When I took my seat in open space for Outside Providence, I had no idea what to expect. I had heard some rumors that it was about a writer, and had deep messages, thought-provoking, blah blah blah- I was just stoked to see the play. So as the lights dimmed and the audience hushed, my mind was totally open and incredibly unprepared for what I was not only about to see, but also experience.
I gotta say, it’s been ages since I’ve seen such an honest, witty, wild, and beautiful cathartic production. Everything appeared effortless, just as though as the main character Marshall thought of it, the stage captured it. Here’s the story (well, one of them): Marshall is a struggling writer who hasn’t had anything published since his wife died and he is constantly struggling with letting her go, as well as his mother, and his father. Meanwhile his fictional friend Cain, who he is trying to write a story about, takes him through his memories to find closure and to sort his shit out. Of course we can’t forget Aunt, who continuously “walks the line of fiction and reality”, storming in and out of scenes with the utmost enthusiasm. The play was thoroughly enjoyable; wonderfully acted, artistically directed and sincerely written.
I caught up with the playwright, Andy Clarke after the show and also chatted with the director Amy Surratt to get their take on what it was like work-shopping this piece. The play was in its early stages September of last year, and has gone through twelve full drafts since. “In the original draft, everything was chronological,” Andy informed me, which was hard to imagine considering how intriguing the scattered structure was when I saw it. When I asked him about his process for getting to where the play is now, he relayed to me that nothing from the original sketchings of the play made it into this cut: “The process for me was essentially teaching myself how to write.” Apparently it worked; I mean he did get a play out of it.
After speaking with Amy, I learned that they’d only had three weeks of rehearsal- which is absurd considering the product. The result of the hard work from all ends resulted in a play with blurred lines of reality, and I wanted to know more about this ambiguity. Amy explained to me about how the piece captures memory, and how sometimes we don’t always remember exactly what the person said, or where we were, “but how they were wearing a light blue shirt.” These details are what made the production what it was. Letting go of concreteness, we are free to play! And according to Andy, “one of the most important things was making sure it was always unclear how much was in [Marshall’s] head and how much wasn’t.” After going through the script and color coding which parts were real, which were dreams, and which were merely imagined, Amy told me that eventually all these colors started blending together, and it didn’t matter where in reality the scene took place- at which point she turned to me and quoted my favorite line from the play, “You don’t have to understand, some things just are.”
Image credit: Piccsy.com