Thursday, December 14, 2017

Spotlight On...Susan Bernfield

Name: Susan Bernfield

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Education: University of Pennsylvania, Circle in the Square Professional Workshop

Favorite Credits: Stretch (a fantasia) at Ice Factory, New Georges and People’s Light & Theatre

Why theater?:  When I was 9, I started doing theater and found my people.  And now I get to meet new people who are my people just about every day.  I’m very lucky.

Tell us about Tania In The Getaway Van It’s a play about second wave feminism, the women’s movement of the 1970s, as it was experienced not in magazines or by fancy people but by middle-class suburban women who found themselves facing new choices for the first times in their lives, trying to re-form themselves as people with agency.  Or really the first part takes places in the 1970s, then the mother/daughter story at the play’s center moves forward to 2012 to talk a little bit about expectations met and failed in a fast/slow moving world.

What inspired you to write Tania In The Getaway Van?:  It’s a riff on my own childhood, my own mom and me, then it expands outward… the story was always very much there waiting to find a way out (or for me to find a way in), though I always wondered if it would actually interest anyone, I hesitated to write it. For better or worse, now seems to be the right time for it.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  I want to be surprised, I want to see something I’ve never seen before.  I gravitate toward big theatricality and big ideas, I’m inspired by work I never could have thought up or made myself, that pushes my conception of what can happen in a theater in one way or another, through heightened language or theatricality or a new kind of theatrical context.  I think I’m more likely to be moved by a sudden image or juxtaposition or aggregation of elements that breaks through and brings an experience together than by a big conventionally-building emotional scene – I like to be snuck up on.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Guys!  Ha!  Running New Georges, I don’t get to work with a lot of guy playwrights and directors, but sometimes there are guys I meet and I think, well, that’s too bad… that’d be different.  It’s a funny little world I’ve made for myself.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:   Last year I did a lot of recommending of Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson at New York Theatre Workshop, and it’s back on my mind because I saw his Home at BAM today, directed by my friend Lee Sunday Evans, and again, wow.  The way he approaches environment, objects, community, the audience, he creates a relentlessly human and endlessly surprising experience… it draws you in – often literally, cause you’re in it – and eventually you figure out where it’s going and it’s so so moving.  Just when you least expect it, and because of how he’s devised and placed each moment, a perfect example of what I describe above.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Wow, huh!  Uh… Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Fast Talking Woman”?

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  Geez, I feel like I’m so old now I almost don’t know how to answer this! If I pretend I’m still a kid I’d say Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story on Broadway, written for and starring Katharine Hepburn, 1939.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Donna Summer.  Live and More.  Holding or pretending to hold those long long screams of notes along with her got me through high school and it’s still delightfully there when I need it. Ditto Patti LuPone on the Evita soundtrack.  Both on my original vinyl.  Packhorse.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:   Lately for some reason I’ve been having flower arranging dreams…

What’s up next?:  New Georges presents two sound-centered new plays in rep as part of our year as Anchor Partners at The Flea – Stephanie Fleischmann’s Sound House, directed by Debbie Saivetz, and Lily Whitsitt and Door 10’s This Is The Color Described By The Time.  And I’d like to get back in the game of performing my solo piece My Last Car in people’s living rooms, that was a delightful thing to do.

For more on Susan, visit For more on The Pool Plays, visit