Review Fix chats with playwright Sean DeMers about his his thought-provoking new play, “Faculty Portrait.”
About the Production:
Prime Number Productions – as part of the 3B Development series at IRT Theatre presents a powerful new play by Sean David DeMers about a school shooting. Faculty Portrait; running March 3 – 23, 2020.
A year after a school shooting claimed the life of his wife, Mr. Y finds himself teaching in the same classroom where the tragedy occurred. As he is interviewed for the school yearbook, Mr. Y and his students revisit the memories of life before and after the shooting. Faculty Portrait examines the strength it takes to face tragedy and pick up the pieces for the good of the community.
This production is directed by Ariel Francoeur and features a cast that includes Phoebe Holden, Julie Thaxter-Gourlay, Russ Cusick, Shammah Speed Waller, Molly Schenkenberger, and Jessica Nesi.
At IRT theatre, 154 Christopher Street; NYC #3B (third floor). Tickets $15 Tickets Available February 1.
Review Fix: What was your inspiration behind this project?
Sean DeMers: In 2013, there was an article about Newtown and how the community was still healing a year after the Sandy Hook murders. It was heartbreaking. I had just finished my first semester of Graduate School at the University of Iowa and on the first day of teacher orientation, my supervisor told us we were teaching in Van Allen Hall which was were an infamous shooting had taken place. For the rest of the semester I was constantly thinking of how to protect myself and where the exits were–how traumatized I was by simply hearing the story–and when I read the article I was absolutely horrified. How could anyone find the strength to carry on after such a tragedy? By the end of my first year, it became clear that my writing was focusing on history so when I turned to the challenge of a contemporary issue there was really only one problem on my mind.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
DeMers: As a playwright, I tend to think about a question, theme, story for some time before drafting. There are sometimes scenes or thoughts that are written down, but I like to have a clear story and ending–even if that ending changes while writing–before I begin. There’s something about having that full draft complete that helps me move forward through the editing process.
Review Fix: What did you learn/are learning about yourself through this process/production?
DeMers: My grandmother, Helen, lived to be a hundred years old and one of my favorite memories is taking her to vote in 2006 during the midterm election. We talked about voting history, our family, the day, but the most exciting result was a couple of years later when she called me out of the blue to talk about Barack Obama–how thrilled she was to have lived to witness such a historic event. In short, I’m learning to enjoy the experience of the theatrical process–which, as a playwright and producer, can sometimes deal a series of crushing blows–but these harbingers are often balanced with true joy and surprise and in the end these conflicts create a wonderful harmony.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this for the future?
DeMers: Simply to share the play and hope that it means as much to others as it has to me.
Review Fix: What’s next?
DeMers: Honestly, I haven’t thought that far ahead. There are projects swirling–a musical, a history play, a vacation–but for now they remain in the ether.