Director Callie Prendiville comes full circle to a play she witnessed the birth of and now helms nearly a decade later. The timing couldn’t be more ripe for Prendiville, who returns to direct I AND YOU just as she launches her own theatre with her partner and husband Brian Johnson, The Electric Company Theatre in La Habra, CA. Prendiville also continues to serve as the Associate Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre in San Diego, while teaching school online to both high school and college students in both Orange County and San Diego. MOXIE takes a moment here to explore her unique connection to the play.
You have a long history with this play, can you tell us about that?
In 2012 I read the stage directions for the first public reading of this play at the Pacific Playwrights Festival at South Coast Repertory. It’s a job I’ve done at that theatre many times and I always love spending the week in the rehearsal room watching the way different playwrights process their work. Lauren Gunderson absolutely blew me away- I thought the script was great on day one, and then watched her quickly make changes, fix problems, and synthesize reactions from the team and actors. She’s incredibly smart and kind. The play went on to become super popular and I’ve directed the play at two different high schools as an educator.
What makes you want to come back to this play in this specific moment?
The play deals with so many themes: Life and death (and grass, as Caroline points out) are so prevalent in Leaves of Grass and in the other works referenced in the script, and returning to those conversations during a pandemic, where death feels so close and pervasive, feels completely different than it did in 2012 at SCR or in 2016 when I directed it at the high school level. It’s also the first time I’ve worked on it since becoming a mother, so the way the characters refer to their parents really strikes me in a different way.
What is special about this cast?
I love this cast! I’ve known both of these actors since they joined my husband’s children’s theatre, the Fullerton Children’s Repertory Theatre, when they were in the fifth grade. I directed both of them in plays in high school, and Justine in particular actually played Caroline for me in high school and I cast her in my Hollywood Fringe show while she was still a student and we ended up taking that show Off-Broadway. I’m so delighted to be working with them in their MOXIE debuts and seeing how they’ve grown in college. They are both such nice human beings who not only share a friendship that spans most of their lives, but a great passion and excitement for this particular play. Everyone should cast them in everything
What has directing (mostly) on zoom been like?
Because I teach on Zoom every day, the logistics of using it are no longer the challenge they used to be. And because I wrote and directed a few plays for ZoomFest, I felt confident about working with actors that way. The unique challenge for this production is rehearsing in Zoom but knowing that we will eventually be on stage. There are some things we just had to trust would be different in the space together – no more internet lags! And then there’s the fact that the audience won’t be in the space and remembering to think about the camera angles etc rather than the usual sight line concerns from the theatre seats. There are obvious perks, of course. I’ve worn a lot of sweatpants and the commute is pretty great.
What do you miss most about theatre during the pandemic?
Being in space with other people! Remember crowds? Specifically being in an audience and laughing, crying, or gasping together at the same moment. I miss that so much. There are several moments in this show that I am very sad that I (and the actors) won’t get to hear the audience reactions to. But I am really looking forward to hearing about everyone’s experience with watching from home during our post show discussions!
Why should audiences tune into a virtual theatre event like this?
Lauren’s writing is so filled with redemption and hope. Earnestness and hope feels pretty exhilarating right now. Also, filmed plays are a silver lining of the pandemic! I’ve gotten to see some really cool productions streamed from around the world and I’m excited to add ours to the mix. It’s its own unique art form – not quite a movie, not quite the same as sitting in the theatre with a crowd. I really applaud everyone from the theatre industry who has learned new video, audio, and digital skills since March. New things are scary.
I AND YOU by Lauren Gunderson is Co-Produced by MOXIE Theatre and The Electric Company Theatre. This virtual production is filmed on MOXIE’s stage and will be streamed on zoom March 4-28, 2021.