Today’s entry was originally intended to be an in-depth interview with Artistic Director Farnaz “Yeah Daddy” Mansouri, but recent current events have pushed this lowly Cabbie to take a new course of quasi-journalistic action.
Dear Reader, there are some things that should go into an article that is set to appear in a school-wide publication, especially when said article’s main intention is to get @$$es in seats. The purpose of the Inside Beat section of the Daily Targum is to promote and discuss the diverse cultural opportunities on campus and out in the world. The student newspaper of Rutgers University provides student organizations on campus with a public venue to promote their products, activities, and dance charities.
Which is how it should be. So we extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to the Daily Targum and Inside Beat for your full page spread and putting How I Learned To Drive in the inset above the fold on the front page.
Here are some of things that the Targum missed in its feature; the same feature that was supposed to get people to want to come see How I Learned To Drive, but really only featured some very good photographs, some very good ruminations on acting, and a very large block of text:
Inside Cabaret recently sat down with the cast and crew of How I Learned To Drive and asked them questions about the play, about sex, about Life, The Universe, and Everything. Sadly, no time for chocolate kittens.
Inside Cabaret: Steph, tell us about your character Lil’ Bit.
Steph: Which Lil’ bit? [laughs] As a 29 year old woman-narrator, she’s specifically choosing these moments in her life to talk about. These are the things that she believes have defined her as a person. You need to know about her relationship with Uncle Peck and, in order to understand that, you need to understand her family, her school life, and everything else. The running thread through all of it is Uncle Peck, and her relationship with him varies from love to anger to frustration to this desperate need.
IC: What do you hope college audiences will get out of Lil Bit’s story?
I think they can get so much out of it! The severity of her story isn’t necessarily common, but the coming of age story is everyone’s story. Nobody liked school, and, let’s face it, everybody needs validation and love. And that’s what Lil Bit needs. The play is about moving forward. We all need to learn how to let go, and to keep moving forward. That’s something for college audiences and everybody, across the board.
IC: Marc, what was the hardest part about playing Uncle Peck? How did you overcome those difficulties?
Marc: His emotional restraint. That’s the essence of peck; he holds things back because of his circumstances. The crafting–his alcoholism and his relationship with his niece– that was in the script; it wasn’t too difficult, but learning to have to hold everything back… that was a real challenge.
The way I overcame it was by essentially releasing it, going all the way to the extreme, seeing what it was like for Peck in private. Once I knew that, I knew what my limits were.
IC: Do you think that college audiences can connect with that idea of emotional restraint?
Marc: I hope so. Even though they’re younger, they can be sympathetic to his situation. Restraint isn’t a WWII and baby boomer problem, but more a universal problem. The inability to really display what you’re feeling… they should understand Peck’s need to feel so passionately.
IC: One more question, is your name spelled with a “C” as in classy or “K” as in “kick myself in the mouth?”
Marc: You know, I’ve been going with “C as in classy.” I considered “Kick myself in the mouth” for a while. I went through one of those artistic flings where I considered the K… kind of like Prince or Diddy Dirty Money. (IC may have added that last part)
IC: Boris, in the Inside Beat article, you mention the “mask method” of acting. Do you think that the theory behind the “mask method” connects to our everyday lives?
Boris: Yes, absolutely. We don’t do it consciously. In every situation, in every group of friends, we have a set of actions and reactions and personalities that we wear. What I’m doing in this show is different in that these masks are in brighter colors then what you might wear in everyday life… but it’s obviously a mask.
IC: You play several roles in the show; how do you “put on the mask” to differentiate those characters to the audience?
A lot of it is physical. A lot of it is also the way I speak. I’ve experimented with everything. My hair is different. My costume is a different. Every aspect. That’s something I really wanted to do with each character, a challenge that pushed me through this process.
IC: Matt [Assistant Director], how did you translate the themes of the show into the set design?
Matt: The show is about memories… always remembering the best thing and maybe not the worst. The set is a little bit too realistic: the grass is a little bit too green; the road is too straight. Parts of the memories, though, are falling away. The image is still clear, but somethings off. The movie posters are falling down. There’s an RV, but you’ll have to see the show; I don’t want to spoil anything.
IC: Does the theme of memories and their glossy nature connect to your target audience of college students?
Matt: Our generation is all about reminiscing. It’s all about remembering that better time, back in 3rd grade with Pokemon and [expletive]. You look at the set and it says, “Sunbeam Bread, Kid’s Really Love it!” And the poster is just torn to bits. I mean, I can’t take all the credit for it, [Director] Jordan Gochman had all these ideas coming in.
IC: Amanda, during the play, there is an extended sequence entitled “Men, Sex, and Women.” What’s that all about, and what’s the play saying about female sexuality?
Amanda: In the scene, there are three generations of women all at one table: a young woman, an “experienced” women, and then the third, who is jaded, old, and bitter. She’s the married woman, with one sexual partner, and the strict religious aspect included. Curiosity, Experience, Fidelity & Loyalty all at one table. It covers every single facet of “love.” Love has a very wide spectrum. Depending upon when it hits you in your life and who with, it can change your perception of love.
Grandma has resigned herself. There is no further exploration. Lucy [the mom, the experience woman] drove her car and crashed. Lil Bit is trying to map out her road, her understanding of love.
IC: Where do you think women in the college crowd will see themselves on the spectrum?
The scene–and the play–allows the viewer to think back on their mother or their grandmother or their cousins, and all the women in their lives and consider perhaps that these relationships that they’ve taken for granted have another layer to them, a layer of loss, of fidelity, of newness and experience. The great thing about Vogel’s play is that it gives life to female sexuality. It recognizes that female sexuality has character; it’s not sterile or textbook. There’s so much more… uncertainty to actual sexuality.
IC: The last question is for our director, Jordan Gochman. Why should people come see your play?
Jordan : Because it’s [expletive] wonderful. And because everyone’s gonna see it through a dfiferent eyes. Everyone has a family, everyone has problems in their family, and, whether it’s the sex, alcoholism, the feeling of control, the need to be the teacher… everybody will come away having seen something they really, truly know.
How I Learned To Drive by Paula Vogel opens Friday at 8 pm and continues Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday 7 pm. There are also performances next Friday at 8 pm and Saturday at 3 pm and 8 pm. For reservations, e-mail the show you wish to attend and the number of tickets you require to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more questions and info, click here.