BWW Interview: Telling the Story of Theater on the Edge's ORPHANS with Marco DiGeorge

BWW Interview: Telling the Story of Theater on the Edge's ORPHANS with Marco DiGeorge

As we prepare to sit with our families this Thanksgiving, we all experience joy or dread about seeing our relatives. Like it or not, these people are blood - flaws and all. ORPHANS tells the story of two brothers. I had a chance to catch up with director, Marco DiGeorge about Theater on the Edge's latest production.

So tell me about ORPHANS. It sounds like an intensely character driven plot.

Orphans is an amazing story about two brothers struggling to survive alone in 1989 North Philadelphia. Having lost both parents at a young age, the older brother Treat (played by Zack Roundy) spends his days stealing and mugging to make a living, and to take care of his younger brother Phillip (played by Adam Minossora). A chance encounter connects Treat with Harold (played by Allan Whitehead), and he becomes the father-figure they both desperately need.

It's an intimate story with many light and fun moments, but at the same time, contains many deep layers for each one of the characters. All three characters long for the relationships they don't have, the one's they lost, and the one's they wish they had again.

The cast looks like an extremely talented group. What has it been like to direct this group?

What an incredible experience it's been to direct such a talented and hard working group of actors. And I think that's the important part - hard working. To reach the subtlety of the characters, it takes an exhausting amount of work, both in and out of rehearsal. These actors have worked tremendously hard to bring out the depth of the human experience and torn relationships that exist between them. As a director, it is a joy to work with actors who put their all into a role. This is a special cast!

What sort of background research did you do in preparation for this piece?

Research is a big part of our process, both for myself and our Set Designer, Sam DiGeorge. This takes place in 1989 in a row house in North Philadelphia. Sam does a tremendous amount of research to make sure the set is exact to the time period. Everything, from the structure of the home, the rise of the stairs, the shag carpet, the labels on the tuna and mayonnaise, the furniture, the clothing... everything is considered and researched to make sure the tone of the set and the play are accurate. The goal is to create an environment for the actors to "get lost" in and fully live. In turn, we hope the audience also feels as if they are observing a glimpse into an actual home watching the events unfold.

In addition, I did a lot of character-based research as well. For example, even though we don't come right out and say it in the play, the character of Phillip is on the higher-functioning scale for Autism Spectrum Disorder, and we wanted to make sure we honored that accurately as possible. Our Assistant Director, Krystal Glover, setup meetings with experts in the field and conducted a lot of research on the subject, which was vital for both Adam Minossora and myself when developing the character. Our goal was to focus on the human being with this disorder, and not the disorder itself. We wanted to make sure, at no time, were we making the character weak because of the disorder. Rather, there are many traits that Phillip has that is much more endearing because of it. Special thanks goes out to Melissa Jones and the Princeton House Charter School for their assistance.

What made you choose ORPHANS for this season?

We are always reading plays and looking for deep human stories that will play well in our small, intimate theater. We had a few plays already picked out, but we were still reading just to see what else was out there. I came home from teaching one night, and Sam told me that I had to read Orphans, and that I had to read it that night. I read the play in one sitting, and as I finished the last page, I knew this was our next play. It was so compelling, so moving, so touching. It had a lightness that was so fun, but at the same time, a depth that was incredibly powerful. It was exactly the type of story I wanted to tell for my directing debut.

Which character do you most identify with and why?

As a director, I explore the arcs of all the characters, and I like to find personal ways to connect to all of them. That way, I will find the deep human elements of each one, and then fight for each character's point-of-view. In this play, I relate to all three characters in different ways... the struggle for normalcy and the letting go of the past that Harold deals with, the fight for survival and doing what is needed for family that Treat inhabits, and the wonder of beauty and innocence that Phillip brings... these things, I feel, are universal deep human traits, and ones I find extremely powerful.

Why should audiences come see ORPHANS?

If for nothing else, come see Orphans for the incredible work these three actors are doing. It is fun to watch! In addition, the set is a character in itself and is amazing to see in person. But most of all, come see it to connect in with the deeper human conversations that the play brings out. Many audience members tell me that they are still discussing the story days after seeing it. These are conversations that can help us relate, and hopefully and ultimately, help us heal old wounds.

Either way, we appreciate all of the support for Orphans so far, and we look forward for the remaining run of the show. Thank you so much, and we hope to see you all there!

This sounds like a thought-provoking and entertaining piece. Thanks Marco! ORPHANS runs at Theater on the Edge now through November 26. For tickets and more information visit http://theaterontheedge.org.

Photo credit: Zack Roundy as Treat and Adam Minossora as Phillip in Orphans at Theater On The Edge © Monica Mulder - www.monicamulder.com


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