BWW Interview: Melissa Foulger of MAYTAG VIRGIN at Aurora Theatre
Maytag Virgin, a Southern drama by Audrey Cefaly, is making its Southeast regional premiere at Aurora Theatre this month, and BroadwayWorld sat down with director Melissa Foulger to talk about the production.
BWW: Tell us what this show is about.
Foulger: It's about a woman who has a man living next to her. She is recently widowed, and the man who moves in next to her happens to also be widowed, and so he is a little bit messy, a little bit...not to her taste, and so she tries to handle him the best way she can in getting him to clean up his yard. That kind of thing. And over time they grow a friendship and then a relationship.
BWW: The show is billed as a non-traditional romance. Why do you think it's called non-traditional?
Foulger: I think it's because it mixes the idea of loss and the connection over the loss of a previous spouse for both of them, the grief of that, in with the romance. You're dealing with some very deep issues of sadness at the same time that you're dealing with the elation of the new relationship, so that dichotomy, I think, is what makes it non-traditional.
BWW: That's really interesting.
Foulger: Yeah. It is.
BWW: What drew you to this show?
Foulger: I think that's the thing that drew me. When I was first contacted by the Aurora to do this show, my mom had recently passed away from cancer, so reading how these people handled loss connected with me at that time, but also the joy and the hope of life moving on was really hopeful for me - provided me a sense of hope, I should say. Just the entire storyline spoke to me and sort of where I was in my own grief process at the time, and I felt that that was something that I could bring to the table with this piece as well.
BWW: Do you think the same thing is going to resonate with audiences?
Foulger: I do. I mean, I think that they will - you know, anyone who's experienced any kind of major loss in their life, I think, will connect with where they are because they're in two different places... He lost his wife about two years ago, so he's a little further on in his grieving process. When we start the show, she's only a month out from having lost her husband, so you get to see people at two different places in their process. The play takes place over the course of over a year, so you get to see them at different stages, which I think is something that will resonate - that you get to see how they progress over the course of time.
BWW: What have been the biggest challenges of directing this piece?
Foulger: Well, I mean, it's a two-hander, so it's two actors, and they have to carry the entirety of the show. In terms of storytelling, working with them - with the nuance of each individual scene, and where each of the characters is in their process, I think, was one of the major challenges. But also finding the balance of when we go to a really dramatic place and when do we go to the comedy and how do you move fluidly back and forth between them so that nothing feels abrupt or - you know, this radical shift that happens quickly. Those were two of the big challenges we had.
BWW: This is a Southern play. I'm wondering if it was a challenging process to ground us in the locale through speech patterns. Did you go for Southern accents?
Foulger: Yeah, they both have some level of Southern accents. You know, a little more or less depending on where they've come from. He's moved around a little more, so his isn't as pronounced as hers. We did explore that and some of the language used in the play. You know, some of the great Southernisms. And just the feel of the world of the play... It needs to feel like the South. Luckily, being in the South automatically helps that, so I think that we just wanted to try to honor that to the best of our abilities.
BWW: What has been your favorite thing about directing this piece?
Foulger: Yeah, I think it's getting to really get into the room and really dig deep with both of the actors. That's been something that has been really great that I've really loved. I've really loved working with the playwright in terms of exploring the language and exploring what's going on in the piece and getting those details from her. And, you know, ultimately, watching it all come together in the end and seeing how we can make each scene its own compact little nugget that makes up this larger story and how it's enhanced by our technical team as well - our design team.
BWW: Oh, yeah. That's always the best feeling to see what you end up with. Thanks so much for sitting down with me today. I'm really excited to see this show.
Foulger: Thank you so much.
Maytag Virgin runs through February 11 at Aurora Theatre.
For tickets and info, go to www.auroratheatre.com.