Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Talking With the Director and Playwright About "Future Thinking"

Heidi Dippold, Jud Willford, director Lila Neugebauer, Arye Gross, Virginia Vale, Enver Gjokaj and playwright Eliza Clark on the first day of rehearsal for Future Thinking.
What happens when playwright Eliza Clark and director Lila Neugebauer get together? Right now, they talk (with laughter, deep thoughts and a shared vision) about the upcoming world premiere of Clark’s Future Thinking. The play follows the story of pet photographer, Peter, who is an obsessed stalker-fan of Chiara, the young star of a hugely popular fantasy TV show.

What’s the play about?

ELIZA CLARK: I was a child actor, so I’ve always been interested in writing a story about that world, but it was hard for me to access it from the inside. I needed to approach the story through an “outsider” like Peter (Arye Gross) so that I could write about some of my own experiences. However, I am not Chiara and my mother is nothing like Crystal! (laughs)

I started writing it after I went to Comic Con because I found the world of fandom so interesting: the idea of escapism, fantasy and feeling like you’re part of something that you’re really not. The play is about fantasy, expectations and the idea that sometimes we believe that we’re going to live a life at some future point that looks nothing like the life we live now. It’s also about parents and children, like the mother and daughter [Crystal and Chiara]. These are two people who have lived together, have been each other’s best friend and only touchstone, but in some ways, they don’t know each other at all.

LILA NEUGEBAUER: Future Thinking also is about the ways we attempt to get our needs met—often through people who function as surrogates. It’s about what happens when the people we rely on most to fulfill our needs are people with whom we’re not really connecting or communicating authentically.

How has the play been developed?

EC: It has been great to work on it through the Pacific Playwrights Festival and a weeklong in-house workshop [at SCR]. The biggest benefit for me has been working with Lila over time on Future Thinking. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with some of the actors who are now in the production.

Tell us about humor in the play.

LN: Eli and I have known each since we were 18 and have been working on plays together since 2005. (Don’t tell anyone, but I once acted in a play that Eli wrote and directed at the New York Fringe Festival!) Her particular comic mode is singular and idiosyncratic: think high-stakes screwball comedy that’s totally grounded in character psychology.

EC: The humor comes from the fact that all these characters take themselves so seriously. I hope that the play will be gritty, real, dark and funny throughout. There’s nobody better to make that happen than Lila; I think she understands my tone better than anyone I’ve worked with.

What’s the take-away for audiences after they see Future Thinking?

LN: Call your kid, call your parent and have an honest conversation about who you are now—not who you both were in those formative childhood years. Chiara is a kid who has both grown up much too quickly, had to be a kind of adult professional from a very early age, but also hasn’t grown up at all. She and her mother are grappling with roles they’ve each played—for and with one another—since early on; they’re struggling to change and to more authentically relate in the face of long-ingrained patterns and dynamics.

Future Thinking run March 25-April 24, 2016, on the Segerstrom Stage.

Learn more and purchase tickets.

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