Written by Lillian Meredith
Directed by Rachel Karp and Jaki Bradley
Produced by The Living Room, in association with IRT Theater
Nominations: Outstanding Set Design, Frank J. Oliva; Outstanding Lighting Design, Scot Gianelli
|Photos by Ben Vigus|
About the Company: The Living Room is an ensemble of theater artists dedicated to making work about the contemporary American female.
About the Production: Zumba. Wine. Takeout. Porn. In the quest for personal and sexual empowerment, the Sister Support Group for the Daily Trials of Being a Woman tackles them all. But acts of feminist revolt rarely go unpunished, and the women find themselves caught up in something much bigger than their own liberation.
Director Rachel Karp and nominee Scot Gianelli share their insights into creating this ensemble driven piece about women claiming their own liberation.
What first attracted you to this project?
Scot: We had actually done this production together once before in a festival lineup at Ars Nova, but I love working with these 2 directors any chance I get. They are both such terrific energy and collaborative partners, and the opportunity to do a group-devised piece about using feminism to reclaim pornography for women in a way that combined realism and heightened abstraction in the same space was just so much to say yes to. From the very first reading of the script, I very much admired how much it was willing to lean into a voice that was unabashedly hysterical as well as very dark and dangerous.
Rachel: #liberated was conceived by Lillian Meredith after she read an article in New York Magazine that looked at the effects of porn on American culture. She gathered her most trusted female theater collaborators to form The Living Room, and together they created #liberated through a multi-year developmental process that relied on research, conversation, improvisation, and physical exploration.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Scot: My favorite aspect of this production was definitely the collaborative nature of this team. As a group devised piece (by the acting and directing team), the departmental lines were all more blurred than usual in a very exciting way. This usually leads to having way too many cooks in the kitchen and can hinder a process, but this time around, from having performers who helped write the piece give input on on the world they envisioned when writing it to working more closely with Frank (Scenic Designer), Ben (Sound) and Heather (Costumes) and the rest of the team to develop ideas together versus off of each other's ideas was a very special experience.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Scot: The most challenging aspect of this production was the scope of internal changes/locations/time of day against the limitations of the venue. This play covers 2 distinctly different locations, several times of day as well as 5 or 6 internal fantasy sequences in a venue with very limited inventory and power. I think we had something like 12 lights and as many dimmers in the venue to tell this story, so it was a challenge (albeit a very fun one) to figure out how to stretch a small rig into a story that didn't feel stagnant or repetitive. We ended up leaning a lot on a rented LED package to help drive time of day and fantasy elements, and on using a different arrangement of practicals and set electric fixtures in each scene to drive the energy in the room and keep it feeling fresh and new instead of familiar and stagnant.
What was the most unique aspect of working on this production for you?
Scot: As a group devised piece (The ensemble of performers and directors being the collective writer in sense) was definitely noteworthy. It meant that the show evolved somewhat by committee and was more fluid and subject to change, even as we got into technical rehearsals. It was interesting to see a show grow and evolve as a result of so many equal voices in the room as opposed to a more traditional theatrical pecking order.
Did you learn anything new from your experience of working on this production?
Scot: Because the inventory and venue was so limited, this show was an excellent exercise in distilling down to design basics and trying to figure out what the heart of the story was and telling it as fully as possible with the tools available. Without any form of frivolous or extra gear to play around with, I had to really figure out what the most vital elements of this story were, and flesh them out as fully as possible.
What was it like working with these artists?
Scot: Definitely the organic collaboration. This was definitely a room where all ideas were considered thoughtfully and everyone had a really intrinsic idea of what this show was to them, which was a terrific amount of fun to work with.
Rachel: Frank and Scot completely transformed IRT Theater to create the world for #liberated. As one reviewer wrote, Frank and Scot created "one of the best overall designs in the space’s history."