Friday, September 2, 2016

Harper Regan

Written by Simon Stephens
Directed by Terry Schreiber
Produced by T. Schreiber Studio

Nominated for: Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role, Maeve Yore; Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role, Mike Gomez; Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role, Ryan Johnston;  Outstanding Director, Terry Schreiber, and Outstanding Revival of a Play

About the Production
A British housewife in mid-life, who finds her existence turned upside down in a visit to her dying father.

Director Terry Schreiber and performers Maeve Yore, Mike Gomez, and Ryan Johnston talk about working on this emotional and passionate piece.


What attracted you to this production?

Terry: Simon Stephen's brilliant writing, Harper's journey and the rich characters she meets along the way. It beautifully explores the need for redemption.

Ryan: The opportunity to work with Terry Schreiber as a director. Simon Stephens' mysterious and complex writing, and the way it embraces the darkness in people that often goes unspoken. He makes us feel both validated and uncomfortable.

Mike: Harper Regan provided me with the opportunity to work with legendary theatre director, Terry Schreiber, as well as tell an emotionally charged, character driven story with unsettling truths.

Maeve: Well, there aren't many (any?) lead female characters for actresses over 40 years old to begin with, but even fewer that are as fully, deeply written as Harper. She's such a real woman, for good and bad. And I really wanted to experience what it was like to play such a large part, to learn if I was up for it mentally, emotionally, and physically.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Harper Reagan?

Terry: Finding a spiritual redemption in Harper's journey. A born again epiphany our of our capacity for emotional evasion.

What was your favorite part of the production?

Maeve: The dialect work was incredibly fun-- from stumbling through lessons where I'm sure I sounded like a drunk pirate, to finally being able to have conversations that felt natural and fluid! It was also a great "in" to the character, to finding her voice every night.

Oh, and stabbing Ryan in the neck. That was pretty good, too.

Mike: The cast and crew developed a comfortable, open atmosphere with each other throughout the production from start to finish. It was a pleasure to have worked with them as I was able to connect and learn a lot. A great thanks to our dialect coach Page Clements!

Ryan: I loved my fellow actors. It was a cast full of some of the best actors I've ever worked with (Maeve Yore particularly) and all of them were just delightful people.

Terry: The rehearsal process was so rich. Each day was a joy in exploring Stephens' language and journey. The enthusiasm of the cast for the work and their dedication to the roles was inspiring.

What was the most challenging part of this production?

Mike: Like many productions, as an actor the challenge remains to continually discover and project the reality of your character and relationships. The steadfast hard work can be exhaustive but it is always gratifying.

Maeve: Bringing together the arc of the play and Harper's journey once we started running the acts. After a few weeks of focusing on one scene at a time, several things had to morph and change as we stitched the story together. This, of course, happens in every production. But this was my first time experiencing it when I was in the title role, onstage for the whole time, and I felt a lot of responsibility for keeping everything on track and moving forward with continuity and clarity.

Ryan: My character says some things that really make audiences squirm. He is generally not described as a very nice fellow! But I enjoyed the challenge of looking deeper and finding the humanity in a character that is all too easy to just write off as a total scumbag. That involves exploring and revealing some of the not-so-pretty sides of myself, and figuring out how to approach the things this character thinks and says that I, Ryan, just can't get behind. How do I do that and make it believable? These are all wonderful challenges.

Terry: The demands of staging the 11 different scenes in a limited space. But George Allison's brilliant design solved our problem using 16 simple boxes that could recreate furniture, a park, a bridge, inside a hospital, etc.

What was the strangest/funniest thing that happened during this production?

Maeve: Every show, during the last 4 minutes of intermission, several cast members would join me back stage for the most embarrassing dance party. Truly, a worse bunch of dancers you've never seen, arms flailing, legs akimbo. Dreadful business! But it kept our energy up and kept us connected through a long show!

Mike: Before every show, the entire cast would gather and join in for a group warm-up and I believe it helped nurture togetherness for the production and for each other.

Terry: The cast was choreographed to do all the scene changes. Their work on the Manchester accent with Page Clements our dialect coach was challenging but it seemed everyone at the studio was talking with the accent during the run of the play! Simon Stephens also sent us a personal note regretting that he would not be able to attend but that it "means the world to me that my play will see life in your beautiful city...please advise the cast to attack my play like wildebeests. If it is any good it will yield. If not it is too late. You may as well have fun kicking the shit out of it. I send all of you love and thanks, and hope our paths cross one day."

What was it like working with T. Schreiber Studio?

Ryan: T. Schreiber Studio is an historic company and an important part of Off-Off-Broadway, which I really see as a valuable, probably undervalued, piece of NYC's cultural heritage. I mean...Terry is one of the movements' original founders. There's a connection to the early days of OOB that you can really feel in his approach to experimentation, and his love of producing indie theatre.

Maeve: The great thing about working with actors who have trained at the same school is that you have a common vocabulary, and a similar objective in storytelling, and likewise a similar respect for the process. So a lot of time can be saved and used on character work or script analysis because you're not losing time trying to figure out what someone else is saying.

Mike: T. Schreiber Studio houses some of New York's finest artists and people who genuinely teach, craft and value support in efforts to create exceptional work. Harper Regan was a phenomenal experience for me and the entire company feels like family.

What was it like working with this cast and crew?

Terry: The cast’s full commitment and rich acting work was a very rewarding experience for all of us as well as the audience. I admire how much insight, commitment, courage, and risk taking they brought to the work and their very nuanced performances. 

You can follow these artists on Twitter
T. Schreiber Studio - @TSStudio
 Maeve Yore - @MMYore

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