FringeNYC 2008 Preview: Too Much Memory

Laura Heisler in "Too Much Memory"

Laura Heisler in "Too Much Memory"

Who said the New York International Fringe Festival is just for up-and-comers? New York theater veterans Keith Reddin and Meg Gibson might beg to differ. Even though they’ve both forged long and varied show business careers – Keith, as a highly-esteemed playwright and actor; Meg, as a recognizable character actor both on stage and screen – that doesn’t mean they can’t have some fun in Fringe-land, too. Their new play, Too Much Memory, premieres at this year’s festival and promises to show the young’uns a thing or two. Teaming up with indie theater stalwarts Rising Phoenix Repertory, Keith and Meg’s mash-up adaptation of the classic tragedy Antigone promises plenty of post-modern attitude as it moves the story to late 20th century America and throws in aspects of both the contemporary domestic drama and political thriller genres. Meg directs the production, which opens at walkerspace on Saturday, August 9th and features New York theater mainstays Louis Cancelmi, Peter Jay Fernandez, Laura Heisler, Martin Moran, and Ray Anthony Thomas in the cast.

Keith and Meg – who are also a real life husband-and-wife duo – recently paid a visit to the ol’ blog for a brief chat about the show and its origins. Check it out…

Too Much Memory is adapted from Jean Anouilh’s classic drama, Antigone. Does that mean it’s a brand new version of the play itself, or more of a new work inspired by an older work?

Keith: Too Much Memory has gone through a lot of versions, further and further from the original Sopohocles and Anouilh, and now it’s more something new, so it feels organic and current for the actors. Its a kind of collage, using all sorts of texts, poems, interviews, portions of Richard Nixon’s memoirs, that sort of thing.

And it has plenty of rock and roll and film references, so we’ve got a sort of post-modern take on the classics. We have this Chorus character in the piece say in the play “it’s an adaptation of an adaptation of a retranslation, we don’t know exactly what to call that.” There it is.

What made you two decide to co-write the script together?

Keith: Meg approached me years ago about doing a new version of Antigone, given current events. Plus I’ve been wanting to work on a classic story. Those stories are truly timeless and lend themselves to infinite variations. And Meg is so smart and sexy, who wouldn’t want to work with her. And I ended up marrying her! Now we sort of have to make this happen.

Keith, you’ve had a multi-faceted career so far as both an actor and a writer. Now you’re Fringe-ing it up with indie theater stalwarts Rising Phoenix Repertory. How’d you first get involved with them?

I saw a number of readings at Rising Phoenix, then Meg did a workshop of Daniel Talbott’s play Slipping, and I thought, you guys rock! I make it a habit when I see something that blows me away, I go up to people after and say I want to work with you on whatever. I did that years ago with Keen Company and I’ve now done three projects with them.

Meg, you’ve carved out a steady acting career, both onstage and on-screen. Now you’re directing Too Much Memory. Are you interested in directing more in the future, or you are going to remain focused on acting?

I’ve always wanted to direct as well as act and did so when I was in college. And I’ve always loved the big guys – Beckett, Pinter. Cracking those guys is an excellent challenge. When I went to Juillard, my teachers very wisely said concentrate on just the acting. So I did for 20 years. It was my old friends from college, running a very maverick company in Salt Lake City that encouraged me to begin directing again. Miller, Terry Johnson, Charles Mee – that was the next list of challenges. I like to say I’m expanding into directing. James Bundy, the dean up there at Yale School of Drama, concurred. Some folks want, can, must do more than one aspect of this work. Daniel Talbott is a perfect example. And he’s way younger than me doing all this at the same time already! Add producing to his list! This idea that we should only do one thing is quickly fading. So, yes, I want to direct more, and still be acting. I just did a juicy small movie playing Sigmund Freud’s mother. Out there.

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