Name: Lavinia Roberts (writer) and Irene Kapustina (director)
LR: Parsons, KS, USA
IK: Minsk, Belarus
LR: New York University
IK: Loyola University Chicago and CUNY
LR: Eaten Voices (Dixon Place, The New Alchemists, Winner Thespis Theatre Festival, The Bread and Roses Theatre), The Rules of the World (HERE Arts Center, New Perspectives Theatre Company), The Black Triangle (Truant Arts, Roy Arias Studios, Metropolitan Playhouse)
IK: Doctor’s Office (The Barrow Group), Red Flowers in the Snow (Roy Arias), Eaten Voices (Dixon Place), Linda Her (site-specific), and ...
IK and LR: And this world premier of Poor People at the New York International Fringe Festival 2015, of course!
LR: I appreciate the ephemeral and live nature of performance. I also appreciate a community collectively sharing an experience and being fully present in a moment.
IK: Theatre combines all art forms into one for me. In theatre, the visual and musical (or rhythmical) elements have literary roots. And the fun part is that I get the flexibility to manipulate them as I please to achieve the level of expression that I need.
Tell us about Poor People:
IK: Poor People is an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s epistolary novel and first masterpiece, "Poor Folk".
LR: The play explores the platonic relationship of Makar, an affable albeit poor Clerk, and his distant relation, Vavara and is told using physical movement and scripted text.
IK: Set in St. Petersburg in 1845, Poor People ultimately explores how the environments we live in affect our lives.
What inspired you to write Poor People?:
LR: Irene picked up Poor Folk while visiting Belarus.
IK: And having read it, I was struck by how the lives of the two main characters in the 19th Century St. Petersburg resembled our urban life here, in New York City.
LR: So Irene approached me with the idea of adapting the novel for the stage. And I was drawn to the humanity of the characters, their unwavering belief in the sanctity and safety of their relationship. Poor People has a lot of warmth and humor. There was a lot of freedom and space for ownership in adapting the work.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
LR: The theatre I put into my mental space is mindful and innovative work that cultivates emotional intelligence and beauty in the material world.
IK: Any theatre that moves me emotionally and makes me a better person. I need to leave a theatre with my heart beating faster and an image that I want hold on to. Hofesh Shechter’s choreography transforms me every time.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
LR: Handspring Puppet Company
IK: Hofesh Shechter. But honestly, though, we can’t complain.
LR: It’s impossible to complain with the gifted people on board.
IK: The cast and crew of Poor People is an incredibly talented group; we all share similar aesthetics. So what else could we ask for?
What show have you recommended to your friends?:
LR: War Horse.
IK: In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, directed by Radosław Rychcik and presented at La MaMa a few years ago. The play shook my world.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
LR: Could it be a Lotte Reiniger Film?
IK: Can I also give you a work of fiction instead? I would be played by LARA from "Dr. Zhivago".
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
LR: I would really appreciate experiencing the original production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
IK: Anton Chekhov’s Seagull, directed by Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko at The Moscow Art Theatre.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
LR: Date and almond vegan bon bons. I listen to far too many podcasts and lectures. Lately, I’ve been interested in the nature of consciousness and artificial intelligence. Irene also lets me have Queen breaks when we have long work days.
IK: We LOVE Freddie. You know, I think he knew what theatre was all about!
LR: I run on Queen.
IK: And on my part, to add to the above: sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
LR: You haven’t had that since you started working on Poor People.
IK: Yes, sleep is on my calendar for 2016.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be______?:
LR: Gender Studies Professor.
IK: Surgeon. But I hate Chemistry, so that’s a problem.
What’s up next?:
LR: I am working on the Wonderland Project, a short film, "Eaten Voices", produced with The New Alchemists, a puppetry residency with Standard Toykraft, and a couple exhibitions, one with Exquisite Corpse Company in their Secession 2015 project running this August on Governor’s Island.
IK: I hope that we will continue our artistic journey with Poor People. I am also conceiving a Chekhov project, but I can’t give away the details just yet. (Sly smile.)
For more on Poor People, visit https://poorpeopletheplay.wordpress.com/