BWW Interview: Playwright Andre F. Degas on His New Play, THE HOUSE OF CHARITY, and the Healing Power of Giving Back
A new play, by filmmaker and director, Andre F. Degas, will be opening the minds and hearts of audiences this summer, as part of Theater for the New City's eighth annual Dream Up Festival. The House of Charity stems from Degas' own personal journey with recovery, as he reflects on the people he has met and the experiences they have shared. The storyline centers around six male residents of a halfway house, who are working together to prepare a meal for the homeless, and the healing power they experience from giving back. Degas uses the diverse range of characters to illustrate that addiction can take on many faces -- black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight -- but doesn't have to end in destruction. The House of Charity sheds lights on transforming the struggle into strength and ultimately creating a larger societal change.
BroadwayWorld has the incredible opportunity to connect with Degas about sharing his story with this new play; the healing power of giving back; and how The House of Charity will inspire audiences to connect with others about their own pathways.
Where did the inspiration for The House of Charity come from?
It started with the idea of being of service. The House of Charity is all about love and giving and it's pretty iconic that the denizens of the house are recovering addicts and alcoholics. They were put into this situation where they must serve the homeless as a way of giving back and recovering.
For me, I wanted to start from a spiritual premise, because a lot of the perception around substance abuse is negative. You don't see many success stories or if you do, you don't see the full journey or the rebirth.
Can you describe how you came to the point of feeling ready to tell your story through your characters?
I'm very cautious about my own personal story, because I had to leave everything beyond and live my own life, before being comfortable enough to share my journey - it had to be the right time. I wanted to give back and once I felt comfortable and secure in my mindset, I was able to also find the humor, because life is many things and does not have to be defined by tough times. I believe that with a play like this, with so much weight, it also has to have humor.
How does the humor magnify the impact of the play?
Every single character has a kind of blind spot and by the end of the play, they have an insight into who they are and what they need to let go of. Humor allows you to let go of a little control or come face to face with certain fears and when you accept them, you come to meet a real person. In not always taking life so seriously, you can allow yourself to be surprised by what you can overcome in order to live an authentic life.
What does it mean to share these important messages through the theater?
I'm a filmmaker by profession, but coming back to theater was so interesting, because I wanted The House of Charity to be a communal expression and have these stories be live.
The whole process has been extremely collaborative and I'm so grateful to have this tremendous mixture of talent [actors of all ages] to prove that addiction doesn't discriminate and affects all types of people, in order for us to find common groud.
How do you hope The House of Charity will inspire audiences, in terms of what they will take away?
People will take away what they want to - I have no control over that. If the story is relevant, they will identify and witness that monumental moment of clarity. It would be really great to help someone reach an "Aha" moment and be brave enough to share their own story. It's really the best kind of therapy to tell your story and understand that's there no need for separation or fear of judgement. I'm really looking forward to the conversations and connections that will hopefully be a result of the performance material.
Remaining dates for The House of Charity includes: Saturday, September 2 at 8:00pm; Sunday, September 3 at 2:00pm; Monday, September 4 at 6:30pm; Wednesday, September 13 at 9:00pm. Tickets are available at www.smarttix.com and by phone at (212) 868-4444.
For more information about the production please visit www.TheHouseOfCharity.com