Monday, September 8, 2014

Spotlight On...Lillian Meredith

Name: Lillian Meredith

Hometown: NYC (UWS)

Education: Vassar College; National Theater Institute

Select Credits: Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab; Lincoln Center Director's Lab; Actors Theatre of Louisville Directing Internship; FURY Factory Festival of Ensemble Theater (SF); Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwright's Conference.

Why theater?: I mean, I have a lot of reasons that have to do with the fundamental importance of live storytelling, and my belief that theater can and does unite communities and spark connection, which are vital to why I make theater. But the more pedestrian reason is that I just keep coming back. There was a period of time, right after college, when I thought maybe I was going to take a break from theater. I had trained as an actor, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do professionally, so I was feeling a little lost and I figured maybe my calling was as an arts administrator. And I took a break. Except I didn't. I directed a show and performed in two others during my self-imposed exile. The fact is, it's really easy to not make theater - most people don't make theater all the time. The fact is, I'm just a happier, better person when I'm in rehearsals, when I'm prepping for a project, when I get to make and create. So, I quit my arts admin job and kept plugging away.

Tell us about the Communal Spaces: Communal Spaces is a festival of plays that are directly inspired by the community gardens in which they are performed. Every year, I assign playwrights to community gardens in a specific neighborhood and ask them to use their garden as the starting point for a 30-minute play. The plays are then staged in their gardens and the audience is encouraged to travel from play to play, sort of like a pub crawl. We hand out maps with places in the neighborhood to get coffee and food. The goal is to experience not just a narrative, but an entire part of the city through the lens of a theatrical event.

What inspired you to create the Communal Spaces: a garden play festival?: I have always been particularly interested in creating site-specific and site-responsive plays that break down the barrier between audience and performer. I started Communal Spaces specifically because I wanted to create theater as public art - theater that could change the relationship of the audience to their city and their community in the same way that graffiti on a building or music on the subway platform can enhance a passerby's relationship to their environment, even if only momentarily. We imbue quotidian spaces with our feelings, our memories and histories; by using these places as inspiration - instead of simply as backdrop - then maybe we as creators can make theater that feels like it belongs to everyone present, and even to the city as a whole. So far, it's seemed to work. Both the artists and the audiences seem to have a lot of fun, and it engages with the people who already come to the garden because the festival is all about asking to be allowed into their space, instead of letting them enter ours. Each artist interprets the limitations of the garden's architecture and history differently, which is really cool. It's been one of the most creatively fulfilling things I've ever done.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatrical events - plays that really feel like a unique moment in time, that rely on the people in the space to make the show. I want to go to plays that really use the medium, that make me glad I left home, that don't make me feel like I could just as easily be watching TV from the comfort of my couch. I also love theater that feels like it was created collaboratively, theater that has the input and viewpoints of more than just the playwright - I think the kind of wild narrative that can come from ensemble-generated work is thrilling and surprising. I'm inspired by people who make that kind of work.

What’s your favorite showtune?: It depends on my mood. Right now "God I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line feels pretty apt.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I'd love to assist Lear Debessonet. I think she's amazing.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Claire Danes. "I See What You're Saying, But No".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Pierre Natasha and the Great Comet of 1812

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Spaceman" by The Killers

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Chocolate and a glass of red wine, but I don't really feel that guilty about it.

What’s up next?: I'm actually about to head to Maine to perform in a traveling production of Macbeth. Random, I know, but I'm pretty psyched.