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BWW Interview: LEWISTON/CLARKSTON's Leah Karpel on Looking Back and Forging Ahead


Lewiston & Clarkston

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is treating New York audiences to a very special experience this fall with Lewiston / Clarkston, two plays by Samuel D. Hunter presented together - with a communal meal break in between! The plays ask the big questions through the modern-day descendants of Lewis and Clark as they ponder the idea of the legacy of the American push west. While Lewiston focuses on the past, Clarkston focuses on the future - dealing with the obstacles that come with the journey and seeing life differently through the eyes of another person.

BroadwayWorld had the opportunity to chat with cast member, Leah Karpel, who stars in Lewiston about the unique structure of the evening; the most important lessons of the journeys; and why building community is so important in the theater industry.

The organization of the evening for both plays sounds so unique - with the communal meal break in between! How do you think this style will enhance the overall experience for audiences?

It's a really cool schedule! Both plays were actually written to be done together and gives audiences the unique opportunity to have conversations in between! While both plays can stand on their own, together there is so much to offer. They are such intimate plays and each night the Rattlestick will host audiences of about 50 people - we're excited for all of the connections to be made!

The plays explore the idea of the legacy of the American push west through the eyes of the descendants of Lewis and Clark, examining the past and future - what do you think are some of the most important lessons to be learned?

Lewiston deals with the idea of folklore and what we are told about those who opened up the west and what the vision of America was at that time and where we are today. The big question asks, "Is this what we imagined?" and makes you question whose land it was to begin with. We can't help but ponder how we got here and how do we move forward.

There's also a big focus on the power of the individual and what's possible in terms of inspiring hope and acting with grace. Most of Sam's plays are set with obstacles that challenge his characters to transcend -- relying on love and empathy. At the heart of it all, we aim to look at life in a positive way and take action with the intention of love.

How does your character - - the unexpected visitor - add a unique perspective to the mix?

She's been gone from Lewiston for about 16 years and when she left, left suddenly. While the plays take place in Idaho, her perspective is different and stems from the coastal lifestyle and her time in Seattle. I would describe her as a bit of an outsider but someone who feels called to do something.

It sounds like audiences will have plenty of time to share ideas and debate during the course of the evening! What kinds of conversation do you hope both plays will spark for them?

Lewiston doesn't necessarily offer answers, but presents three individuals at major turning points in their lives. It's a great way to end and then give audiences the opportunity to discuss and figure out how they feel - the material is absolutely open to subjective interpretations.

I'm excited to witness the conversations happening during the meal break and where they go. Clarkston picks up where we left off, so audiences can stay tuned and get the rest of the story.

Why do you think building community is so important for today's theater industry?

Building community is so vital for the world we live in today. Theater is one of those few experiences where you have the chance to sit with strangers and learn how to be empathetic. Rattlestick is so unique in their innovations to bring people together and allow them to have a one-of-a-kind experience. We need to continue to find ways to do that!

For more and to buy tickets, visit:

Photos: Jeremy Daniel


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