BWW Interviews: Stark Naked Theatre Talks ALL GIRLS
Anna Greenfield is an emerging American playwright. Her play ALL GIRLS garnered a lot of recognition during its initial New York City run produced by Horse Trade Theater Group at New York City's Kraine Theater. The play is described as being "a hyper real and sometimes surreal play about three teenage girls and one colossally scary mother. Trembling on the brink of womanhood, the girls act out with one another and their families in the most outrageous ways imaginable." In the height of technical rehearsals, I digitally conversed with playwright Anna Greenfield, Susannah Eig (Morgan), Victoria Villarreal (Claude), Amy Michele Mire (Jenny), Kim Tobin (Mrs. Gray), and director Julia Traber about the upcoming Houston regional premiere of ALL GIRLS.BWW: What was your inspiration for ALL GIRLS?Anna Greenfield: I was writing weird plays that didn't make sense for a while. I was also acting in weird plays for no money for a while. I was kinda sad about it, and then I sneaked into a talk that John Patrick Shanley was giving to the Strasberg Institute in New York. What he said about writing stuck so hard in my brain and rang my heart bell so freaking loud. He said that for him, true success and connection happened in his writing when he stopped trying to show people how clever he was, and he just started showing people who he was through the work. He stopped trying to be brilliant, and he started writing plays about how extraordinarily ordinary we all are. That is what people connected to; that is what made audiences cry and laugh out loud. So I was like, "Yeahhhhh, I don't wanna be pretentious anymore. I wanna show love through my work and connect toooo." Then I sat down to write, and ALL GIRLS came out. It's not the whole truth, but it's some truth, and for me it was a step in the right direction. BWW: What was the writing process like? How did you get it from idea to page?
Anna Greenfield: I pretended that I had been hired to write a play, which sometimes works. Most of the time, you know you're pretending and you slack off. But I started writing it and I wrote it every day until it was done. Then we workshopped the play with Fresh Ground Pepper, a play ground group in NYC. After that was over, the director of the original run of ALL GIRLS, Lee Sunday Evans (an amazing, amazing, amazing person director soul) suggested some changes. I did a big rewrite, and that version slowly morphed through rehearsals into the first run of the show and the script as it is now.
BWW: What has been the most rewarding aspect of writing ALL GIRLS?
Anna Greenfield: The most rewarding experience is sharing this play with an audience. Giving it away, so it's not a selfish cloud between my computer and me, but a real living breathing watching thing that people can come see. And maybe like. And maybe not.
BWW: ALL GIRLS is a title that many in Houston aren't familiar with. In your own opinion, what is the show about?
Kim Tobin: First, it is about remembering what it was to be a thirteen-year-old girl, how hard that time was, finding yourself, and what identity meant. The girls are so funny, playful, and complex. But then it becomes much, much more universal. It becomes about struggle, fear, and how life can sometimes push us into very dark places where we feel like the choices we have to make to survive have to be about lying and pretending in a bad way - lying about who we are and what we want if we are to survive in this world. Then, ultimately, it presents us with what it means to strip away the lies and tell the truth and what it means to stand naked in front of our peers and be real.
Amy Michele Mire: This show has been an absolute joy to be a part of, not only as an actress, but also as a girl! ALL GIRLS is all about the crazy and sometimes ridiculous trials that girls experience as they grow up.
Susannah Eig: Okay, so obviously ALL GIRLS is about girls. Duh. But it's more about relationships, growing up, and struggling to figure out who you are. It's definitely a play that makes you reexamine your past, appreciate your present, and wonder about your future.
Victoria Villarreal: In my opinion, the show is very much a coming of age story; in the most honest way I've ever seen it told. It's the story of three young best friends who are finding their own ways to cope with, essentially, the end of their childhood.
Julia Traber: I can't remember if it was a critic or if the playwright herself who described the play as a "cathartic ode to being a teenage girl," but I think that is a clever and accurate description. Essentially, it's a show about thirteen-year-old girls, friendship, and growing up. Anna Greenfield reminds us of how unique girl friendships are, and how these relationships are an integral part of shaping who we become as adult women.
