Artistic Director Marc Masterston is directing the world premiere of Going to a Place where you Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter (Julianne Argyros Stage, March 6-27, 2016). Her ability with dialogue caught his eye in the course of reading plays to set the season’s lineup. “I read a lot of plays,” he laughs. We sat down with Masterson to find out more about this new work.
What do you learn about the playwright when you start reading a play?
The first thing that jumps out to me is the writer’s skill with dialogue. Before I know the story or the characters, I read dialogue and respond to the writer’s skill. Sometimes I am caught by an economy of words or dialogue, sometimes it’s a sense of humor and sometimes it’s lyrical.
What struck me first about Going to a Place was the sense that “I’m in the hands of a writer who has this vivid idea of who these people are and is able to bring them to life for me in a very short span of time.”
Then I start looking at character—are the people I meet more interesting to me or does my interest in them wane? Bekah’s people got very interesting for me, very fast. Of course, there were a lot of things about them that I didn’t understand at first, which is part of her skill: she keeps you guessing a little bit. I enjoyed that.
There used to be a phrase to describe plays that audiences seemed to really like: “positive-affirmative.” And that describesGoing to a Place where you Already Are. It is affirmative of who we are and what we know and what we don’t know, about what faith is, what life means and what it means to have a lifelong relationship with a partner whom you think you know better than anyone else in the world and then you find out you don’t know them at all because they believe in something completely different than what you always thought they did. The question that this play asks of its characters is, “Who are you?”
How would you describe Brunstetter’s voice as a playwright?
Funny, warm and whimsical. Bekah pulled me in with her skill as a writer. In the opening scene, she introduces us to an older couple, Rebecca and Joe, who are in a church. Within the first two pages of the script, I found them to be interesting and funny people in an odd situation. Obviously, there’s much more to the play, but that was a pretty good start.
Tell us about the cast.
This is a great cast! It features two SCR favorites, Hal Landon Jr. and Linda Gehringer. For long-time SCR audiences, this is a chance to see these two actors team up for the very first time. Rebecca Mozo, who has done a lot of work here in recent years, is cast as their granddaughter. The two other actors (Stephen Ellis and Christopher Thornton) have been with this play through readings in its development process, so everyone is bringing a lot to this production.
What are some of the steps that new script goes through at SCR?
Each play developed here goes through its own process, but the 18-month path for Going to a Place has included NewSCRipts and Pacific Playwrights Festival readings, in-house readings and workshops, conversations and discussions. Bekah is a great listener and through her own organic process as a writer, she has done a lot of detail and character work that has made this play more deep and rich.
What’s the 15-second sound bite for this play?
This is a smart, warm and funny play about faith.
Reprinted with permission from South Coast Repertory.