Review Fix chats with “The Trade Federation: Or, Let’s Explore Globalization Through the Star Wars Prequels” director Allen MacLeod, who discusses how he got involved with the projection and why he believes it works on stage, as well as why Star Wars has endured for so long.
For more on the production, click here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Allen MacLeod: I first encountered this piece at a workshop performance Andy was doing as part of his MFA studies at Columbia. This was immediately after the 2016 Presidential election — I think December of that year — so I found myself in a number of pretty significant slumps. The one most closely related to my artistic endeavors was this: “Oh, jeez, I’m a liberal guy making liberal theatre for liberals in a liberal city. What good can I possibly do here?” Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly excited to see a political play at that point. But man, if this show didn’t immediately jerk me out of that doldrum. This was a play- a) written before the election and b) focused on challenging liberal-minded people complacent in their ideology/lifestyle. I saw in this piece an actionable political message that wouldn’t preach to the choir in New York, but rather would push on the limits of what progressives felt were contemporary issues. So I knew a production of this show was something I was interested in pursuing.
Review Fix: Why do you think Star Wars has endured so long?
MacLeod: A New Hope shifted the zeitgeist when it came out in 1977. There just hadn’t been a film like it, and it it opened up a new world of possibilities for science fiction filmmaking. I think we can’t underestimate the lasting power of staking that claim first in the minds of moviegoers. That, and the fact that the Star Wars films are awesome movies (you can disagree about the prequels; I will evangelize the merits of The Last Jedi). That and the amazing lightsaber battles, which we have beautifully replicated here with the help of our phenomenal fight choreographer/lightsaber expert Joe DiNozzi.
Review Fix: What is your creative process?
MacLeod: For a new play, I think it’s crucial to start from the text. It informs every aspect of production — casting, the set, costuming, props. We knew the script had a scrappy feel to it that purposefully contrasts with the polished, futuristic aesthetic of the Star Wars films, and we wanted to make sure that we echoed that in the design (thus the more formal, spaceship-like set and “realistic” costumes). Andy is great at being very specific in his stage directions, so the credit for the big, standout moments goes mainly to him; that said, this is also a comedy, and I had a lot of fun building comedic moments with the actors in rehearsals. That’s the brilliance of rehearsing a comedy — so much of it comes from having the right people in the right mindset working together to make something funny, and we certainly found those folks.
Review Fix: What did you learn/are learning about yourself through this process?
MacLeod: I’ve certainly learned a ton as a producer, namely that you absolutely can’t do it alone. I’ve been lucky to receive help and support in this endeavor from a number of sources, and I can’t express how thankful I am to them. It can be lonely as a producer — especially when you’re also directing — and you are only as strong as your team!
Review Fix: What was the casting process like?
MacLeod: We did the real thing: we had auditions and saw a ton of people. Because many of the characters in this play are purposefully distinct form their movie counterparts, we had a lot of leeway in who could fit what part. It was a process of several days, even weeks, to make sure we saw enough people that we had good options for whom we could pair. And then, of course, we had to get them to say “yes!”
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this piece for the future?
MacLeod: We’re hoping to be able to move this in a scaled-down format to another space somewhere in the city. A set and lighting package are nice, but ultimately this show just needs the costumes, the props, a projector, and (of course) our wonderful actors. So the goal will be to do this as much as we can in as many places as we can, pending, of course, a go-ahead from the actors and the union.
Review Fix: What’s next?
MacLeod: Besides a lot of sleep, I’m developing several scripts — plays and musicals — for 2020. Keep an eye out!
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
MacLeod: This is entirely unrelated to this show, but yesterday was National Voter Registration Day. PLEASE, if you haven’t already, register. Our planet is at stake. And our democracy. And if you have already registered, I encourage you to check your registration status. Malicious actors are stripping voter roles every month, and we need to be vigilant. Also, get involved! There are extraordinary injustices happening across the globe at any given moment, but there are organizations out there fighting each and every one of them. They need you. And joining will change your life for the better, I guarantee it. Don’t just be angry; take action!