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Monday, December 12, 2011

The Upstage Interview: Jennifer Tarver

Out on a Limb
Upstage and Charlebois Post contributor Sarah Deshaies spoke wiith co-Director Jennifer Tarver about  the National Theatre School production of Edward Albee’s Everything In the Garden. Below is an abridged version edited by Estelle Rosen, CharPo editor-in-chief.

Before we talk about the play, I’m interested to know how co-directing with Susanna Hood came about.

It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for the last few years since we’ve been working on each other’s projects. She’s more dance based. I work as a stage director in both theatre and opera.  

She has come on as a choreographer to projects I’ve been directing. In reverse, in her projects she’s created, I’ve come on as a directorial eye and dramaturgical input. We never had the opportunity to work on a piece together from scratch. 

When NTS asked me to do this play, I called Susanna to see if she’d like to co-direct this play with me.  Working with students gives a lot of freedom in terms of what you can do.  It’s possible to go out on a limb since students are generally receptive to  new approaches and new ideas. 

The realistic portion is very sort of Mad Men era in terms of social status of the characters.

Does the play go out on a limb?

It does. It has a very specific stylistic point of view. It’s 1960s in an upper middle class  suburban neighbourhood. The realistic portion is very sort of Mad Men era in terms of social status of the characters.

What’s interesting is that Albee has a character who is also a narrator.  He’s in the action and in the era where the play is set but he’s also in between the action between the audience and the play itself as a narrator in quite a different reality. Stylistically that was an opportunity to run with how the story is perceived; what lenses are used to look at the action.

The main character is a woman named Jenny who wants to take on what’s called an unsavory occupation in order to keep up with the Joneses so to speak but her husband won’t let her do the job and she finds a way to get around that and conceal it from her neighbours.  Is there a separate narrator?

She’s completely in the action and in  her own world. One of their neighbours, a wealthy bachelor, is a key character who comes in and out of the action in the story. I would say he really guides how he wants us to see the story.

You were mentioning how the design has Mad Men style to it. That must have been fun to work with. How did the cast react; were they excited about the clothing?

They loved it. A few days ago we had the hair day. They were transformed.

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