family drama about truth and forgiveness.
What first attracted you to this project?
Christopher: The amazing design team and director who I am proud to call friends and collaborators.
Meghan: I was first attracted to the show after hearing some of the pages Morgan brought in to the Shelter's Sunday night workshop. The characters were so rich and the dialogue was fearless.
Michael: The script. I love plays about family, and the situations in this play has everyone fighting for what they think is right which creates a lot of blinders and lot of conflict, but underneath it all was a whole lot pain, and underneath that a whole lot of love.
Dave: The Red Room, like any great drama, operates at a socio-political level and a human level, and the narrative of each unravels is a way that grabs the audience by the shirt collar and never lets go.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Christopher: Having the freedom to create the world of this naturalistic play in a more expressionistic style and feeling the full support of the company behind our vision.
Meghan: The Red Room is a family drama. Myfavorite part of working on the play was developing that familial relationship with the cast. We all got to know each other intimately and developed bonds through the funny, annoying, and lovable behavior we all carry around. By the end of the run, we really were a family I loved working with the ensemble. They were an amazing group of actors, each one bringing a special sparkle to the family dynamic.
Michael: It's rare that I get to perform with The Shelter, as I'm the co-artistic director of the company and am generally handling a lot of producing responsibilities. This was the first full length I got to do with the company that I consider my family, and I got the opportunity to share the stage with my co-artistic director Meghan Jones. I love acting with her, and we hadn't had an opportunity to do so on stage before this. So for me my favorite part was to get to perform in a show surrounded by all the people that I love.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Christopher: Executing a design on this scale with limited resources and staff in midtown Manhattan is always a challenge from parking to sourcing to brute strength.
Meghan: In the same way that building a family was my favorite part, it was also challenging. I mean, families can be rough, loveable but also crazy-making!
Michael: This was by far the biggest set and light design we had assembled to date, so a lot of time was spent getting those things right, but it was absolutely worth it.
Dave: The budget was small. The resources were limited. And as an all volunteer staff of artists, our manpower was spread thinly. Every person in the cast and crew made very real sacrifices to bring this production to stage. This was truly an independent production, both in nature and in spirit
What was the most unique part of this experience for you?
Meghan: I was seven months pregnant when I performed this role. It wasn't originally scripted for a pregnant person, but the writer and director went with it. I am eternally grateful for that. Sharing the stage with my soon to be born daughter was an experience I will forever cherish.
Michael: I use music a lot and generally make playlists for myself and sometimes other folks as well. I've made Meghan Jones mixes in the past for shows she's working on. For this one we played a married couple who met in college in the 2000's. So I made two mixes, one for where our lives are now, and I also made her mix via 2003 that I thought my character could have made for hers when our characters first started dating.
Dave: We had a single day to load in. And on that day, we found out that our truck rental had been mistakenly given to someone else and the company was out of additional trucks. I was in NJ at the rental company and ended up calling (and sometimes visiting) every truck rental in the tristate area. I walked approximately 3 miles in the process and finally found a truck that was HUGE and difficult to drive. I then proceeded into NYC to a pickup location in the LES. The, my phone died and I lost access to GPS (and had no map of the LES). After getting lost for an hour, and relying on prayer and good luck, I finally made it to the pick up location
What did you want the audience to walk away with after watching The Red Room?
Meghan: I would like the audience to come away with empathy for people when they make “wrong” decisions and an understanding that grief looks different on everyone and that the process isn’t always graceful or simple, and that rage is real.
Did you learn anything from your experience of working on this production?
Meghan: I discovered how much more I want pie when it's prop pie and I'm not allowed to eat it!!
Michael: It got me thinking a lot about the things we hold onto. Where does forgiveness live within myself, and what does justice actually look like.
What was it like working with this group of artists?
Christopher: The Shelter has a team of members who believe in the mission and show up to make things happen.
Meghan: The Shelter is more than a company, they are a family. That was sort of the theme of the show, a play about a family produced and performed by a family. They are welcoming and inclusive and put out excellent work.
Michael: It’s really a joy to go to work with people that you just think are amazing people, and then when they're as talented as everyone is in The Shelter, then it jumps up to something even greater. I've been around this company for sometime, and to see it grow is always really moving to me, and to see all the people that are a part of this company show up for all the little things things that need to be done whether or not they're in the show fills me with pride. There is a real sense of community at The Shelter
Dave: This was truly a work of artistic collaboration. Each artist brought something unique and incredible to the project, and each artist was amplified and driven by the other. I cannot imagine working with a finer group of people on any project, and the proof is in the work. This was a work of love, and the results were both stunning and heartbreakingly beautiful.
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