5 Questions with Theresa Rebeck
Actors and directors in rehearsal spend a great deal of time investigating the meaning of words. Words revealing or hiding character and the words telling the story that we’re all enjoying the great opportunity to be sharing with our audience. Those words come from the playwright, and after many years of loving the play we are currently working on, “Dig” at Sand Lake Center for the Arts, running from 4/21-4/30, I was able to ask our playwright, the great Theresa Rebeck, 5 Questions about her words.
Theresa Rebeck has had an unparalleled career in the theater, writing dozens of plays over the past 30 years that have played Broadway, Off-Broadway, in the West End, and at the finest regional theaters across the country, garnering multiple awards. Her plays that have appeared on Broadway are “Bernhardt/Hamlet, starring Janet McTeer, “Dead Accounts” starring Katie Holmes, “Seminar” starring Alan Rickman and “Mauritius” starring F. Murray Abraham.
PW: You are widely known as the most Broadway-produced woman playwright today, but people might not know of your association with Dorset Theatre Festival, where “Dig” had its World Premiere. I’ve seen your productions of “Downstairs,” “The Way of the World,” and “Thirst”…can you talk about how you started at DTF and what you love about that theater?
TR: Almost 20 years ago, my husband and I took our savings and bought a little house in Dorset. We had an 8-year-old and a 1-year-old, and it was really wonderful to be able to get us all out of the city. We looked at a lot of small towns, and Dorset appealed to us because it is up in the mountains and close to a lot of things to do–hiking, a great bookstore, a great art center, and a couple of theaters. I had hoped to work at the Dorset Theatre, but that actually took a little while. Then when Dina Janis was invited to be their artistic director, I was invited in. I had been holding a small writer’s colony out at my tiny house every spring with the Lark development theater. One thing led to another.
I love that theater because the theater itself is a great size. It has those really elegant dimensions of a Broadway stage but not the huge house, so everybody gets a good seat. And even though they have a tight budget, they are brilliant at making the sets look amazing. Honestly, it is like going to Broadway when you step into that theater.
PW: What was the impetus behind writing “Dig”?
TR: Well, I had been reading about the terrible tragedy that befalls some people when they lose a child through a dreadful accident, and I began to wonder how a person could continue after that. So because of the question of the play, can a person be brought back? The play is very much about mercy.
PW: There are strong themes in “Dig” of women being controlled and dominated by men. Do you consider yourself a political writer?
TR: I am a political writer, but I’m not a polemicist. I do think that writers who work the truth about the world they live in are, in fact, political writers. You look at the vast achievements of August Wilson; those are not particularly didactic plays, but just by setting the plays in a black world, which reveals the problems of living in a racist society without getting preachy about it; I find that to be very political.
PW: What is a play that changed your life?
TR: The Crucible.
PW: What’s new that you are working on that we can see soon?
TR: Oh, I can’t talk about most of it, as it gums up the unfinished work if you talk about it too openly before you’re ready. But I do have a play going to Broadway in October starring Danny DeVito; it’s called “I Need That.”
“Dig” runs 4/21-4/30 at Sand Lake Center for the Arts as a co-production between Circle Theatre Players and Harbinger. Tickets: www.slca-ctp.org