Review Fix chats with playwright Lynn Navarra, who discusses her upcoming production and why it’s a must-see.
About the Production:
Nurse Mercy and JoJo & Dennis, two abandoned patients of Gateway Home & Rehabilitation Center in Lannahassee Georgia, pray for a miracle; JoJo, for his mother; Dennis, for his wife; and Nurse Mercy … for proof of her faith. Just as they come to the realization that they are truly abandoned, they meet Brandy, a teenage girl looking for her own salvation – and escape – who offers JoJo a chance at a new life. God works in mysterious ways.
For more on the production, Click Here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Lynn Navarra: The inspiration for Leaving Lannahassee was to address the very serious problem of mental illness. It is an exploration of the mind and my aim was also to send the message that not everything is cut and dry or what it seems to be. That outside forces and inner emotions combined with psychological elements can reap all kinds of havoc on an individual or individuals with this particular set of circumstances.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Navarra: I generally find a subject I’m interested in and see what I can do with it. My main focus is always who my characters are and create situations that put them to the test. Once I know who they are, I can begin to see what they would do in a given set of circumstances, how they handle things. Christian Friedrich Hebbel, the great playwright, once said: “In a good play, everyone is right.” I believe this to be true because I think people are driven to do the right thing – even if it’s generally accepted as the wrong thing but the key is understanding how they got there and how they come to the conclusions they do. What always matters is what’s in the mind of the character, what motivates him or her to move forth the action of the play, what is the path they must take to see their way through the given predicaments put before them. I am also a linear writer. I begin with Act I, Scene I, and follow through to “End of Play” – my three favorite words.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Navarra: Leaving Lannahassee was produced by the American Theatre of Actors, in NYC, last January of this year and was very well received by audience members. We had an excellent turn out with a full house every performance. People kept coming up and telling me personal stories of their own with regard to mental illness and how the characters in this play were so extraordinarily real to them. This got me to thinking that I must try to get the word out to potential theatres, directors, producers, investors – anyone within the theatre industry who might want to take this play and its subject matter on and so hence, we decided to deliver it in the form of a staged reading. I am also pleased to say, with the original, great cast.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Navarra: What I’ve learned is not so much about myself but about the writing process, in general. I learned never to force words that don’t come. If the words do come and they are not right, get rid of them. One can write something lovely and well-constructed but if it doesn’t reflect who the character is or what he wants or what he is really going through, it is far better to have a care with a bit of patience, focus on what you want the character to express and work to get it done. I’ve learned that what one says with twenty words can often be best said in ten. For me, it is always important to show, not tell, the human condition and to express the fact that it is our makeup and phycology which drives us to do what we do.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Navarra: To be part of the theater is very fulfilling to me. I started out with the desire to become an actress and studied both at the Neighborhood Playhouse and HB Studio. It was my acting education that taught me a great deal about the theatrical way of speaking; that each line drives forth the next one. I like the challenge of writing dialogue that expresses who the character is. I don’t always get it right but for me, the beauty is getting it as good and convincing as I know how. I have said, many times, that I look at it as Evel Knievel, my childhood hero, setting up all those buses to jump over with his motorcycle. Each bus for me is a scene that must be cleared to get to the next one and somehow it all has to make sense. Like Evel, I have crashed many times but like him too, I try to always get back up, without the broken bones, of course!
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Navarra: I think the goal for any playwright is to ultimately see their work produced far and wide, and I am no different. It is my dream. I am not shy to say I believe in my work – one has to and if I didn’t, I would never attempt to put it up. This is why I am actively seeking theatres, producers and/or investors to look at this play with the possible interest of taking it on. I want to move this play and other plays I’ve written forward, especially since they have received such positive feedback from audiences. My play, The Sandman, won three Jean Dalrymple awards in 2016 for: Best New Play, Best Director and Best Actor. These last two awards were taken by the multitalented, Ken Coughlin.
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Navarra: I think what will be enjoyed the most is the fact that Leaving Lannahassee has an array of interesting/complex characters and a very compelling plot. Every character in this play is struggling with their own demons. Also, they all want to do the right thing. They are incredibility human, struggling to fight off their respective vulnerabilities and doing what they have to do to get where they think they need to be.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Navarra: Well, if we get theatres, directors and/or investors interested in Leaving Lannahassee or other plays of mine, I’d say the sky’s the limit! We could deliver quality pieces of solid theatre to evermore hungry theatregoers! Also, my plays are all character driven and therefore undoubtedly provide actors with a plethora of exciting opportunities to shine. It would be a win-win all around!
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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