Today we zone in on Jessica Heidt, new play director extraordinaire, and the woman at the helm of Geetha's Girl in a Box Rough Reading. Jessica built a career on her passion for new and experimental theater, directing and producing countless readings, workshops, and theatrical events throughout the Bay. I spoke with her briefly about the world of possibility--that is, the world of new plays--and here are the words from our conversation:
Can you talk a little about the story of Girl in a Box?
Yes. The story begins with an event that happens in childhood. There are mysterious circumstances around the disappearance of Sally, Ava’s best friend, when they are about 10 years old. The rest of the play follows a lifetime, as we try to return to this event from childhood and figure out what happened. Ava, played by Lauren English, ages throughout the story, and the other two actresses play multiple characters that lead us from scene to scene as the years progress.
I love when actors play multiple characters in one play. Is there an element of fantasy in this story?
Yeah, I think in many ways there are, whether it’s fantasy or dream. There are definitely moments of suspended reality.
Miriam Wolodarski in her show Lavinia at Climate Theatre
Your theater company, Climate Theater, creates a space for experimental performance, and as a director you often work on original plays. Could you talk about what draws you to producing and directing new work?
It’s the sense of possibility, with all of these different types of work. With new plays in general, I love working with writers, and I love being able to help someone realize their vision. As a director and producer in these settings, I can add my own sense of theatricality and story and character, and be part of the burst of these new projects. I find that incredibly exciting. It’s great to have a playwright in the room, like Lauren said, to be able to wrestle big questions.
Orestes 2.0 by Charles Mee at USF
As a producer at Climate, I was able to work with such a wide range of artists—I had composers, people from physical theater, at one point I had a filmmaker—who I loved and respected. I was really excited by the work they were creating, but they didn’t necessarily have a space to do it, so that’s what I was able to give them. And at the same time, because many of the artists I was nurturing were part of a residency program they all got to know each other and they inspired each other’s work. A lot of times they became collaborators, and that was so much fun to watch grow.
Danielle Levin, Patrick Alparone and Michelle Maxson
Man of Rock by Daniel Heath at Climate Theatre
Do you ever begin your process by gathering your favorite artists, say a video artist, choreographer, and actors, and basically start from scratch that way? Or is it necessary to have an idea and then gather people?
As of now, in general, the projects have been one person’s idea and then other people enter as they bring their own collaborators. But I’ve always wanted to do what you’re talking about. Maybe the next one!
Could be interesting. Could be a lot of work.
All photos from Jessica or Jessica's website: www.jessicaheidt.com
Don't miss out on Girl in a Box! It's going to be amazing. If you prefer the Peninsula, you can catch it next Monday, November 28 at Stanford or if San Francisco is more convenient, come Tuesday, November 29 to the Thick House in Potrero Hill. This reading, like all of our Rough Readings is FREE with a suggested $10 donation. Bring a friend, your significant other, your OK Cupid date, or enjoy an evening of theater in solitude (paradox?). More info here.