Category: Anne Kauffman

Interview with director Anne Kauffman

Posted January 4, 2012 - 10:53am

Walter Bilderback: It's great to have you back at the Wilma. You've been busy since you were here last, and have been gathering great reviews for your work. You're working with Mimi Lien, who designed Becky Shaw, again on the set design: what challenges did Body Awareness pose design-wise? What does Mimi bring to the table?

Anne Kauffman:
I'm THRILLED to be back at the Wilma again and so happy that Mimi is once again collaborating with me. I love working with Mimi because she and I are both interested in theatricalizing, or perhaps abstracting realism. We had a very interesting process on Body Awareness. Since the playwright tells us in the script that all three spaces exist simultaneously, Mimi and I asked ourselves "why" and "what does it mean?" We went through a couple of ideas where we threw out the directive from the playwright, and then found our way back to it. We discovered as we started to dig in that as the play progresses, the characters are like bees bringing experience and knowledge from one space, and sort of pollinating as we watch them traverse and live in each location, we watch them bring work home to the kitchen, or the bedroom, and conversely what happens in the bedroom, makes its way back to

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Interview with Director Anne Kauffman

Posted December 10, 2009 - 3:25pm

What are some of the elements of Becky Shaw that drew you to it?
I find the characters in Becky Shaw incredibly delightful and extremely slippery. Each one, in their own way, is reprehensible but impossible to dismiss. One of the first things I look for in a play are characters who are complex and contradictory, characters whose intentions are not easily defined. And, these characters are full of contradictions, they're mysterious and brash and vulnerable and outrageous. Their desires and demands and philosophies drive the plot instead of the plot driving them, and for me, that's thrilling theater. 

You mentioned both dioramas and paper dolls as being inspirations for the set design you worked to create with Mimi Lien--how do these things inform the world of Becky Shaw that you're creating?
Gina's inspiration for this play are 19th century novels such as Vanity Fair. These are novels about women and class, and I was trying to remember how, as a child, I was introduced to class, and how we recognize class in the United States. In our country, class is mostly defined by the haves and the have nots. Yes, 'royalty' of sorts does exist in this country, but really, it's driven mostly by economics and access. So, I was thinking a lot about accoutrements rather than blood-lines. In a way, stuff is the most visible sign of economic status in this country. We all start out naked and adorn ourselves, which is where the paper doll idea came from. The diorama is an extension of the paper doll idea in a way. I was very drawn to a permanent exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum when I was a child. There was a room that had tiny dioramas of drawing rooms from different Western European countries from 17th to the 20th century. These drawing rooms were furnished according to a particular socio-economic reality. The boxes were all the same, but the way they were adorned differed drastically and I was absolutely mesmerized by the sumptuousness or blandness of each environment. The dioramas were behind glass and there was a brass bar at about ankle height for small children to stand on to peer in. I could never get enough of that exhibit, I wanted to climb inside the worlds and live there, but was always kept at arms length from the rooms due to the barrier of glass and the labels with the relevant information about a particular room placed beneath the scene. I like this idea for Becky Shaw; I was intrigued by the idea that we might observe the unfolding of this drama inside categorized rooms as though it were a kind of social experiment.

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