Recently, Threshold Company Member Jessica Holt had an electronic conversation with Ben Fisher, playwright of Threshold's next show, Footprints in the Applesause. We thought we would reproduce that conversation, unabridged:
Jessica: Hey Ben! I am looking for a little blurb on Footprints -- you got anything like that? What's a one-liner? Do you have anything else you would like to share with the Threshold blog about why you wrote this play?
Ben: "A play about a dead elephant."? Little uninspired, but factual. I think the title itself is figurative so the description should be a little more literal.
Jessica: That works.
Ben: As for why I wrote the play: I do not generally like to comment on the meaning of my plays – not because I want to be mysterious or self-important, but because I believe that the meaning of any piece of art is determined by the listener. I worry that, by commenting too much, I risk undermining that individualized connection.
I also don’t like to comment on my writing because I can never decipher why I write something until after it’s finished. You (Jessica) asked me to write a play about an elephant – so there’s an elephant in this one – but I also did what I always do, which is to write about what I am afraid of. I’m afraid of being so overcome by the weight of the past and the uncertainty of the future that I am paralyzed. I am also afraid that this paralysis will be hysterical to someone watching.
The play is about the comedy of that paralysis. Dudley, a majestic elephant, is dead before the play starts. Rollo and Tabitha, forced (literally) to pick up the pieces, use his memory and the circumstances of his death as cudgels to batter one another. But the play is not about the past. The wondrousness of Dudley and the circus is gone, or may have never existed. The relative dread or optimism about future is subjective. The characters – a man in clown makeup, a woman with a beard - look back and look forward simply because it’s easier than looking at the present. We find it tragic and funny (I hope), because we have all been made to look ridiculous at such a crossroad.
Jessica: This is awesome. Well-said!
Er, do you have a picture of yourself being, um, er, writerly? I am going to post this to the blog tomorrow. I will make it a "conversation" between you and me...
Ben: That's the closest I get to looking writery:
Ben Fisher being "writerly," .....or is it "writery?"
Jessica: I freakin' love it.
We hope you do too.
Come see Footprints in the Applesause Sunday July 26th at the Yerba Buena Gardens Action Theater at 11:50 am.
It will be tragically funny.