BWW Interview: Mark Kemble Talks BEAUTY QUEEN OF LENANE
Mark Kemble is an award-winning writer/director from Providence, Rhode Island. He has written and directed over twenty stage productions in Providence, Los Angeles and New York. He is about to open Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Lenane at studio/stage in East Hollywood.
In 1995, Mark's world premiere play about the Hollywood blacklist, the multi-award winning show NAMES played to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles. Mark also directed the production. NAMES was critic's choice in every major newspaper, and was named one of the Top Plays of 1995 by NPR. In the spring of 1997, Kemble directed his play NAMES Off-Broadway, starring Tovuh Feldshuh, prompting notable New York critic, Clive Barnes to call NAMES "a better play than Odets' The Big Knife".
Mark is Artist-in-Residence at Actors Studio West.
What do you the director find special about Beauty Queen?
I very much like the authenticity of the material. The characters are delineated and alive, the plot and story are fully realized and the play is "about something", which is never to be taken for granted. Keep in mind that this was written when the playwright was in his mid-twenties, remarkable.
McDonagh's works are compelling to say the least. Is Actors Studio West involved in the production?
Well, it isn't an Actors Studio West production, per se. The actors brought some of the scenes from the play to session at the Studio and many of us involved in the production are Studio members. In many ways it's a perfect production for the Studio because it allows for the opportunity to explore many levels of the work. The wonderful writing will always be there, but it is important to go beyond a translation of the author's intent to an interpretation of the author's intent. I think the Studio is well-suited for that exploration.
Talk about the message of the play.
Survival, survival, survival. Not just physical survival, and it is very much about that. This is a hard life we are witnessing, and the precarious nature of the character's very existence is always apparent but, perhaps more importantly, it is about the survival of the soul, the spirit, the wonderful doggedness of having even a sliver of hope to carry one through to the next day, the next moment, even.
Tell us about your cast and how they hopefully work as a creative team.
You can't beat big talent and big talent is what I have been fortunate to work with. Casey Kramer, Angela Nicholas, Curtis Belz and Tim Hildebrand are all so very talented. They trust one another and I trust them. They are aware of the importance of trusting their impulses, as opposed to their "talented tendencies", which all actors have, but that can get in the way of true impulses.
Is this your favorite play of this playwright?
I like all of Martin McDonagh's work but I am very much attracted to, "Beauty Queen..." because of the family element. This inescapable need to maintain the family in spite of the continual onslaught on them is very compelling, very hard to keep your eyes away from even as it self-destructs.
What fresh perspective are you bringing to the play...one that will put bodies in the seats as soon as they read about it?
I liked the idea when working on this to let the actors live fully and make the play force them to play the play. Too often, even in good productions,I feel the actor has been left out of the play. They are achieving the play well enough but are too often bound by the play which prevents their own unique talent, unique personality, from emerging. I think we have achieved a situation where the actor's own individuality has been able to come to the play.
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the play?
The audience may well say to itself, "Shit, I thought I had it bad...", but it's such a funny and meaningful play. When an audience witnesses something and they then reflect on something in their own lives, then they are witnessing art as opposed to entertainment, and the lovely thing about this play is that it is so entertaining, and yet it challenges you to reflect on yourself. Great art.
Preview: September 13 at 8:00 pm. Opens September 14 and runs to October 21. It plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 7:00. tickets: go to www.plays411.com/leenane or call (323) 960-7774. studio/stage 520 N. Western, Los Angeles. Wheelchair Accessible. Ample street parking