FringeNYC 2008 Preview: Exodus

The cast of "Exodus"

"Exodus"

The New York International Fringe Festival never lacks for productions with social relevance, and this year is no different. One such offering at this year’s festival is Exodus, Daren Taylor’s political drama set in a fictional dystopian America where famine is commonplace, child labor has been legalized, and religion is the law. The story follows a group of friends in a small Kansas town who begin to question the oppressive status quo and ponder doing something about it.

The production – which opens Sunday, August 10th at The Connelly Theater – is directed by up-and-comer Jessica McVea, who stopped by the ol’ blog to tell us a little bit more about it and her aesthetic. Check it out…

This sounds like a big project in terms of both scale and big picture ideas. How did you get involved with it?

I was actually one of the actors during the development process of the show and for a staged reading of it. Daren Taylor (the writer) and I spent a lot of time fleshing out the world of Exodus and what it meant to be a part of it. I think because of those conversations, he turned to me because he knew I saw Exodus the way he did. I think it also helped that Daren knew I was organized enough to make sure none of the pieces in this extremely large show got lost!

Exodus sports a cast of fourteen, which is large for a straight play. How do you manage a group that big over the course of rehearsals?

With lots and lots of planning and flexibilty. It helped that our rehearsals took place in a very artistic building (we rehearsed at NYU), so the focus needed for acting was already in the air. I commend my cast for their commitment to a show that is truly an ensemble piece. Sometimes those are hard to wade through, because the actors don’t feel like they’re getting their share of the limelight in the show or even in rehearsal. But my cast has really been great in helping me sculpt such a large world in which everyone is a part.

Jessica McVea

Jessica McVea

As far as your directorial style/aesthetic goes, who or what has influenced you? And how do those influences find their way into this production, if at all?

I come out of Atlantic Theater Company, which, for those who don’t know, is extremely direct, simple, and professional. I find that influences me more than anything. What story am I trying to tell, and am I really telling it? What is the simplest and most straightforward way to tell it? What do I want the audience to take away when they leave? These are the questions I always go back to – paring down something to its simplest and most important element and then building it back up again layer by layer – that’s really how I work. 

Other than Atlantic, I find the playwrights influence me more than other directors and their styles. The language in Odets, the pacing in Pinter, the subtext in Williams – I love these things, and fall back on them again and again to use in other stories. The great playwrights captured something in their words that I always attempt to use. I’m a big fan of the sound of a play as well as the look of it.

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