Backstage: Finding truth is exciting
Rogue Theater Company Artistic Director Jessica Sage is in rehearsal for the company’s next production: Marsha Norman’s “’Night Mother.” The Pulitzer-prize winning play, directed by Caroline Shaffer, opens in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Theater Nov. 1. Sage plays Mama, and Andrea Hochkeppel plays her daughter, Jessie. We all met one morning at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company.
EH: What attracts you to this play?
JS: There are so few plays for women by women that are this magnificent.
CS: The play is fundamentally about a relationship between a mother and a daughter, and it’s a complicated relationship.
EH: We see the difference between two realities. These two people are so steeped in each other’s lives. Everything they talk about, they have experienced together. Although both are experiencing the same things, one person’s point of view can be so different from the person they are sitting right next to. They can talk about the exact same thing, and not see it the same way at all.
CS: And secrets. What people decide to tell and don’t decide to tell; and who owns their own story; and what people get to say about themselves. And creating realities. They have very different outlooks on the way they structure their own stories. I see it as a dance or a tug of war, and yet so mutually intertwined.
And then take that premise, that they are so intricately connected, to a further level. I see the larger women’s story. It’s this Petri dish. Look at these people whose lives are so intricately connected, and yet there is a certain degree of implosion in terms of options. They each have their paths, or their plans, or their schemes. And they are thwarted by each other, and thwarted by reality and circumstance, which is the human condition.
I find it interesting from a feminist perspective: a deep dive into that love/hate that we have with ourselves as women. It’s about these women’s lives and their attempt to reach out to each other, particularly in this one evening. It all takes place in real time. It’s realism that is fun to act.
You have two strong characters that are very different. The character of Mama creates her life around her in such a way that conflicts with the reality of what Jessie sees and actually lends itself to some tremendous humor.
JS: It’s wonderful to go on this journey.
EH: What is uplifting about this play?
CS: It is by sharing these relationships and conditions in this context of theater that is enriching and uplifting. It’s like when you go to a place of worship, you walk away uplifted through your commune with others, and reaching truths, and finding the thing that pulls us together in commonality.
We also play with memory and reality, and whose reality is the truth. We are sharing a story together. It’s uplifting when you share a story with people who are experiencing their own truths in that moment.
JS: The play is an in-depth exploration into the relationship between mother and daughter. They get to know each other more in this 90-minute period than they do in all of their life together. And truth is told in a way that’s never been told before between the two of them, and that’s what I love. I love it when truth is revealed. And truth is told, in this evening together, for the first time on many levels, and I find that very exciting.
The set design is by Richard Hay. Chris Sackett designed the lighting. “’Night, Mother” plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 1-16, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 3-17. For tickets and information, see www.roguetheatercompany.com.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with interesting people, visit her blog: ashlandtheater.net. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.