Review Fix chats with playwright Susan Jennifer Polese who discusses her production at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, “Under The One-Time Sky.” Breaking down the inspiration for the performance, as well as his goals for the future, Polese lets us know exactly why we should check out the production.
For more information on the production and the MITF, click here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this production?
Susan Jennifer Polese: I have always been fascinated by childhood friendships – where they go and how the people in the relationship change over time – add to this my interest in the manner in which a single event can effect the trajectory of peoples lives and you have the inspiration for the creation of Under the One-Time Sky. The one-act is a story about childhood friends, Dwight and Christine and a traumatic event that occurred when they were children that affected each of them profoundly and differently. Another key word here is trauma. When a traumatic event occurs, in this case a rape, everything freezes, of course, for the victim, but this play is more about Dwight who as a child witnesses the event. Witnessing is painful and hugely impactful on a person’s life. This play is not about revealing some shocking incident, but exploring how a witness deals with the lifelong aftermath. And there are lots of laughs along the way – I mean there HAS to be!
Review Fix: What is your creative process like?
Polese: My plays can start with a phrase or a piece of dialogue or a visual or a sound that gets stuck in my head for days, months, years – even decades. These pieces of inspiration can irritate and amuse me cause me pain make me laugh – any number of things. I write them down and go back to them. I build plays around them and tear them down. I really see it all like a puzzle … a sometimes infuriating, but an always-interesting puzzle with one rule: write everyday. Even if it is sentence. Get it down. Don’t let things fester too long. I am also one who rewrites incessantly, all the time keeping mindful and open to new inspiration, trying to be truly present. I meditate and practice mindfulness, not just to cultivate creativity, but also to stay SANE. Being creative keeps me sane. And at the end (though there is really no end) of all this writing there is really just another beginning as you work with directors and actors to realize a shared vision. It all completely turns me on. Especially the “share” part.
Review Fix: What makes you different from other playwrights?
Polese: What an odd and fun question: I don’t know that I am starkly different from other playwrights! I know what draws me to playwriting – rather than novel or poetry writing – is the collaborative nature of the craft. I learn so much from working with directors and amazing actors. I yearn to be involved with others as my work comes to fruition on stage. I suspect that even the most misanthropic of playwrights – somewhere in the psyche – wants to collaborate! For me that’s what theatre is all about. Theatre is fun even when it is hard. The odds are completely against us and we persevere through it all together. My sense is that perhaps I am more of a positive person than most writers I know. I find in my work and the process through which I create there is a thread of positivity and hope – no matter how stark and hopeless the subject matter might be. A “glass-is-half-full” playwright? Well, that’s half right.
Review Fix: What makes this production special? 5. What makes this cast unique?
Polese: Our amazing director and cast make this production sing. Our actors Michelle Concha Herko and Adam La Faci have worked together before and they have been directed by our esteemed director Leta Tremblay before as well. This combination leads to a beautifully realized vision of this play. As the playwright I feel confidant in letting them discover the piece for themselves and sit back and enjoy it all. The play has been produced before three times and has won an award – which is all well and good, but each time it is up on stage it is different. This play is linear with two actors and is very simple to produce, but what goes on between the two characters is very complex and I expect this to be extenuated in this production as part of the Festival.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Polese: This is my first experience co-producing one of the plays and I am surprised that I like it SO MUCH. I am learning how much work and dedication it takes to put up a show in midtown. Being involved in every aspect of the production is very exciting and quite different from the solitary life of a writer. It’s like jumping off a building with no net – no safely valve at all. Although the festival is very supportive it’s really up to myself, my director and my cast to pull this off. It feels a lot like a magic trick!
Review Fix: How does it feel to be part of this festival?
Polese: I love every aspect of functioning with the support of a festival. There is so much positive energy generated from the collection of such wildly different shows. I think that is the strength of this particular festival: it is a mix of genres with an emphasis on quality. I have been in festivals before, but never with a festival producer who is so nurturing and available. I am also enjoying the social media aspect of promoting the show and I find that my work ethic is high because I am a part of a group that depends on everyone for success. Kind of like socialism; but with NO HAND OUTS!