Therese Plaehn and Peter Richards of “Anna Christie”

Working Barn Productions presents Eugene O'Neill's ANNA CHRISTIE, directed by Peter RichardsIn the landscape of independent theatre in New York, classical theatre can sometimes get lost. Our efforts to create something new, to challenge the status quo and stand out are laudable. But sometimes, we forget that a century-old play can still do that work—a good story, well-told, can often challenge and move audiences just as much, if not more, than newly devised work.

That’s certainly the case this month at The Wild Project, where Working Barn Productions is presenting Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Anna Christie. It’s a story about an independent woman, searching for her place in a world run by men.

Go See A Show! correspondent Tara Gadomski recently saw the show and sat down with director Peter Richards and actor Therese Plaehn to talk about how O’Neill “directs from afar” by writing his character’s dialects phonetically, the benefits of producing works in the public domain, and the fact that O’Neill’s plays can time travel very well.

“It was written almost 100 years ago but it features a lead protagonist who has a very feminist point of view and says things you’d find in contemporary drama, so it’s kind of eye-opening for me to to realize, ‘oh my god this is Eugene O’Neill, early O’Neill, and it feels pretty contemporary’…”

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Christopher Loar, adaptor/director of “The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill, Volume 2”

The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 2, directed/adapted by Christopher LoarA few years back, director, accidental Eugene O’Neill enthusiast, and TMLMTBGB actor Christopher Loar thought up a fun little sketch for that long-running, long-titled New York Neo-Futurists show (if you don’t know it from the acronym, click this link, then go see the show this weekend, or any weekend!) — strip away O’Neill’s dialogue, brilliant as it is, and just say and perform what was meant to be performed and not said: the stage directions.

If you’ve ever read an O’Neill, you probably know that such a drastic cut would still leave you with a whole lot of text. The exercise of turning that text into a staged event unto itself proved successful in TMLMTBGB, so Loar’s next step? Make an evening out of it with The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays, which received a Drama Desk nomination for “Unique Theatrical Experience.”

Now Loar and the Neo-Futurists are back with The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O’Neill, Volume 2 — because why mess with a good thing, right?

Listen in as Christopher and I discuss the utility of stage directions, staying out of the way of your performers/collaborators/interpreters, and O’Neill’s moment vs. this 2014 moment in downtown theatre.

“I think in the stage directions there’s the intention of what the writer wants to happen onstage or happen with that character…but I guess that’s what I like so much about this…I too come from a background where I was trained to ignore all of the stage directions…”

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