Meet THE RESTING PLACE Cast: Wiley Naman Strasser

Samuel Levit
Behind the Scenes
Oct 26, 2018

Wiley shares what it was like working with Ashlin, his favorite pieces of writing in the play, and how he built his multi-layered performance.

Ashlin took inspiration from many places writing this play: the news; poetry; the works of a Canadian Landscape painter; and ancient Greek tragedy. How have these inspirations affected your process?

I love poetry. At the end of our workshop week we all brought in a poem that either we thought Travis would have wanted read, or that we felt belonged in or echoed the world of the play. I found that really grounding and moving. Ashlin's inspiration from Greek tragedy has also helped me understand the context and scale of this play. I played Haemon in a production of Antigone at Cutting Ball some years ago, so I'm definitely thinking back to that as well as the messenger's monologue at the end of the play. Lastly, I've been spending some time with testimonies from trauma survivors - specifically rape, school shootings and suicide.

Roneet Aliza Rahamim, Wiley, Elissa Beth Stebbins, and Phil Wong in Shotgun Players' production of Kiss (2018). Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Ashlin worked so hard to develop this script with the entire team. What was it like to have him in the room while you were working?

It was great working with Ashlin as this script came into the version that we perform throughout the run. As often is the case when I find myself working on a new play, I got to ask a lot of questions and got really nit picky about when and why my character is using one word over another, using a contraction verses not, hyphen verses a comma, etc. Ashlin was super generous and open through all that, and I've gotten to try things, make sense of them in my mouth and in my body, while also gleaning the backstory in Ashlin's mind that's not on the pages of this script.

Wiley, at around nine, reading in a field.

What is your favorite line in THE RESTING PLACE?

One of my favorite lines from this play is "The windows were all wide open." But I have a lot of favorite lines from this play. I find the references to nature and in this play really hopeful and idyllic. "The canoe trips, the hikes with Aunt Jo at Pictured Rocks, the Mount Snowdown trip - all the birds, botany," "Zion in his white Civic," "Lake of the Clouds in the U.P." I also love what Annie says about fighting: "Sometimes when people actually care about something, they fight about it - the fight like hell about it - and they fight for it - they fight tooth and nail and they fucking bleed for it because they care so much." Also Angela's Pop Tart monologue. Bittersweetly, and also similarly to other new work processes I've had, some of my favorite language got cut. While it's sad to see it go, I understand the necessity of streamlining and as I said before, I feel lucky for that extra glimpse into the playwright's brain and conception of the world of the play. One piece of language that bit the dust that I'm still clinging to is "The audio is drill-pressed into me."

Samuel Levit

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