The Straights (https://www.thestraightstheplay.com/) is an epic. Like Homer, Venus and Adonis, and others. It more than takes-off the rose colored glasses… it smashes them to the floor. It tracks millennial BFFs, Phoebe and Nina, as they navigate hitchhikers, shoplifting, drugs, and a flood of selfies on a cross-country no-boys-allowed adventure through the heart and heartlessness of the USA. Live performance coupled with video imagery are used to re-examine and deconstruct traditional American mythology and make women, queer folx, non-human persons, and people of color the stars of this new work by playwright T. Adamson. And it all started in 2016. Guess why.
Opening Thursday with the New York Times already reserving seats, OuterStage spoke with director WILL DETLEFSEN about and concept.
Tell us about yourself as an artist
I direct new plays, devised works, and classics, and I find that the different ways of working inform each other. I approach classics as if they’re new works and make choices that give them vitality and immediacy for a contemporary audience. I direct new plays with the sense of form and style that are often inspired by the classics. I love Tennessee Williams. I love rich poetic language. I make elaborately designed visually-rich shows but I always make sure the actor is in the center of whatever design worlds I create and I try to heighten the experience of live performance with every choice I make.
What your directing style? Does it change per show?
My directing style changes with every show but there are some things that probably stay the same. There are usually sharp contrasts in design, big surprising moments, and plenty of heightened theatricality. But I always start with what each show specifically needs- trying to understand what makes this show different from any other show and how I can bring that out- and sometimes my understanding of that changes mid-process. One common thread is that my process is deeply collaborative- with my designers and actors and writers. I believe in everyone bringing their best ideas forward produces the best results, which means often I’m working as a curator. There’s a lot of trial and error.
Share with us your thought process regarding this play. What do you hope the audience takes away from it? What is your purpose in doing it.
This play is epic and I take away new things from it every time I see it. I think everyone should go two or three times haha! Because there’s always more to find. There is so much love in this play- so many different ways that characters express love and desire. And so many things, often internal, that are preventing them from expressing that love. I hope people empathize with these characters, because I truly think that pursuit- to feel loved and to belong is universal- and in telling stories, we learn how to love each other better and grow together. Taylor’s writing is so rich in detail and humor and unexpected moments. I’ve wanted to do it for over a year now just because the world it creates is so thorough and rich and mysterious and even after rehearsing it for several weeks, it’s still a world I want to live inside and keep exploring the nuances of.
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