Review Fix chats with Liane Grant, who discusses the production at this year’s Fresh Fruit Festival in New York City, detailing the creative process and letting us know what to expect.
About the Production:
It’s 2017, and Jess and Meredith are the picture-perfect interracial lesbian power couple. But if the cracks in their facade–and in America’s face–are showing now, what will they look like is 2033? What happens to our country, and our relationships, when their very foundations get tested? In this tale of fractured love and civil war, IVF becomes a platform for a broader discussion about parenthood, fascism, and anyone forced to fight just to be valued as people.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Liane Grant: While on vacation in Florida I watched the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia unfolding on the news. I felt sick to my stomach as I saw white nationalists spewing hate about Jews and black people and causing violence that led to the death of an innocent woman. It felt like the USA was marching itself back to Nazi Germany, and terrifyingly, Trump announced that there was “blame on both sides” and “fine people on both sides.” I’ve been vehemently anti-Trump from the beginning, but I can barely describe the rage I felt at this moment, and the deep, deep sadness. He was legitimizing Nazis, white supremacists; announcing that racism was fine. Those few days were the catalyst for this play, which I wrote in the two weeks that followed. But in hindsight, it is clear the material had been building for years. I have witnessed the experiences of my closest friends as they’ve been subjected to racism, not to mention gender and sexual discrimination; listened as they’ve shared and educated me on their perspectives. And as a woman, surrounded by women of all kinds in my own life, I have become keenly aware of our struggles to define what our own womanhood means to us, on our terms, and not what politicians, society or men push to define for us. Perhaps then, in some ways, I’ve been writing this play my whole life.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Grant: The writing process was a dream, especially at the start. This idea just appeared, I started writing it down and I just couldn’t stop. Without even realising it, I had a play 2 weeks later. And it only took that long because I didn’t write anything for about 5 days in the middle, as there was a piece missing and I couldn’t figure out what it was, so I just let it percolate. Then I sat down with my best friend, who is my most trusted advisor and co-founder of our production company, to read it out loud for the first time, which was so much fun because I had no expectations at that point. It was her reaction, and insightful feedback, plus my own feeling of exhilaration that made me think it was worth doing something with the script. It was written with specific actors in mind, whose experiences had inspired the piece, so the next step was to read it with them. I was keenly aware from the start, as a white heterosexual woman, that I was voicing the experiences of people that weren’t me; black people, mixed-race people, gay people, and it was imperative that their stories be told accurately.
There can be no room in this social climate for misrepresentation; I wanted to help the situation, not cause more heartache, so their input was invaluable. The script went through further drafts based on all of this feedback, so that we could workshop the script with the actors. Then I held a public reading to gain further insight into how the characters and stories were sitting with a wider demographic, which was followed by further re-drafting. Opposite to the speed with which I initially wrote the main body of the play, the re-drafting process took months; it took time to work out each piece of the puzzle, and I certainly owe a great deal to all of the people who offered feedback and ideas, many of which ended up in the script!
I thought it would be difficult working on my own script in the rehearsal room, as an actor, but most of the time I forget I’ve written it and have enjoyed the process as much as any other play I’ve worked on, and when a line doesn’t work, we have the power to discuss and improve it together, which is a blessing. For all the solitary hours staring at a laptop in the middle of the night, so much of the process has felt like a collaborative experience, for which I’m enormously grateful.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Grant: Having your words performed on a stage in New York, my favourite place in the world and home to the world’s best theatre, is something I never thought would happen. And when those words tell a story that you so deeply believe in, and you can feel pride in your small contribution to bettering society as well as contributing as part of an artistic community, that’s really a gift. When you get to perform in that play alongside your friends, whose voices you’re trying to make heard…well, that blows my mind. So, this is certainly special to me. I think a lot of talented artists are telling stories that deal with similar issues to the ones we explore in this play; they are, understandably, on a lot of people’s minds. But each story is different in its own way; in as much as we are bound by the human experience, our characters also have distinctly unique voices and stories, and I hope audiences will appreciate that.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Grant: I love writing, it’s a gift to be able to do it, so lesson number one was not to take that for granted. But, writing is hard. I sort of knew this before, but the past year has engrained this fact in the very core of my soul. I have also learned that I’m more capable of asking for help when I need it than I thought; I’m often too scared to bother people, and don’t like appearing weak, but my best work has come out of the help others have so kindly offered when I’ve asked for it, and sometimes when I haven’t!
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Grant: The play will play at two London theatres in July, after the Fresh Fruit Festival. Beyond this, we’d love to take it further afield in both the USA and the UK, and get it published so that artists anywhere and everywhere can explore the lives of these characters in their own ways.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Grant: Who knows! We’ll certainly be pursuing further avenues for Half me, half you. The idea for this play felt like a gift from above that fell into my lap. Perhaps another one will come along, and if so, I’ll run with it! Our company, RoL’n Productions, will continue trying to create more opportunities for women in the arts. As an actor, I’ll keep on hustling and see what comes along; it’s a privilege to work, so I don’t take it for granted and stay open to all possibilities, but I’d certainly love to continue exploring characters and stories that are timely and necessary in today’s world.