BWW Interviews: Talking COFFEE with Playwright Eric Coble
Actors' Summit in downtown Akron will be presenting the world premiere of Eric Coble's new play, A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE, from February 23rd to March 11th at Greystone Hall.
A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE follows Alex, a young coffee barista, who is working as a barista while she tries to figure out her post-college career path in life. Along the way she is accompanied by her friend, her parents and the crazy coffee shop manager. Alex struggles to discover what path the world holds for her as she creates caffeinated concoction after concoction, some of them for the young artist who appears in the coffee shop.
Directed by Constance Thackaberry, the cast includes Margo Chervony, Rachel Gehlert, Frank Jackman, Mark Leach, Alex J. Nine and Laura Stitt. Evening performances are Thursday to Saturday at 8pm with 2pm matinees on Sunday.
Eric Coble is a Cleveland-based playwright known for writing a wide variety of plays that appeal to audiences young and old, including BRIGHT IDEAS, NATURAL SELECTION, FOR BETTER and THE GIVER, among many others. His work has been produced Off-Broadway, regionally across the country, and locally at The Cleveland Play House, Great Lakes Theater Festival and Actors' Summit. Coble has also received distinguished awards and accolades over the course of his career.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Eric Coble a few questions about his upcoming production …
What inspired you to write A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE?
I was intrigued with the notion of how we define personal freedom, art, commitment, and self-identity and how those definitions change as we age. "The Alexandra Plays" is my trilogy to wrestle with all this. A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE looks at these themes from the perspective of Alex, a woman in her early 20's, free and smart and sexy and utterly confident. The middle play, GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS, explores it from Alexa's point of view, in her mid-40s, complete with family and steady job and many, many roots holding her down. And the cycle concludes with THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN which looks at Alexandra as a woman of 79, facing the enforced freedom that imminent death will bring, and about how she is NOT going quietly into that good night. Each play stands alone, but seen together in any order, will have new and larger resonances.
Why do you think coffee has become such an important part of today's culture, especially among the younger generations?
Coffee has been vital to ALL ages since it replaced beer as the #1 breakfast beverage in NYC in the 18th century (true story). What I think has changed is the acceptance in the last few decades of the coffee house as a legitimate place to congregate in this country, much as it is in Europe. The chance to share a non-alcoholic beverage at YOUR pace with a friend, collaborator, potential enemy or lover in a neutral safe space? Invaluable. And we need our caffeine. Speed is so prized now – can't get faster than a triple shot espresso. Not legally anyway.
What's your favorite coffee drink?
Embarrassing revelation: I'm more a tea drinker. But I drink my tea in coffee houses. And eat scones. The Phoenix Coffeehouse a couple blocks from my home is my official office-away-from-office.
How did you come to pick Actors' Summit in Akron, Ohio, to premiere this piece?
Actor's Summit had presented another comedy of mine, FOR BETTER, a few years ago and did a bang-up job – I love their commitment to local artists and wide-range of play selection, and felt they would treat my new baby well. I also wanted to work on all the pieces of the trilogy in one location if possible while still doing rewrites, etc, so I asked around here in Cleveland and found producers for the first and third plays with space in their schedules within a few weeks of each other (the second play looks like it will be produced here next season).
How involved are you in the actual production of A GIRL'S GUIDE? Do you work with the cast and creative team?
I have worked closely with the director, Constance Thackaberry, for quite a while (the benefit of doing this first production close to home), and was part of auditions, production meetings, the works. My role now is one of sitting in the dark in the back of the house jotting notes and line revisions.
When one of your plays is ready to premiere, do you get excited or nervous?