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Interview with Daniel Aukin

Interview with Daniel Aukin

Education Dramaturg Ted Sod interviewed director Daniel Aukin to discuss his work on Bad Jews.

Ted Sod: Would you tell us a little about yourself?

Daniel Aukin: I was born in London. My father, David Aukin, was Artistic Director of several theatres, including the Hampstead Theatre in London, and he also ran the Haymarket in Leicester, England. Later he ran The National Theatre with Richard Eyre. My mother, Nancy Meckler, is American and a theatre director. She has directed all over the UK and internationally. For about 20 years, she was the Artistic Director of the Shared Experience Theatre Company in London.

TS: How did you get involved with Bad Jews? Who approached you with the play?

DA: I was asked to read it and I thought it was an extremely personal, painful, and very funny piece of writing. At that point, Roundabout Underground had already committed to doing it. It just struck a huge chord for me. I first met with Josh at Robyn Goodman's office. She was there as well as Jill Rafson, the Literary Manager at Roundabout, and Josh Fiedler, Robyn's associate. We talked for a bit about the play and they told me about its development to date. They asked me some questions about it, how I responded to it. Then Josh and I went out and just had coffee and talked. That was really it. But as in all of these things, collaboration is a delicate thing and you just go with your gut.

TS: Can you talk about how the script resonated for you personally?

DA: I was instantly struck by what a confident voice Josh has as a playwright. The strength was apparent from the first pages. The play deals with the specifics of a very particular family and the legacy of the Holocaust on subsequent generations. Yet I would never call it an "issue play." It all feels very specific and pointed. He's exploring many sides of a complicated issue. It deals with the legacy of history and how we live authentically in the present in relationship to the past. I also felt like it was a piece of writing-and you'd have to ask Josh if this is true-that the writer had to write, needed to write, and that he was using to try to understand something for and about himself.

TS: Can you talk about choosing and collaborating with your design team? How will the play manifest itself visually?

DA: For this play it seemed like the most important thing was for design to get out of the way. One of the considerations that we had when we were looking at floor plans of the apartment was: is it useful for there to be as much room as possible for the actors to move around in so that they can easily get from one section of the stage to another? Or is there greater value in there not being quite enough room for people to move around in, creating obstacles and difficulty? A lot of design meetings were spent talking about the family that bought this apartment and why they bought it, how long they've had it, what their income and socioeconomic background is, how they see this apartment and how it might be furnished to reflect all that. We looked at various moments in the play and tried to imagine how they might work in different configurations.

Tracee Chimo (Daphna), Philip Ettinger (Jonah), Molly Ranson (Melody) and Michael Zegen (Liam) in Bad Jews. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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Roundabout Theatre Company Roundabout Theatre Company is a not-for-profit theatre dedicated to providing a nurturing artistic home for theatre artists at all stages of their careers where the widest possible audience can experience their work at affordable prices. Roundabout fulfills its mission each season through the revival of classic plays and musicals; development and production of new works by established playwrights and emerging writers; educational initiatives that enrich the lives of children and adults; and a subscription model and audience outreach programs that cultivate loyal audiences.