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BWW Interview: Elle Borders, Caley Chase, And Kate Snodgrass of OVERTURE at Huntington Theatre Company

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BWW Interview: Elle Borders, Caley Chase, And Kate Snodgrass of OVERTURE at Huntington Theatre Company

When Kate Snodgrass was asked by the Huntington Theatre's director of new work, Charles Haugland, to contribute to a series of short audio plays called Dream Boston, she jumped at this new opportunity. "I have always been fascinated by radio", she grins at me via Zoom. Snodgrass has cool, piercing features but is palpably warm and humble even when transmitted through the video chat. Her short audio play Overture is one in a series of new works exploring encounters with Boston landmarks in the not-so-distant future. Overture takes audiences to a place Snodgrass has never been, but which immediately captured her imagination; the top of the Great Dome at M.I.T.

As I sat down for a virtual chat with three of the artists who worked on the 6 minute play, the word that held up the lion's share of our conversation was "evocative". After all, as the artists agreed, this is a great opportunity to stretch audiences' imaginations beyond the Zoom readings to which all of us have grown accustomed, and of which many of us have grown wary (if not yet weary). "I always wanted a voiceover career. It's my dream to be a Disney princess," laughs Elle Borders. Although she admits it is strange for an actor accustomed to stage and screen to be performing from inside of a closet, she also quips that it is nice to finally be "using the 'AFTRA' part of my union affiliation."

The director of the piece, Caley Chase, explains that, although the two actors cannot be together in one space, an integral part of the process is that they are able to see each other and respond in real time to each other via Zoom. "We're all looking at each other as we record. So this was my first time directing with my eyes closed. When you work with such great actors (Elle Borders and Richard Snee), you're tempted to open your eyes and see them. But I needed to close my eyes to make sure I could hear everything the play is about." Chase notes how integral the post-production work engineered and designed by Valentin Frank is to the final product. "This is much more technical than directing a play because we don't need to get anything right for a 5 week run, we need to get it right just this once." She contemplates how this process has reminded her, "how much we need to respect the technical aspects of our industry in this moment. The work these people do is really important."

An esteemed playwright, Snodgrass reflects that this project "took me to a place I've always wanted to go. In my imagination I can see the ways I will use music a lot more in my work." For her, it seems, the act of writing a piece involving an intimate conversation in the middle of a vast, crowded, public space is an act of defiance at odds with our current reality.

"I picture things before I do them," adds Borders. "So to approach this play, I pictured walking and breathing out in the open without a filter. I was thinking a lot about my own breath and how the air might feel different three years in the future. If anything, this year has taught us how quickly life can change, so I am feeling conscious of the freedom we have to imagine a fantastic, not-distant future." Interestingly, Borders explains that it feels liberating to be able to perform without needing to think of one's appearance. But as Chase notes, "we can hear when (the actors) smile."

In thinking about the future, Chase poses, "I'm curious to imagine what interpersonal relations in communal spaces will look like," responding to the play's setting during the Fourth of July. "What will our collective responses be? Collective fear? Collective love? What will those look like at a communal gathering?" In summation, and seemingly briefly donning her hat as the Huntington's Assistant to the Artistic Director, Chase analyzes, "our job is to connect artists into one place and then to connect audiences with their work. We're still finding our role in that mission in this moment."

Check out Overture and other audio plays from the Dream Boston series (with more to come) here.

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From This Author Andrew Child