I interviewed Chris O’Connor, the Founder and Artistic Director of the Hoboken-based Mile Square Theatre, about their upcoming production, “The Pavilion” by Craig Wright, for The Jersey Journal.
Like the characters in the play, O’Connor will be reuniting with a long lost love.
About 12 years ago in Pittsburgh, O’Connor originated the lead role of Peter, a man who goes to his 20-year high school reunion hoping to win back Kari, his teenage love.
Check out the full article on NJ.com. Here is my full interview with O’Connor:
Chris O’Connor: We looked at a lot of plays and a number of factors went into the decision. You want to do something that you think will speak to audience you’ve been developing. This popped back into my head – “Why not ‘The Pavilion’?” I think it sort of plays well with other plays we’ve done. It hits a demographic as far as people coming to the theater. Also, it’s a great play – it has beautiful writing (and it’s) very actor-driven.
SDH: What was your experience like when you first played Peter?
CO: I was involved in this play for a relatively long time…I worked on it for six months. I came in when it was still being developed and worked very closely with (playwright) Craig Wright and (director) Aaron Posner. At the time, a lot of issues in the play were kind of personal to me, and it’s always really great to be involved in a project you can really relate to. What was interesting about it was that I did all the work in Pittsburgh where I went to college…about 20 years before I started working on the play. A lot of memories of when I was young came back.
It’s always an honor and delight to be in on something as it’s being developed, to be part of the playwriting process, to be a collaborator in that. It was a really great company, everyone got along. I had a really wonderful time.
SDH: Are your experiences from the original production impacting your directing choices now?
CO: My interpretation of it is definitely informed by when I did it. I’m really not trying to take it in any other kind of direction. The play speaks for itself in a very simple way and there’s not a lot you want to do with it. Sometimes when I’m working on it, I’ll have an idea which will feel like an impulse…I’ll articulate the idea to the actors and look at the script and see a stage note that suggests what I’m thinking, so there’s a thin line between my memory of it and what I think are impulses. My instincts with the play are really rooted in my experience 12 years ago.
SDH: How has it been working with your actors, MST Associate Artistic Director Matthew Lawler, Dena Tyler and Greg Jackson?
CO: They’re three actors who have never been in this play. I’m working to honor what they’re bringing to it as well. I’m not trying to squeeze them into something. When they auditioned for the roles, what they brought seemed so right to me for these particular parts.
SDH: Is it interesting working with Greg Jackson because he’s playing the same role you did?
CO: We’re having a really great time together. I’m letting him follow his impulses. He’s a really smart actor and what’s wonderful about this play is that these actors are all really good and their instincts for these roles are appropriate. I don’t have to work hard with them. Greg is a veteran actor, he’s been doing this for a long time and we see eye-to-eye on what Peter should be. I’m helping him shape his performance. The performance has a lot of emotional ups and downs so it’s really crucial to the shape of the production that we try to map all that out for both these characters.
SDH: Has your view of the play changed in any way now that you’re directing it?
CO: It’s interesting to approach this play as a director as oppose to an actor who’s in it. Also, doing it 12 years later, I’m more objective about it. I understand the play a lot better. I have a stronger idea of what we’re trying to say with the play, which I didn’t when I was in it. I was really just concerned with what I was doing as the character, – it would’ve been a mistake to be completely objective because you can’t do that as an actor. I’m also older and wiser so it’s a good time for me to be doing this.
Matt Lawler and I feel really great about presenting this play. The message this play has is something we both feel is a great thing to offer to the audience.
SDH: What is that message, exactly?
CO: the play talks about the passage of time and the choices we make in our lives, choices that are good or bad and how we choose to deal with those choices, which I think everyone thinks about, especially when they get to a certain age. We all have regrets, hopes and expectations – and sometimes we don’t meet those expectations or hopes and we may hold on to regret, may blame ourselves, blame others – this play is about how we navigate that idea.
SDH: What is going to be different about this production?
CO: I’m excited about right now – see when I did it in Pittsburgh, I didn’t have a strong connection to the audience. Here I have a strong connection to the Mile Square Theatre audience. I can talk to people about it which is really satisfying. That’s what I love about theater – it always ignites conversation. Sometimes I see people on street who have seen our shows and we’ll talk about the play and I get to hear how they got excited about it. I’m excited to have conversation with people.
“The Pavilion” will run April 12 through 29 at the Monroe Center Theatre Space, 720 Monroe St., Hoboken. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $30, $18 for students and seniors. April 19 is a “Pay What You Will” show. Tickets are available at the door and also online at MileSquareTheatre.org.