BWW Interview: Playwright Cyndi Williams on Austin Playhouse's World Premiere of ROARING
For the last several weeks, the Austin theatre scene has been buzzing about the World Premiere of Roaring, now entering its final weekend of performances at Austin Playhouse. The original play, written by Austin Playhouse company member Cyndi Williams, has earned fantastic word-of-mouth and glowing reviews, including a rave from BroadwayWorld-Austin's Brian Losoya.
Ms. Williams recently shared her thoughts on the play and its development...
BWW: For those who haven't seen the show yet (and if that's you, you only have this weekend to go see it), what is Roaring about?
CW: Roaring is set in an underground retirement center in the near future. The people who live there are very old, and culturally significant - a physicist, a rock star, a pin-up model, a famous dancer. On visitor's day, a huge, life-changing roar occurs, and traps everyone underground. When this happens, the spirit of the oldest woman in the world, 123-year-old Lily Jackson, who has been in a coma for several years, is released to interact with the youthful spirits of the other retirees.
BWW: What inspired you to write Roaring?
CW: I made a list of things I wanted to write about, and a pattern emerged. A romance with old people. The idea of morphing from ingenue to crone. An old woman looking at the actual face of her younger self. The way we lump old people into cliches. The idea of seeing your own ghost, when you are a living person. Mix, and stir!
BWW: When did you start writing the show?
CW: A little over two years ago.
BWW: I heard that there was a workshop for the show a while back. How did that workshop go, and were there any differences between then and now?
CW: You've heard the phrase "kill your darlings"? The original concept had FIVE more characters than we ended up with! Lara Toner served as dramaturg, as well as directing the play, and she gave me a very wonderful note: if you introduce characters in pairs, then they can stay in their pair, and never interact with the other characters. For example, originally Bobby was the cameraman for a whole other reporter, Kevin. I killed Kevin, and all of a sudden, neurotic Bobby was a reporter who had to talk to old ladies he couldn't tell apart. Much more interesting than two news guys huddled together in a corner all the time!
BWW: After seeing the show, I thought that every person in the cast seemed perfect for their roles. Were you thinking of any of them while you were writing, or did they influence their characters in any way?
CW: I am the luckiest playwright in the world. I knew early on I was writing specifically for Mary Cox, Babs George, and Huck Huckaby. Molly Karrasch, Claire Grasso and Stephen Mercantel came on pretty early as well. Ben Wolfe, Margaret Ann Hoard, and Hildreth England were the last people cast, but I had heard them read in workshops and very much had their voices in my head. I love to develop characters with specific actors in mind. I get to fantasize about stuff I'd like to see that actor do, and I think it helps make the voices and speech patterns of characters more specific.
BWW: Audiences and critics have responded pretty positively to Roaring. What has that been like for you and the cast?
CW: A long time ago I figured out I couldn't make everyone happy. But I could make me happy. So I tried to make myself happy with this play. If it makes anyone else happy, that's delicious gravy!
BWW: Are there any future plans for the show?
CW: Nothing specific yet. I am going to do a pass through the script and tweak some details that keep bugging me (I watch the show every night because it does make me happy) and to track the character of Lil, the flapper, better in the text - since she doesn't speak much, but is very important to the story, I want to make sure her movement through the story is clear. Then off to Broadway! (no, not really; off to do research to find theaters that might be interested in producing a nine-character play about spirit and science).
BWW: Any last thoughts for readers who haven't seen the show yet?
CW: I wish you would come see it.
ROARING plays the Austin Playhouse inside the Highland Mall at 6001 Airport Blvd, Austin 78752 now thru May 4th. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets are $28-$30. For tickets and information, visit www.austinplayhouse.com.