Director SHIRLEY JO FINNEY discusses the staging of Citizen: An American Lyric, Stephen Sachs’ adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s acclaimed book of poetry about the trauma inherent within everyday acts of racism in America, now extended to Oct 11 at Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
“When Stephen (Sachs) asked me if I was familiar with this book of poetry, I was not. So, I immediately read it. And what was different about the experience was: I felt the piece because I had lived the piece. I really connected to and plugged into what the heart of this work was. Now, as a director I approach the work emotionally first, and I think in terms of notes of music. In music, it is not the individual notes that count, it is the space between the notes. So I always say, in doing a play, it is not what’s being said, it’s the spaces between the words where the visceral experience is. This is the third collaboration that Stephen and I have worked on together. And this work was so exciting for me because the poetry pieces are broken up into duets, trios and quartets. There are no characters. There is just the poetry, and you are listening to the language and the musicality of the language. It was my job to say we’ve got to deal with the mind-body-spirit of what happens to a human being who is experiencing the intent of what is being said. What is your experience? Where is your living, your laughing, your dying and your crying? And that was my approach with my cast: four black actors and two white. The actors and I made an agreement to confront what our own doubts, fears, trepidations, xenophobia and prejudices were before we got into the piece. And then we got into the piece.”
Julio Martinez-hosted Arts in Review—celebrating the best in theater and cabaret in the Greater Los Angeles area—airs Fridays (2-2:30pm) on KPFK (90.7FM). This Friday, Sep 11, Arts in Review welcomes the cast of Ruskin Group Theatre’s premiere country-western musical, Sneaky Ole Time.