Dr. Martin Friedman, Director and Artisitic Director, responded to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly
Why did you choose to direct this show?
So, I chose to direct this play for a couple of reasons. The first is the theatre that I work in. We are a young theatre that is not only the only professional theatre in Lake County but also a part of a college. Consequently, I am charged with providing the classics, mixed in with theatre that would not normally be done in these parts. I am a lucky fellow; I have been given carte blanche with choosing the great plays of both world drama and the American theatre. Of course, that is also a curse. A curse because not all of the “great” plays are great for everyone.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee is certainly considered one of the top ten American plays ever written. And while probably not one of the so-called big three “American Masters” (Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams), Albee and Albee’s play does reside firmly in the pantheon of great plays of world drama.
I have done many of the great plays of World and American drama and I felt it was time to do an Edward Albee play and Virginia Woolf was the chosen one. Still, to be completely honest, as I have delved into it and worked on it now for six months, I don’t think it deserves to be in the aforementioned pantheon.
Finally, I did this play because I really wanted to work with Greg Violand. I have done two musical theatre productions (She Loves Me and A Little Night Music) with Greg over the years and had a great time with him. His talent is undeniable. Still, we wanted to work together on something substantial and this was the play that I offered him.
Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?
While Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has been done twice on Broadway in the last fifteen years, it hasn’t been done in Cleveland in at least ten years; and certainly not with a professional cast. Another reason I wanted to produce and direct this play is that as I have gotten older and my work has matured, I have found that my outlook on things has also matured and ripened. I have found that I don’t need as much stuff on stage and that I can make the classics even more visually and emotionally exciting with less.
Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?
In regard to memorable moments; I truly find the entire process memorable. I am one of those fellows who is very “Pollyanna-ish”. As soon as a play is over I have a hole in my theatrical life that I find that I can’t refill until the next gig is over. I enjoyed talking about the play with not only Molly McGinnis and Greg but also with Katie Nabors and Dan Simpson. Everyone in this cast were good eggs. They loved to talk and kibbitz and talk endlessly about their characters. What could be better.
As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?
In regard to the opening weekend…. I had no idea whether my concept would work or not. I also had no idea as to whether anyone would even show up. Indeed, the audiences have been sparse and it’s too easy to blame the good weather or football. I wonder whether the topic is a downer. While these folks, George and Martha are very articulate, they are articulate in battling each other and that doesn’t always make for a wonderful evening of fun and fluff. While often funny, this is, at times, grim stuff. And while I do believe, in the end, George and Martha do love each other; it takes a while for them to get there.
What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?
In thinking what I accomplished, I suspect it was that I had a bit of different take on this play. As I mentioned earlier, I changed the set around a bit. Gone are walls, books, chairs, and any semblance of a house or home. Instead what we have are platforms in which the characters roam around, trying to figure out how to touch each other, or rather how to crash into each other.
I also believe that I have taken a positive approach to this couple. I believe that what you are seeing this particular evening is something that George and Martha have done many many many nights over the years; arguing and fighting and trying to desperately come up with a solution. An understanding. And tonight is the night that this happens. They come to an acceptance of the situation and of each other.
September 18 – October 4
$7-$15 General Admission
Lakeland Community College
7700 Clocktower Drive, Kirtland, OH 44094