|Five Mile Lake Playwright Rachel Bonds and Director Daniella Topol|
As a director, what sparked your interest when approaching Five Mile Lake?
Daniella Topol: I love the way Five Mile Lake captures the depth and complexity of human relationships and intimacy with honesty and humor. The characters speak in casual and familiar ways, but carry longing and grief underneath. This darkness slowly burbles up in surprising and moving ways. Rachel's dialogue has a particular rhythm and it is thrilling to orchestrate this musicality while calibrating the emotional terrain. The rehearsal process has been joyful, muscular, exhausting, moving and surprising. And the actors have been fearless in navigating the complexity of this emotional terrain.
Coming from a small town yourself, did you find inspiration from your own personal experiences while writing Five Mile Lake?
Rachel Bonds: Yes. I'm from a tiny, very beautiful place in Tennessee. It was a lovely place to grow up, in many ways, but ultimately it wasn't a place I could stay. I still find it strange that sometimes I feel more at home in Brooklyn now. Though I feel the pull back to that tiny place at times, which is probably linked to nostalgia, to missing childhood and my dad and the woods behind our house.
In Five Mile Lake, the characters all seem to be dealing with the choices they’ve made and the paths their lives are set on. How do you believe this translates into the relationships between the characters?
Topol: In the first scene, Mary asks Jamie if he ever feels claustrophobic. He doesn't, he answers, because he lives on a giant lake, which is big enough for him. This causes Mary to roll her eyes and proclaim that they are very different people. This question of similarity and difference continues to appear throughout the play as an important and resonant theme. The characters who find themselves grappling with similar existential questions share an intimacy and understanding.
Bonds: All the characters are facing the choices they've made—they're all at separate "crossroads" moments. The characters are looking back at what they've done and what they're proud of—and ahead to the various roads they've paved. And now there is this question, now, of "was this the right road to take?" So, then there's this new conflict between the characters, as some want to move ahead, some want to turn back, some want to take a different road entirely and some are stuck in place—unable to really go forward or back. And so tension is created between them.
The play looks at two sets of people, those who have stayed and those who have left. How do you think leaving your hometown affects you as a person?
Topol: I grew up outside of Washington, D.C. and first left home to go to Carnegie Mellon to study theatre. Ironically, both of my parents grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Carnegie Mellon as well (not in the theatre program). So, by going away to school, I was actually connecting more deeply to my parents' roots. This taught me that leaving home can sometime mean that you are actually coming home. My next big move was to go to New York City where I still live today. NYC has expanded my worldview and my understanding of humanity and myself. But I return to where I grew up quite often and feel that it gives me great comfort to have close relationships with family members and old friends who still live there.
Bonds: I don't spend much time thinking that I should have stayed in the place I grew up—I couldn't personally have really grown as a person or a writer if I had. But I do miss it. I do feel the pull back there sometimes, even though I know my home is really in the city now. I think leaving has made me feel brave and guilty and melancholy—and it's given me something to write about.
Hear them talk more about the play in this video.
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