I AND YOU, seems like the perfect play for MOXIE Theatre to open in March. After all, it is national women’s month and this play was writte by a top playwright Lauren Gunderson and also features an all-female and non-binary design and production team. Director Callie Prendiville, who is also the Associate Artistic Director of MOXIE, and a founding member of The Electric Company Theatre, gives a glimpse of what it’s like working on a theatrical piece that is being filmed, and why this play seems like such an obvious choice for the time of quarantine.
I AND YOU is set in the bedroom of Caroline (played by Justine Sombilon) who is stuck at home due to illness. When Anthony (played by Miles Henry) a basketball player from school, comes into her room bearing cookies and a last-minute project for school she is furious. What starts as a poetry project quickly becomes a look at the connection, friendship, and life as one of the up and coming generations during an uncertain time
Callie was drawn to the piece when she initially read it nine years ago while working on its first public performance at the Pacific Playwrights Festival, and stuck with her as something she wanted to work on in the future.
I read the play before the first rehearsal and thought it was brilliant, then was absolutely floored throughout the week as Lauren made changes quickly in rehearsal to integrate notes from the actors, director, and dramaturg. She is so smart and so kind, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since; she’s just a brilliant voice.
When Jen (Jennifer Eve Thorn) invited me to be on staff at MOXIE, I immediately suggested I AND YOU but it wasn’t a good fit for that season. As we entered quarantine, suddenly this play about a girl stuck at home in her room unable to attend school in person seemed like an obvious choice.
Directing I AND YOU as a filmed theatrical production came with an amazing opportunity to work with some incredibly gifted cast members in Justine and Miles.
One of my favorite parts of directing this show has been the casting. Justine Sombilon and Miles Henry are not only incredibly gifted actors, they are young people that I have known for half their lives because they were in my husband Brian’s children’s theatre from the time they were in the fifth grade. They went on to participate in his high school program, and I directed them both in several plays. Getting to work with them now at MOXIE, a few years later with them as college students, has been so rewarding. For me, one of the great silver linings of the pandemic is the fact that these two were available to be in this show and not at in-person classes at Stanford and Fullerton College. They are such great people and I’m so proud to get to work with them in their debuts. Getting to call them to offer them these roles was truly a highlight of my fall.
Along with that fantastic casting win, the process also presented some unique challenges for Prendiville to tackle to make everything work.
The challenge of this process has been that we’re never quite in the space that’s accurate. First, rehearsing in Zoom for what will ultimately be staged on the actual MOXIE stage was a different kind of process than rehearsing in Zoom for MOXIE’s ZoomFest, where we ultimately performed in Zoom. The actors were such troopers and rehearsed in a total vacuum in their bedrooms. Then when we finally got in the space, it was such a breath of fresh air, but the audience won’t be viewing it in the space! I’ve never directed for the camera before so thinking about my shot list truly kept me up at night. Doing something you’ve never done before in front of a public audience is totally terrifying.
I hope that the shots we’ve created translate the intimacy of the show to the audience in their homes via their screens. Getting to collaborate with John Brooks, who is a MOXIE board member and documentary filmmaker, was a great gift. We were very conscious about wanting it to feel like you’re watching from the theatre while taking advantage of the medium at the same time.
Even with the challenges the pandemic provided, Callie says the collaborative nature of theatre, along with a wonderful production team, helped make this process and the show run as smoothly as possible.
Making theatre during the pandemic is such a challenge and I tip my hat to anyone trying something scary and new! This show is a co-production between MOXIE and my new company, Electric Company Theatre which I co-founded with my husband during the pandemic.
MOXIE was really generous in supporting us as we start out and in offering to make this a co-production, and it has been fun to combine the two worlds. Miles and Justine, who grew up working with Brian and I and the other staff members of Electric Company Theatre, are really bridging the two companies in a fun way.
I would like to thank my husband and my parents for being so supportive while I’ve been away filming, and for the incredible leadership at MOXIE in Jen and our Production Manager Nicole for helping to problem-solve things that are completely new to all of us, all the time.
I AND YOU, by MOXIE Theatre, directed by Callie Prendiville, and staring Justine Sombilon and Miles Henry is available for virtual performances through March 28th. For ticket information and performance times go to www.moxietheatre.com
Once you purchase your ticket, you’ll be registered for the Zoom performance of your choice. You’ll receive an email with the link and password 24 hours before your performance.
Please note that ticket sales close 10 minutes BEFORE the performance starts, to allow time to register participants on Zoom.