What was your favorite moment from Escaped Alone process (workshop/rehearsal/recording)? What was the most challenging part of the
In many ways, the workshop was the most enjoyable time working on Escaped
Alone, if for no other reason than that we could all be in the same room, day
after day, sharing food and hugs, and closely reading and rereading the text,
exploring this remarkable play.
Then again, the time recording was an oasis in the desert of pandemic-
sheltering. Initially, the April opening was postponed until June, then until
August. For a time, it looked like we could have a reduced run of a socially-
distanced outdoor performance. Our first recording session was at Fort
Mason, in an outdoor area we thought would be sheltered from the wind, but
we soon learned there are no wind-free outdoor spaces at Fort Mason! So, we
started again in Jake’s backyard in Richmond, where it was a thrill to be
working with other people after five months of only working via Zoom. I am
very grateful that the Magic found a way to make this happen.
What is your character’s best quality? What is their worst quality?
It’s not easy being Lena—not easy for Lena that is. She struggles with
depression, but Churchill wisely observes that this is not a steady state: “It just
drops away, you wake up one morning, and it’s all right… like a different
world.” Lena is fiercely protective of her friends, doing her best to stop conflict
in its tracks, and mindful of not offending, protesting put-down jokes and
standing up for eagles who can’t help what they may have come to symbolize.
Had you worked on Caryl Churchill before this? How did that affect your relationship to the play?
In March 2009, I read an article in The Nation, by Tony Kushner and Alisa
Solomon about Caryl Churchill’s play “Seven Jewish Children” and decided I
wanted to produce it in the Bay Area. Word for Word’s Patricia Silver and I
enlisted Hal Gelb to adapt the ‘script’, which reads like free verse, inferring
characters and assigning lines. We paired it with Israel Horovitz’s What Good
Fences Make and performed it that November for two nights, one at Z Space
and the other at Shotgun Players, followed by a moderated discussion.
I have loved Churchill’s work, am particularly intrigued by some of the later
plays, and—always on the lookout for roles for older women—read Escaped
Alone when it first came out and even thought about producing it. I was
thrilled when I saw it in the Magic Theatre’s season listings and am forever
grateful to Loretta for casting me.
How do you describe this play to friends? What do you think Escaped Alone says to this moment?
Since the beginning, I’ve been summarizing the play to friends as “tea and
catastrophe,” and I see it as ever-more-timely as each month of this terrible
year brings one calamity after another—albeit not as hyperbolic as Mrs. J’s
litany of horrors. The play, like many of our lives right now, juxtaposes what is
going on all around us—disease, wildfires, hurricanes, economic disruption
and impoverishment—with the routines of everyday life, carrying on with what
can stay the same as the world changes in dramatic and unpredictable ways.
Have you ever worked on a radio play before?
Yes, but not for decades. I directed and performed in a radio version of
Sylvia Plath’s Three Women, which aired on KPFA in the 1970s. I don’t know
if she ever wrote another play, but that one would definitely get a failing grade
on the Bechdel test on all criteria. Not only do the three women talk almost
exclusively about a man, they don’t even have names: they are the Wife, the
Mistress, and the Secretary. I have nothing to say in my defense.