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Interview: Andrew Bovell (Playwright) of THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE at Great Barrington Public Theater

East coast premiere of Things I Know To Be True a compelling dissection of a family

Interview: Andrew Bovell (Playwright) of THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE at Great Barrington Public Theater

Andrew Bovell is an Australian writer whose work spans both film and stage. He co-wrote the screenplay for Strictly Ballroom (1992) with Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and Head On (1998) with Mira Robertson and Ana Kokkinos. His other film credits include Edge of Darkness (2010) starring Mel Gibson, The Book of Revelation (2006) and Iris (2016). He wrote the thriller film A Most Wanted Man, directed by Anton Corbijn, based on the novel A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré. His award-winning play, Speaking in Tongues, (1996) has been seen throughout Australia as well as in Europe and the US and Bovell adapted it for the screen as Lantana (2001). His play Thinks I Know To Be Truemakes its east coast premiere as part of the Great Barrington Public Theater's season. He's also adapting it for Amazon as a mini-series to star Nicole Kidman.

Film or stage, do you prefer to write for one or the other, and if so why?

I find a greater sense of freedom writing for the stage. Most of the work I do as a writer now involves writing for the screen but I continue to return to the stage. This is where I learnt my craft as a writer. I love discovering a character and the way they speak and think in the form of a play and without the tight formal restrictions that film and TV writing can require. This is where I write most of my original work and feel that I can take more risks.

Fran (the mom), in Things I Know to Be True, has a wonderful simplistic sound line: "No one misses out here. You understand? What one gets another one gets in a different way." Who or what spurred that philosophy? And do you think it is common occurs in family dynamics?

I think that comes from me and the way I was brought up by my parents. I think that is something I might have actually said to my own kids. Basically, I'm Fran and Bob (the dad) wrapped up in one. (Though, hopefully not so tough as Fran in some moments)

The contradictions between Fran's and Bob's relationship with each distinct child are fascinating and truthful. Yet Fran's core remains independence and strength, financial freedom, finding yourself. Considering America's current political polemics, how do you think the show will play for today's audience and did you make recent textual changes to heighten those character tensions?

The play hasn't been altered since the Milwaukee season. The only comment I would make is that it seems timely to see strong minded and independent women on the American stage given that their rights are being challenged by the Supreme Court. It would be an interesting exercise to imagine how the women in this play might react to recent Supreme Court decision re: Roe vs Wade.

There's the theme of getting away, the need to escape from family - How to do that is a big question for everyone. Have you realized that beyond your writing?

There's a line I often use. You spend half your life trying to escape your family and if you ever do you spend the rest of it trying to find your way back.

How has the play changed (if at all) from the Australian and European productions vs the U.S.?

The themes of the play are universal. I have found that audiences have responded in very similar ways in Australia, the UK, Spain, Germany and in the States. It touches the same vulnerabilities we all share. But there have been changes to do with location and language, of course. I worked very hard with the team at Milwaukee Rep to ensure the language reflected a Mid-West family.

Any advice for writers?

Be courageous in what you write. Always be open to the feedback of actors and directors and listen to your audience. They are your greatest teachers.

Advice for parents?

Love your kids but let them go when the time comes. And then be ready for them to return if they ever need to. But live your own life too.

How has your own family reacted to your writing?

They have always been very supportive.

What's next for you?

My current focus is the television adaptation of Things I Know to be True for Amazon Prime, which will star Nicole Kidman as Fran. It has been expanded from a two-hour play to a sixhour series and it's very exciting to have an actor of Nicole's caliber playing this role. We hope to shoot the series next year.

Regional Awards


From This Author - Adam Cohen

Adam enjoys theater of all sorts, as does his daughter.  He lives in New Jersey and attempts to stay out of trouble.  It rarely works.

... (read more about this author)

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