BWW: The title ALL GIRLS indicates that the play deals with experiences that every girl goes through. What makes the play so universal to all girls and women?
Anna Greenfield: I think the title is a little tongue in cheek. This is a play with literally no dudes in it, but it's also a play about how it's totally impossible to write a play that encompasses all women. These are four characters who have flaws and tough parts, and we are asking the audience to accept and love them anyways. Also, it's a title that touches on age a bit. This is a play that features three "younger" actresses and one "older actress," but how we are all kinda containing that middle school age inside - how that jaggedness of feeling, that raw vulnerability, that fear of not being accepted doesn't just magically disappear once you get older. We're all just girls (or boys! or both!) inside.
Kim Tobin: I can only answer this by saying that every woman will identify with one of these girls and will have known all of these girls in their past!
Susannah Eig: All girls - all people actually - deal with relationships everyday. We also deal with defining our identity everyday, whether we realize it or not. ALL GIRLS asks us to and forces us to think about those universal factors. There are many moments of youthful stupidity and awkwardness, so that's pretty universal.
Victoria Villarreal: It's just so relatable, mostly because every single woman has had or has these relationships. The show captures so much of who we are as women and how we treat one another. Sometimes it's nasty and catty and other times it's absolutely beautiful.
Julia Traber: The play is very clever and humorous in how it presents us with characters that we can easily recognize from our own adolescence. Women in the audience will identify with one or more of the girls and recognize themselves and their own childhood struggles. Also, the desire to make connections with others, and be honest is at the heart of this story. I think both male and female audience members will reflect on their own story of growing up and how strongly childhood events and friendships affect their relationships today.
BWW: How have you been preparing for the show?
Kim Tobin: It is funny, but the show pulls your past up for you, reminds you of who you are, and where you came from without you having to do much of that. Preparing to play the mom was a little different. I had to narrow my vision. She is very single minded and knows what she wants and is willing to do whatever she has to to get it. (Sound familiar in our day and age of politics?) But, she pays a price for that, as anyone does who is willing to do whatever they have to in order to get what they want.
Amy Michele Mire: Preparing for this role was so fun because so much of what makes these characters unique and exciting is that they're so true to the person I was when I was 13. Channeling the uncomfortable adolescence that I went through is hilarious at times, but it is also heart wrenching to think about all of the lost friendships I have experienced through the years.
Susannah Eig: Oh, boy. To prepare for this show, I've mostly been dredging up old, embarrassing memories of myself at 13. I've looked at a lot of the stuff that came out of the New York production, and I've been watching 13 year olds whenever possible and whenever it's least creepy.
Victoria Villarreal: I've been preparing for the show for a good two months now, if not more. Preparing for it was actually pretty terrifying for me. I hated being thirteen. It hurt and made me sick to my stomach going back and recalling my adolescence. It was a very tough age, and it's amazing how this show just slings you back into that time.
Julia Traber: Kim Tobin introduced the script to me in June, after she saw a production in New York. Kim's passion for the play was infectious and I was delighted to be asked to direct. I tried to find out more information about the show and found some interviews and a podcast interview with Anna Greenfield.
You can't help but start reflecting on your own adolescence after you read this play. So, some of my initial preparation was looking at my own old Jr. High yearbooks and trying to recall specific images, sounds, likes, dislikes, and music from my own 8th grade summer before starting high school. Then, the design team and I discussed a lot of our own memories of adolescence and researched fads, music, color palettes, and clothing from our teen years.
Also, I teach 8th grade girls during the day, so, just going to work provided me with ample amounts of research material, observations, etc. in trying to understand what it is that makes being thirteen so challenging! Thirteen seems to me to be one of the toughest ages to be for both boys and girls! But, there is also a sweetness about it. That year is the last year before everything really changes. Starting high school seems to be the big game changer!
