Review Fix chats with “I am a Tree” Playwright Dulcy Rogers, who discusses the creation of the play and the production process. “I am a Tree” begins it’s run at the Theatre at St. Clement’s from May 30-June 25.
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Review Fix: Why Is “I am a Tree” a theatrical must see experience in New York City?
Dulcy Rogers: Because every night we set an audience member on fire. Strangely we’ve had a lot of return customers. Actually it’s for every one who was ever terrified by the fact that they were turning into their parents. It’s a mystery about a young woman who is desperate to find a truth that could make or break her life. I found the LA audiences got so caught up in that aspect of the story that many would stay after performances to tell me their stories and discuss the play. I think the play touches upon issues that every one of us has to cope with at one point or another in our lives when facing who we are and how we define ourselves. But it’s done in a way that’s fun and kind of wacky and hopefully entertaining. Plus there’s a sing along.
Review Fix: How was it written? Where were you in your life at that time?
Dulcy Rogers: Actually, I had been working on film scripts and TV pilots after I moved to Los Angeles. Then I had my second child and had a health scare. I was very shaken and was concerned I might not be around to see my kids grow up. I suddenly realized that if they tried to get a sense of who I was by reading all the things I had written during my LA years, they might think, “Well she was a funny lady, but who the heck was she?” So I decided to write something that was purely in my voice, with ideas and characters that were important to me. And since playwriting was always my first love, as I grew up around the theatre with a playwright father, it only felt natural to do it in that medium.
Review Fix: What was it like performing in a play you’ve written?
Dulcy Rogers: I have performed my writing a couple of times before this. I wrote another play about Ruth Draper and a short film that went to many film festivals around the country. I actually love performing my own words, mostly because it takes the pressure off the writing having to be perfect. I figure I already know what I mean, and if I’ve missed it in the writing, hopefully my acting will get it across. The real test is always when you hand one of your pieces to someone else, and see how it holds up! But I haven’t been that brave yet!
Review Fix: What was it like working with Allan Miller the director? Any difficulties?
Dulcy Rogers: Allan is absolutely the best director I’ve ever worked with. He has an incisive and organic way of plumbing material that is — beyond enlightening. He’s found things in this play I didn’t even know were in there, and I wrote it. I always find his notes to be like little jewels that I cling to (this is the second time I’ve worked with him as a director). I think he’s able to find so much in a writer’s work because he is also an extremely gifted and sensitive actor. I first met him when we worked together doing Substance of Fire at Seattle Rep and he was extraordinary as the lead. I feel very lucky to have him as a director for this project.
Review Fix: What was the casting process like? What’d you think of the crew assembled?
Dulcy Rogers: Well it was a tough room during the audition. She wanted most of the script memorized and then implied I might be too old for the part. But when I looked a little closer, I realized my bathroom mirror just had bad lighting, and that I would be fine in the part—so I booked myself. And as far as the crew goes, they are an amazing bunch. I have a marvelous producer that is not only organized and creative, but extremely lovely and has let that set the tone for the whole production. Our lighting designer is a bright and inventive woman named Yael Lubetzsky. our sound designer, Jason Crystal already had ideas before we even had our first conversation. The production manager Bethany Weinstein is superb and was so highly recommended by so many people, we felt lucky to get her. The talented and resourceful Christine Lemme is our Stage Manager. And I am very thrilled to have the masterful Neil Patel designing the set. I’ve known him a long time and he has always displayed a brilliant and unique vision when he designs. Performing on his set is a real gift to this production.
Review Fix: Having performed all over the country, how has that helped you in your journey?
Dulcy Rogers: It made me grateful to be in New York.
Review Fix: What do you want people to get out of this play?
Dulcy Rogers: I would love if people could see that they don’t have to be bound to the fates of their parents. That they can separate themselves from their origins and make their own lives, write their own stories and be their own person without having to feel they are doomed to repeat the behaviors or choices made by their parents. That they actually have the power within themselves to do that- if they choose to. I’d also love the folks in the audience to have a few laughs along the way.
Review Fix: How has writing this play helped you?
Dulcy Rogers: I write when I have questions that keep popping up in my head that I can’t answer. I try to come at them from all sides and in doing that I end up having a discussion with myself that helps me better understand what’s puzzling me. I guess writing keeps me from talking to myself in public—which would just make me one of those crazy people on the subway in the seat by the door.
Review Fix: How do you want this play to be remembered?
Dulcy Rogers: I’d like this play to be remembered as a fun evening with some incredible women. Two of the characters in the play were loosely based on two extraordinary women I had the great good fortune of knowing. They both touched the world in big ways and they had huge personalities to match. I wanted to preserve these ladies in some way- any way, as they are no longer with us. They both had a unique sparkle and a kind of magic one doesn’t often come across and I just didn’t want that to vanish with them.