5 Questions with Laura Darling
One of the most influential and active members of Capital Region Theater is flexing her muscles this weekend. Laura Darling is directing the World Premiere of her own play “MacWreck,” which takes on the curse of the Scottish play. For centuries, theater lore has attributed bad luck and worse to those who mention the title of Shakespeare’s play centering around the Thane of Cawdor in a theater. Laura Darling has anything but bad luck, and everyone wants her name mentioned in their theater as she is currently booked to follow up her backstage comedy about Mackers, a collaboration with Confetti Stage, with “Bull in a China Shop” to open Schenectady Civic Players season and then “The Half-Life of Marie Curie” by Lauren Gunderson at Albany Civic Theater in November. But first, opening Friday at the Shaker Heritage Society, let’s talk about all things Macbeth. Whoops! Now, I’ve done it.
PW: You’ve acted, directed, written, done lights, costumes, sets… what is it about theater that drives your interest and so much activity?
LD: I think it’s the way you can create a whole world within a world with its own look and feel and rules. The art of storytelling or theatre, or just art in general, is what keeps the world sane. It can create laughter when you feel you can’t feel happy, it can cause emotions to bubble to the surface you forgot you had, and it can unite us and remind us we are all human, even if it means watching something completely inhuman or impossible onstage. Art is where everyday miracles can happen to those who work at it, look for it, and sometimes fake it. I chase that creation at every chance I can get.
PW: What was the impetus for writing “MacWreck,” do you remember the first scene you wrote?
LD: Oh, Gosh. So, ConfettiFest 17 in 2021, the space we were in lost heat. To compensate and not freeze, we brought in a heater, which popped the breakers in the theatre, which was so old, no one knew where the fuses were. I was on lights and ran around until I found newer circuits on a line that hadn’t tripped. They were on the far side of the building, inside a closet with very old and creepy Masonic iconography and props. I had to unplug the Concessions coffee machine and steal every inch of power cable I could to reach it, but I did. Somehow, the door to said closet got shut behind Marissa Reimer and I while we were trying to pull off one of those “everyday miracles.” She pushed and knocked, but by that time, we were 69 + people in a crowded lobby, and no one could hear us. The TANYs adjudicator was in the lobby waiting for the show to begin, and we were at places. We think someone was leaning against the door. We were trapped. With no power, no way to start the show, and no way to get out, we pushed and pulled at the door, and it wouldn’t budge. I looked at Marissa and said, “Man, you can’t write this.” She looked at me and laughed, and said, “You should.” I was eventually able to pry open the door and escape, plug in the extension line, re-wire the light trees, and start the show only 10 minutes after we were supposed to go up. I have heard of some companies getting kicked out for being double booked on their own opening night, companies who have come back and found sets defaced or props stolen, and a whole host of showmances and theatre ghosts, all that add flavor to the realism of MacWreck. This is my love letter to everyone who has ever graced onstage or backstage, sacrificing their time, sanity, and weekends to a hobby that seems to so rarely love you back.
PW: How has it been directing your own work?
LD: So much harder than I thought! I thought as the playwright, I would be best suited to make sure my own vision came to life, but in reality, it’s harder, and I had to disappoint “playwright me” because “Director me” knew that some images moments or lines needed to be sacrificed to have a better show. Luckily, it made it easier to do that since the playwright was always on hand to give approval!
PW: What’s the most memorable stage accident or production problem you’ve had to work through?
LD: While what happened during ConfettiFest was pretty wild, and while I have lived through fainting spells, heat exhaustion, twisted ankles, and illness to be onstage, as well as fires, broken props, making it rain indoors, missed cues, sets collapsing and light cues getting deleted (twice), and don’t forget all the times I had to step in to do lights, costumes or roles with two weeks to even 24 hours before a show – honestly the biggest one for me was while I was in college. I was in “The Maids,” and one of the final shows, I began having a major medical issue during intermission but had to go back onstage. The issue continued, and near the end of the show, quite a lot of blood left my veins involuntarily while onstage – alone- during a 10-page monologue. Luckily, I was playing a crazy murdering maid with a thick costume, and so the weak crazy vibe fit the role… until I started hallucinating due to low blood pressure and the loss. While on stage. During the monologue. I am pretty sure half my brain left my body, but somehow thanks to muscle memory and training, I got through. I got offstage and collapsed, but I made it. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug.
LD: What is a play that changed your life and how?
PW: When I was 6 or 7, my grandfather took me to see Cinderella at the local high school. Looking back, it wasn’t a particularly good production, but I had never seen anything like this. You mean to tell me that people I saw in the halls of school everyday got to stop being a normal person, and got to be these magical people? The fantasy was real? Even if only for a few hours? And ANYONE can do it? Something inside me snapped. I remember I bought a souvenir button of the glass slipper and held it, thinking about it over and over and over again. I buried that button in my closet, trying to make my brain stop repeating it. I was afraid I would never be the same again. And I wasn’t.
The theatre bug bit me that day, and I counted down the years until I was old enough to audition. I studied as many musicals as I could and began reading Shakespeare and classic plays long before I knew what they really were. Somewhere in there were the keys to this magical portal, and I was going to find them. Some days, I think I’m still searching.
“MacWreck” plays 7/14-7/23 at Shaker Heritage Society, with the performance 7/20 offered FREE, sponsored by Stewart’s Shops—tickets: www.confettistage.org or 518-460-1167.