Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Five (Plus) Questions with Michael John Garcés

THE CAST: Larry Bates, Cristina Frias, Christian Barillas, Elisa Bocanegra, Tony Sancho.
Now that playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis has your attention with the title of his play, Michael John Garcés, who is directing South Coast Repertory’s production of The Motherf**ker with the Hat, shares a few thoughts about the play and SCR’s production.

Question: Some people can’t get beyond the title. What’s important for them to know about this play?

Michael John Garcés: I think it's a great title, because it lets people know, straight up, that the language is explosive and in-your-face. This is a play about people who are on the edge of really falling apart, and the desperation of their situation is expressed in the way they communicate. That said, this is also a play about people trying to be better human beings: better in their decisions, better to the people they love, better at being responsible. It's a play about addiction, and that affects people's lives and families regardless of background or economic situation. And it's really funny!

THE DIRECTOR:  Michael John Garcés
What gets you really excited about this play and this cast?

MJG: The language is really poetic; by that I don't mean that it is pretty or in rhyme, but that it really sings, and flows naturally, and is both very real and also heightened. Stephen, as a writer, is able to use rough language to make deeply insightful statements about love and the human condition, which is ultimately what great playwrights do. He is also able to tackle important issues—in this case alcoholism and the effects of addiction—in a way that makes for great, engrossing and entertaining storytelling.

Tell us about your work with playwright Stephen Adley Guirgis.

MJG: I have known and admired Stephen for many years. We both came up together in New York in the early ‘90s and worked together quite a bit back then. He acted in a couple of plays of mine (he's also a great performer), and we were both in the same theatre company. I think the connection between director and playwright helps because I have seen and read a lot of his work, and hear it in his voice, and it brings some understanding to how his characters interact and why they talk in the specific ways that they do.

When the actors sat down around a table in December and read through the play for the first time, what did you listen for? And how does that figure into what we’ll eventually see onstage?

MJG: I'm listening for connection. What parts of the play, of their characters, do they really, inherently, connect to? What surprises me in how they approach certain scenes, line or moments? What parts of the play read completely differently than I imagined? And, also, how do the people listening respond?

What do you want audience members to come away with after seeing the play?

MJG: I'm hoping that people are reminded of the need to empathize with those around us, whether they are strangers or members of our own families, who are having a really hard time, who are not able to easily solve their problems, who are not "successful." I'm hoping that the play makes the audience remember that we all have times when we hit bottom, and, though some of us are more able to cope than others, we are all worthy of compassion and love. And I'm hoping people will have had a good time!

How do you kick back after really intense rehearsals for this play?

MJG: After the intensity of rehearsal, I do welcome the commute to Los Angeles. A big part of what I do to unwind is music: mostly, I've found myself listening to jazz, Louis Armstrong and Dexter Gordon sides, things that are upbeat and fun, and funny. I also read a lot, like the new book by Julian Barnes and a book by a Colombian writer named Santiago Gamboa. And, more than anything else, I enjoy time when I can play with my son.

No comments: