Monday, March 03, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 642: Renee Philippi


 
Renee Philippi

Hometown: Flint, Michigan

Current Town: New York, NY

Q:  Tell me about Alone in Triptych.

A:  Alone in Triptych was written as a reaction to the Ohio kidnappings and the acts that Ariel Castro committed against the three young women. It is not a retelling of that story. More, it is about when terror befalls the innocent and is a subtle quandary of abuse. The three characters in Alone in Triptych are each struggling to have a relationship. Remi with his friend’s 12-year old daughter; he has kidnapped her so that she can live her life alone free of other people. Lori is trying desperately to make her relationship with her abusive husband work. Leeann’s relationship seems ideal, until she discovers that her partner has raped a teen-age girl.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Extraordinary Extremities, which was seen last June at Here and titled at that time Geppetto, will open Off-Broadway at Soho Playhouse Friday, April 4th. Extraordinary Extremities was inspired by a NPR story on Hugh Herr; the biomedical engineer whose legs were amputated after a climbing accident and who now designs technologically advanced artificial limbs. Geppetto (the puppeteer and puppet-maker) has recently lost his wife and performing partner, the other half of the Mythic Puppet Theater, a company dedicated to adapting classic Greek myth. The play centers around Geppetto attempting to perform, solo for the first time, the couple’s signature piece based on the grand love story of Perseus, who slays a sea monster to save his beloved Andromeda. Extraordinary Extremities is a tale of resilience, adaptation and ingenuity. I am the writer and director of the Extraordinary Extremities.

We are also working on Grey Green Canals and will preview the show fall 2014. Grey Green Canals is about water and women: each being a metaphor for the other: flowing, connecting, giving life.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  My Grandparents lived next door to my Mother. As a child and even as a teenager, I spent most afternoon with my Grandmother, listening to her tell stories: from the rattle snake in the linen closet to standing in the ocean bleeding, with her first menstruation, believing she would die.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I would change accessibility. I feel sometimes that America is a land of cultural deprivation. People lack access to diverse well-done theatre.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Ingmar Bergman, Peter Brook, William Kentridge, Thomas Mann, Pina Bausch and on and on….

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Poetic, visual, mythic – Ingmar Bergman wrote in his autobiography Laterna Magica, in describing what he did while his Father preached: "I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the colored sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire — angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans." That kind of theatre!

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  I would advise: Believe in yourself! Be the student! Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Don’t miss Concrete Temple Theatre’s Alone in Triptych: “Emotional, vivid and hauntingly lyrical, this exploration of isolation and connection promises to be an evening of intense, intimate revelations.”

Thursday, March 13th - Sunday, March 30th at HERE. For tickets: http://here.org/shows/detail/1405


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