Marissa Skudlarek, BOA 2013′s Anthology Editor, is conducting interviews with the festival’s playwrights, directors, and actors. Her final interview, for the last day of BOA, is with Siobhan Doherty, director of “My Year.”
Siobhan Doherty appeared in BOA 2011 as “Mommy” in Megan Cohen’s “A Three Little Dumplings Adventure,” but this is her first time directing a BOA play. “My Year,” another play from the prolific Ms. Cohen, is a comedy-drama about six women at a surprise party. The pig in the backyard barbecue pit won’t cook, there’s a party crasher in the kitchen, and the birthday girl doesn’t like surprises.
Marissa: What attracted you to the script of “My Year” and made you select it as the play you’d direct for BOA 2013?
Siobhan: It was exciting to me that Megan was able to fit six women, each with their own arc, in a 15-minute play (this achievement is aided by the lovely rapid-fire pace of her dialogue). She doesn’t limit the scope of the play because of its short length. I also love the fact that the play doesn’t center around male/female relationships or family drama. I want people to know that plays with female protagonists can be about life in general, and not necessarily “women’s issues.” They can be gross, existential, awkward, funny, and everything in between.
Lastly, this play had a real personal connection for me, since I celebrated a major birthday myself during the rehearsal process. I think birthdays tend to be a time of personal reflection and serious yearning for release and change. I have had some various frustrations this year, which is clearly also the case for the main character of the play.
Marissa: You and Megan also happen to be housemates—what’s it been like to live with the person whose work you’re directing?
Siobhan: Wonderful. We’re both so busy that we don’t step on each other’s toes. It is extremely convenient to meet up. We also get the luxury of throwing out quick ideas and questions during casual path-crossing in the apartment. We also live above Zante’s Indian Pizza, so it’s a great excuse to indulge in that.
Marissa: Did the script change at all during rehearsals? (Did Megan come knocking on your door with rewrites at 2 AM?)
Siobhan: Megan sat in on one very early rehearsal, so she could hear the words from these particular actresses, and make a few small adjustments to let their voices shine. She also tightened some jokes and scene transitions since her original play was written in a 48-hour play festival. (48 hours!) She gave us the revised script two weeks later, and that was it.
Marissa: What has been the most wonderful discovery and most frustrating challenge in directing “My Year”?
Siobhan: Getting the cast to really connect and respond between the lines was a great turning point for the play, and so was learning that sometimes you can get the audience to howl with the characters at the end! The most frustrating challenge was getting seven freelance theatre artists in one room at the SAME TIME. Our schedules are all glorious (and horrifying) mosaics that can fluctuate at any moment. Instead of “Every day I’m hustling” I’m pretty sure my life’s anthem is: “Every day I’m scheduling.”
Marissa: “My Year” takes place at a birthday barbecue, and I know from personal experience that you and Megan throw great parties in real life. Got any party-planning tips for us? Do you think there’s a connection between being a good party host and being a good director?
Siobhan: Tips: Don’t throw parties too often. You’ll lose specialness. But throw them often enough so that people remember how wonderful your last one was, and you can maintain momentum. Once every 2-3 months is best.
Theme, theme, theme. (Our next one is a surrealist ball to celebrate the start of 13 Pennies, Megan’s ghost project.) Always have something unusual and interactive: e.g. a pinata, or an Easter egg hunt with predictions inside. Having a ride-able dinosaur is a big plus.
Being a hostess is like being a director in that you have to sense moods, and be able to turn the tide in another direction if need be.
Marissa: What do you hope the audience will get out of “”My Year”?
Siobhan: I think “My Year” is chock full of interesting themes: the role of friendships, the perception of time, the desire for escape, our dreams/expectations, connection/ disconnection, the struggle for self-acceptance, growing older, etc. If the audience picks up on a few of those in between laughs, I’ll be happy. I also hope they leave thinking that they should give themselves permission to howl at the moon if they feel like it. I think we could all stand to vent our inevitable human frustration at the stars a little more. And if we do it together, even better.
Marissa: You’re also acting in Program 1 of BOA (as Sylvia Plath in “Write Dirty to Me”)—what’s it been like to wear two different hats this year? Do you think your background as an actor affected the approach that you took to directing “My Year”?
Siobhan: Wearing two different hats has been very fun (minus the crazy schedule part). I think my approach to directing is very actor-centric. I tried to use language that was active and motivation-based, since it is always difficult to get a direction like “have more energy” without a reason behind it. You can usually get a lot more out of an actor if you say something like “let the excitement of your idea shine through more.” It will also hopefully be more specific to who they are.
Marissa: What’s up next for you?
Siobhan: I am (a small) part of Megan’s transmedia haunting project, “13 Pennies.” Get your smartphone haunted by a ghost during the month of October! Sign up at www.betterthantelevision.com.
Marissa: Siobhan, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me about “My Year”! You never fail to impress me as a performer, a party hostess, and now as a director—I think it really is your year.
“My Year” plays its final performance tonight, October 5, as part of Program 2 of BOA 2013, at Tides Theatre.