BWW: What has been the most challenging aspect of rehearsing the play?
Kim Tobin: There really has not been anything hard about this show. The writing is so wonderful, and it has just been one revelation after another as I work on it. That is always very exciting as an actor.
Susannah Eig: Since the play is not completely realism, the most challenging aspect has been footing The Edge of the line between being a truthful, albeit absurd, 12 year old girl and completely unrealistic 13 year old girl.
BWW: Without giving away too much, what is your favorite part of ALL GIRLS?
Kim Tobin: That is a touchy question! There are so many really special moments! Actually my favorite part is something I am not even in. My favorite part is a moment of "pretend" between the three girls that is just beautiful!
Amy Michele Mire: My favorite part of ALL GIRLS is how real the language is that Anna [Greenfield] uses. I've never experienced such raw emotion in a show before, and I cannot wait to see the reactions from the audience. It's also been especially exciting for me because Anna Greenfield and I are the same age. So, for me, it was very nostalgic remembering growing up as a 13 year old in the 90s! Spice Girls, TLC, and more!
Susannah Eig: Ooh. There are so many to choose from. Really, it's packed with fun stuff. I guess my favorite moments are actually the ones my character, Morgan, has nothing to do with, like when the other characters get little asides to themselves.
Julia Traber: I really don't want to reveal some of the surprises in the show, but I love the imaginative sense of play that both the actors and the audience will experience every night with this show.
BWW: Personally, what do you hope audiences take away from ALL GIRLS?
Kim Tobin: That the love we have for each other as women (and men and women) is the truth that we hide inside ourselves, not the hate or jealousy.
Amy Michele Mire: I hope the audience is able to connect with each character as their personalities represent each of us growing up and the awkwardness that we all experience. Also the love that we should all have for each other no matter what we are going through. Understanding each other's personal struggles and caring for one another, or finding the strength to stand up for yourself, or learning to let go.
Susannah Eig: I hope audiences come away thoughtful. This is a fun show and a thought-provoking shoW. Maybe not like Shakespeare, but the emotions and memories it has the ability to bring up is overwhelming.
Julia Traber: The show reminds us of how we take so much of the hurt we experienced as children and carry it with us into adulthood. After seeing ALL GIRLS, I think audiences will want to rebuild friendships, be more honest, and work on connecting with people, as opposed to dismissing one another or detaching themselves from loved ones and their community.
BWW: In your opinion, why should Houston audiences be excited to see the show?
Kim Tobin: Because it is funny, moving, and says something really unique and exciting about what we all went through, who we grew up to be, and who we can yet become! And, you will leave it with great things to think about and talk about.
Amy Michele Mire: This has been an emotional and healing ride for me, and it is so fun for the audience. Don't miss it!
Susannah Eig: Being that this is a regional premiere and only the second production of this show, Houston audiences should be excited about the chance to see something so early on. Anna Greenfield is incredibly talented, and I really think ALL GIRLS will be a show that we are going to start seeing a lot more of. Houston should count themselves lucky to be so ahead of the game.
Julia Traber: Well, it's always exciting to see new plays by young playwrights, especially women playwrights being produced in Houston. The Houston theatre scene has grown so much in the past ten years. It's exciting that there are so many opportunities for theatre artists to work on really strong scripts. Stark Naked Theatre is known for presenting new and relevant work, and ALL GIRLS is certainly a funny and thoughtful play that has many layers and surprises that will challenge and entertain Houston audiences.
ALL GIRLS, produced by Stark Naked Theatre Company, runs at Studio 101 in Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street, Houston, 77007 October 10 to October 26, 2013. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m., and Monday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. Also, Anna Greenfield will be in Houston for opening weekend. Gold Clun Ticket Holders will get to mingle with Anna Greenfield at Friday's Opening Night party. Audiences on Saturday the 13th will be treated to a post-show talkback with Anna Greenfield. For more information and tickets, please visit http://www.starknakedtheatre.com.
Image and Photo courtesy of Stark Naked Theatre Company.