Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfe, an interview with Creative Director, Becca Parker

As we prepare for our production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, we sat down for a talk with our Creative Director, Becca Parker. Becca Parker is no stranger to the Live Arts stage. As Founding Artistic Director, she has had a hand in every single Live Arts production. When she is not directing, she is doing sound or lighting design, music direction, or any other job that needs doing. Here is what she had to say about our upcoming show.

Q: Tell us about the theme of the Live Arts Theatre’s 2016/17 season?

A: The theme for the season is “Look Again” (Things are not always what they seem). Every season we have a theme. This one is about challenging our audiences to look at the fact that things are not always how they appear.  You might walk in and see things one way, but as you learn more about a situation, you may change your opinions. As facts are revealed you may find that things are opposite of what you thought.

Q: Why did you choose the play Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for our season theme, Look Again?

A: The reason I selected it from among our many submissions was because 1. I respected Frank, the director and 2. It is a classic play everyone knows.  The characters themselves very much fit the theme of look again because as the night goes on, (the show happens over 1 night), the different facets of the characters are revealed. The way they are in one scene, is different to the next, constantly changing their masks and you never see exactly who they are.

Q: So there was big controversy this summer with the casting.  In fact, there have been several over the years. Can you tell us why you chose to move forward with this show, and how you overcame any objections?

A: It is a classic show, and legally we have to adhere to the stipulations in the contract, Usually, it is pretty standard, but you have to read it because there are stipulations such as the play can’t be cut or a  character many need have particular features.  In this case, the Albee estate has to approve all castings of the show. The controversy in question was that a theatre in Oregon chose to cast Nick, the secondary male role with a black gentleman and the Albee estate told them to either change the casting or not do the show. They chose to not do the show because they felt it was wrong.  As a fellow creative director, I can see why she chose that because it is a subject near and dear to my heart. On the other hand, you have to read your contract and that choice should have been made up front. That theatre should have done their research before programming the show, so they would know what they were getting into when they programmed the work.

Live Arts did know what we were getting into but was not quite sure of how big an issue it was going to be. At the same time, the director wanted to do this classic work, and we had also decided that we were going to also do the Wilson project in February.  So when we were met with the issue, we decided that we would host a talk-back with our directing intensive students and people in the community to discuss race-conscious casting.  We are balancing this show (with a required all-white cast) with Wilson, and all non-white cast, and also discussing how in this time period there were very few opportunities for actors who were not white.  I say not white on purpose because we would have the same problems regardless of any race we chose beyond white.  We would have the same problem if we chose a Filipino man or a person of South American decent for the role.

As the show comes together, what can audiences look forward too with Live Arts production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This is a very intense heavy play.  It is three hours in length with two intermissions.  The people who are going to come to see it, understand that this is classic piece of American theatre literature, I could say iconic.  It is a very heavy play dealing with the deterioration of a marriage.  It is recommended for ages 16+ language, adult situations, and violence. It absolutely earns every last bit of that rating.  They are going to find a play that is well acted and should keep you engaged from beginning to end. This is not a happy fluffy play.  You will not leave the theatre on cloud nine, but you will leave the theatre in the mood for deep conversation and contemplation.

The show opens in about 9 days.  We have four outstanding actors who are brand new to Live Arts Theatre that we would love for you to come and see.  Get your tickets now. http://latvirginiawoolf.brownpapertickets.com/  It is a cozy house.  You will want to get a seat.

Please note that opening weekend has been moved. The show officially opens Oct 28 and will run through Nov 4th (Once again, get your tickets now!)