BWW Interview: Noah Haidle Pens World Premiere OF BIRTHDAY CANDLES for DETROIT PUBLIC THEATRE
Truth be told, you'd think that a Princeton and Juilliard grad who's had 15 plays professionally produced, wrote a film that starred Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin; has TV series lined up with HBO and one already in production for Showtime starring Jim Carrey would have had a solid career destiny since the get-go. Not so says Noah Haidle.
"I wasn't an artsy kid-I didn't have one creative bone or impulse in my body. I wasn't an actor or involved in theatre," says Haidle who grew up in Grand Rapids and moved to Los Angeles last year. "I think that it's complete bullshit that creativity can't be taught. That notion is elitist."
Haidle's aha moment came junior year of high school after reading Death of a Salesman.
"Oh, that's what I want to do," he confirmed to himself. "But I have absolutely no idea how to go about it."
"I read thousands of plays with no base of knowledge whatsoever. You have to train your mind. It's about rote muscle memory. I taught myself to be creative," says Haidle who's in Detroit about to have the world premiere of his newest play Birthday Candles on May 12 at Detroit Public Theatre (DPT).
It was two years ago when Haidle had a meeting with DPT Co-Founders and Co-Producing Artistic Directors Courtney Burkett, Sarah Clare Corporandy and Sarah Winkler in Detroit. Ironically, Haidle met Burkett 14 years earlier in New York when she assistant-directed his first play, Women and Criminals "very off, off Broadway." They offered him a spot on their non-profit Board of Directors and commissioned him to write a play specifically for DPT which would be slated to be produced during its 2017-18 third season.
"I've done commissions for Lincoln Center, The Goodman Theatre and Yale Repertory, but there's usually parameters attached to the project," says Haidle who's been living temporarily in Detroit during rehearsals as well as Director Vivienne Benesch, the Producing Artistic Director at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC. "The remarkable thing about Detroit Public Theatre is that they let me write whatever I wanted and slot it in to their season line-up without having one word even written. They put their complete faith in me to put on something good. I believe that's as unprecedented as it comes in American theatre."
Haidle sits in on every rehearsal with Benesch and a team of local and national artists including Claire Karpen (Broadway: Sylvia. Off Broadway: Into the Woods with Roundabout/Fiasco), Daniel Pearce (Broadway: Machinal, 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee), Hallie Bee Bard, Dani Cochrane, Chris Corporandy and Michael Brian Ogden. The creative team includes Michael Carnahan (scenic design), Shelby Newport (costume designer), Cecilia Durbin (lighting design) and Katie Hopgood (sound design).
The production's Lead Presenting Sponsors are Jennifer and David Fischer. In addition, the production is generously supported by the Beaumont Health Foundation and the Venturous Fund (which has awarded DPT with a prestigious grant for new play production). Guest Artist Sponsors are Annmarie and Neil Hawkins.
The press release states that "Birthday Candles takes audiences on a magical journey with one woman, Ernestine Ashworth, as she travels from birthday to birthday, baking a life."
When asked to elaborate on the plot, Haidle remains elusive, a description he actually lauded.
"One of the most fun things about developing a new play is that no one is primed to either like it or not," he says. "When you describe a storyline in detail, people will come in with a preconceived notion. The great thing about this DPT play is that it doesn't have a track record. You walk in off the street not knowing what it's about; and hopefully you'll have a positive reaction."
The dedicated, hardworking production team hopes so too. Haidle works off a paper copy of his script, making daily rewrites since starting rehearsals on April 16.
"I change stuff all the time. It's a very fluid, constant process," he says.
During the two nights of show previews, Haidle plans to watch the audience's reactions and make any last-minute tweaks before opening night Saturday. On Monday, he'll fly back home to L.A. where his episode of Showtime's Just Kidding will shoot on June 1.
Not bad for the self-professed non-artsy, non-creative guy.
The world premiere of Noah Haidle's Birthday Candles runs at Detroit Public Theatre through June 3, 2018.
Tickets are $35 for Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; $40 for Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees, $45 for 8 p.m. Saturday performances. Under 35 (Juniors): $20, Over 60 (Seniors): $30 and Groups (10 or more): $25.
All DPT performances take place inside the Robert A. and Maggie Allesee Hall at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at 3711 Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
For more information about Detroit Public Theatre and its productions, or to purchase tickets,
visit www.detroitpublictheatre.org or call (313) 576-5111. For group tickets, call (313) 974-7918.