The Lamron sat down with directors Jason Gonser and writers James Merenda, and Danny Carroll, three of the creative minds behind this semester's VegSOUP production, which will be comprised of three one-act plays.
The Lamron: What made you pick these two plays to be performed?
Jason Gonser: It's the same process as how Renee [Hartz] chose her show. Students submitted plays to potential directors. Renee haggled me into this project because she was originally going to do four shows with another director. Then, that other person backed out so she roped me into doing it. Out of the four plays, she had chosen two of them and in the end, through reading them and working things out, Renee chose [to direct] Truth Therapy. I chose to work on Rain and Cecity.
The Lamron: In terms of writing the plays, did you ever expect them to be placed together in the same show?
Danny Carroll: Not really. No. We talk and collaborate sometimes over ideas, but in the process of writing both shows, we did it completely independently. And I believe...did you write your's for...
James Merenda: Yeah. I already had maybe a fragment or two and then, when they announced that VegSOUP would be doing a student-written work, I had to try to shuffle all my ideas together within a weekend to get a decent working draft to Renee.
DC: But I had Rain written prior to them announcing that they were going to do a student playwright series.
The Lamron: What did you think of the process of getting a play from script to production?
DC: The beautiful thing about this for me is the fact that I had it written. All the work that I have done on this show was done last semester. I have made it a point to give him [Gonser] all control, not even let me on to his consent. So my name's on the play, the words are mine, but that's about it.
JM: I peeked a little bit. I came to second tech and looked at the show, but it was purely as "I wanna see what's going on." It wasn't like "I'm gonna judge you now." I think we actually had to sign a thing that said basically don't interfere in a nice way. It was basically them saying, "We don't want the director and the playwright to be fighting over this because it just hinders the process." And I guess that's good because it reflects, for the most part, what people as playwrights or directors will have to face in the professional world.
JG: Because what we were worried about is that, in the past when we've done student-written works, the playwrights always rewrite their work midway through. It hinders the process because the actors have to learn new parts and new lines. It messes with things.
DC: That's absolutely true. I directed a different play that I had written earlier this semester for the Act One series. There are problems that you don't realize when they're on paper. So there were occasions where I had to edit something or, in one case, I had to add a whole section of dialogue. But it was a lot less stressful to be able to say, "Here's my play" and just hand it off.
The Lamron: How do you [Gonser] feel about having that responsibility to the writers?
JG: Well, I don't want to disappoint them by any means. But, knowing both of them, I think I've done their shows justice. (Laughter). I took it from the approach of any other play that I would have directed. I tried to research what I could on both shows; different interpretations of what I could do with both those scripts. I think it's been successful so far. We'll see how it goes on Thursday.
The Lamron: How do these two plays and Truth Therapy fit with each other? How well do you think they will work as a whole?
DC: I think their merit is the fact that they don't fit together too well, the fact that you're going to get three very different shows. You'll be able to, as bad as it sounds, pass judgement in a way that would be different if the shows followed the exact same theme. I feel like it'll be a good theater-going experience just to have a variety.
JM: The way it runs is the first act is Truth Therapy. Then, the second act is Cecity and Rain. As soon as Truth Therapy is over and Cecity begins, you'll notice within the first minute that one shouldn't be making these connections. They shouldn't be trying to thematically connect the plays. If by the time you're at Rain you're still trying to make these connections, it'll probably drive you crazy.
JG: Which is why the title is Working Title. The three can't make a connection other than that they're student-written works. I think it's a good showcase for the three authors to show the different styles that they have. Each one is very distinct in their writing style.
The Lamron: Is it possible to assign a genre to Working Title as a whole, or is it just defined as the sum of its segments?
JG: I think the three shows really make you question and think, in different areas. In Danny's show, you really have to think about just what the hell is going on. (Laughter). You're going to try and understand but just won't get there. Cecity is more intellectual and is about this woman who is blind and really thinking about the differences between someone who is sighted as opposed to somebody who is not sighted and the struggles that both of them have to overcome in life. And Truth Therapy is, again, this question of what is reality and what isn't.
DC: I guess that sort of ties into all of them because, in Truth Therapy, it's literally which is reality and what is not reality. In Cecity, who's to say whose reality is more correct. And then Rain is what is THIS reality.
JG: Hey we found something.