EDINBURGH 2019: MONICA: THIS PLAY IS NOT ABOUT MONICA LEWINSKY Q&A
BWW catches up with Hannah Tova Wolff to chat about bringing Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky.
Tell us a bit about Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky.
Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky is a provocative new play by Dianne Nora. The play follows a woman named Monica through a series of relationships that take place between 1990 and present day. During these scenes between friends, lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, and therapists, we are asked to contemplate how men and women are treated differently when intimate encounters are played out under public scrutiny.
The play also explores how we, personally and nationally, react to sex and scandal. As the title clearly states, this play is not about Monica Lewinsky. In fact, one could argue that the play truly is about the array of other characters Monica encounters throughout. It explores how those characters treat her, perceive her, use her, label her, and make assumptions about who she is. As Monica navigates these obstacles we watch her struggle to claim her own identity. Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky humanises the individual and, in doing so, Monica becomes a sort of Everywoman, to which a diverse audience can relate.
Why is this an important story to tell?
The play tells a story about shaming, intimacy, sex, and growth. It is a living, breathing story. It is human and rich with humility and empathy. I think we need more plays that bring us together, address our humanity, and celebrate our similarities instead of focusing on our differences. Monica accomplishes that, and so much more.
Do you think the themes are particularly relevant just now?
It is a play for this moment in history. It is eerily relevant in its exploration of the way a woman, or any person for that matter, navigates intimacy in a culture that no longer values privacy. The play questions the lasting effect of character assassination, and the potentially manipulative nature of contemporary relationships. Also, through a queer relationship in the play, the politics of identity come to the forefront as it examine how one maintains a sense of self when committing to another. The audience will relate to Monica, feel for her, and hopefully laugh with her as she hurdles hardship. Lastly, the story is told from a female perspective and I believe it is far past time we see more female-driven narratives on stage.
Why bring it to Edinburgh?
As the world's largest arts festival, EdFringe, quite literally, represents the world's stage. To this end, Monica is about shared human experience. And Via Brooklyn wants to bring that to a diverse and global audience. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival also takes the pulse of where the theater has been, where it is now, and, perhaps most importantly, where it will go next. It is the home of cutting edge work that daringly shines a light on society and Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky embraces those values. From the direction, to the design, to the acting, you will see magical realism married with great depth of character in a truly universal narrative.
What is next for the show after the festival?
All of us at Via Brooklyn believe this playwright and play have bright futures. As a member of The Goodman Theatre's Playwrights Unit, Dianne Nora has been commissioned to write a new play about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After EdFringe, Via Brooklyn hopes to bring Monica back to New York City for an additional run after our NYC previews at 59E59 Theater in July. There is so much more to explore with Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky. EdFringe is only the beginning.
Photo credit: Caroline Kinsolving