BWW Interview: Dir. Bert Goldstein of Lauren Gunderson's I AND YOU at Wharton Center Says It Has Ending No One Will Forget!
I And You is the final play in Wharton Center's Illuminate Series that runs this weekend, Friday and Sunday, for two performances only and the limited-engagement of Lauren Gunderson's play is sure to leave audiences wanting more. One afternoon, Anthony (Greg Hunter) arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline's (Tess Galbiati) door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, with an urgent assignment from their English teacher. Homebound, Caroline hasn't been to school in months, but she is as quick and funny as Anthony is athletic, sensitive, and popular. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this poetry project unlocks the deep mystery that has brought them together. I And You is a funny and touching ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness with an eye-popping, heart-pounding, and totally unexpected ending. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Bert Goldstein, the director of I And You, about the show and how it's special. Check out what he had to say below:
Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?
Bert Goldstein: For almost 40 years, I have been a theater professional having worked as an actor, director, producer, and arts education practitioner. I lived in New York City for 17 years. Then I ran the education program for the two-time Tony Award winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for 12 years before coming to Wharton where I have been Director of the Institute for Arts & Creativity for the past 11 years.
How would you describe I And You in your own words?
It's a beautiful play about circumventing major life challenges when life is seemingly hopeless.
What made you want to direct show?
I like it immediately after I read it. It's funny, meaningful to both young adults and general audiences, and showcases the work of one of this country's most prolific playwrights, Lauren Gunderson. It cleverly weaves the poetry of Walt Whitman into the text - I love the way she did that. The play, also, has a very shocking and unexpected ending that I loved.
Did you do any special research in preparing to direct I And You?
I certainly studied Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and I researched the symptoms of a failing liver, which is the medical condition Caroline is suffering from. Other than that, my preparation as a director was pretty standard for the way I approach a play. It takes me three to four months to prepare a play for rehearsal - mainly studying and thinking about the text and working with the designers.
What is special about the performers you cast in I And You as it takes a lot of effort to perform a two person show?
Tess Galbiati, an actress out of Chicago, and Greg Hunter, a graduated from Michigan State University with his Master of Fine Arts in Acting, are very talented young actors who are very right for these roles. They can be very funny which is critical for this piece. That is why I cast them and it proved to be true. They have worked really hard on this and are doing wonderful work. I am certain audiences will enjoy them!
Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
At one-point Anthony convinces Caroline to listen some John Coltrane music and they have this beautiful scene about jazz that morphs into their hopes and dreams for the future. It's beautifully written. I, also, love the ending of the play, but I'm not telling you what happens - you'll have to see it.
In the press release, it says the show "takes cues right out of Walt Whitman poem," can you elaborate on this for our readers?
Anthony comes to Caroline's house because she has been assigned to help him on an English project on Walt Whitman. He loves the poem - she hates it at first, but, during the play, the poem begins to drive conversations between the two of them that reflect greatly on their lives. Together they find tremendous meaning in it.
Do people have to knowledge of Walt Whitman or his poetry to enjoy the show?
Whether you love Whitman or have never experienced his writing the play is self-explanatory.
What makes Wharton Center's Illuminate Series interpretation of I And You unique?
Clearly the actors. Tess Galbiati and Greg Hunter are putting their personal stamp on these roles and brining their unique perspectives to them. It is very much worth seeing.
Why should people come see I And You?
it's a very much life embracing play that cleverly uses Whitman's poetry, but tells a great story about two young people who are struggling. It's funny, very human, deeply moving, and has ending no one will forget.
I And You will have two performances this weekend on Friday, March 22nd at 8pm and Sunday, March 24th at 1pm at the Pasant Theatre in Wharton Center for the Performing Arts in East Lansing. There will be an After Chat with the actors immediately following the Friday, March 22nd performance. Tickets starting from $24. For more information and tickets, call 517.432.2000 or 1.800.WHARTON or www.whartoncenter.com.