Teenage girls have been a staple of modern arts and culture for decades. From Carrie to Mean Girls and everywhere in-between and beyond, they have come in many different permutations over the years. Now, The Management, a four year old indie theater company, throws their hat in the adolescent ring with Joshua Conkel’s new play, The Chalk Boy. The production, which focuses on four teenage girls coping with the disappearance of a classmate, opens Thursday, September 4th at UNDER St. Marks.
One of the show’s stars, actor Marguerite French, is no stranger to the indie theater boards. She headlined the DM Theatrics productions of Frank Cwiklik’s Sugarbaby! and Who in the Hell is the Real Live Lorelei Lee? earlier this decade, was a member of the 2007 NYIT Award-nominated ensemble for QED Productions’s revival of Mad Forest by Caryl Churchill, and played a vengeance seeking Ishtar worshipper in Jeff Lewonczyk’s Babylon Babylon this past spring. With The Chalk Boy, she gets to add “resident bully” to her resume.
Taking a momentary break from opening week tech rehearsals, Marguerite stopped by the ol’ blog to talk about the play and The Management’s recent visit to Washington, D.C. Take a read below…
Tell us a little bit about The Chalk Boy and the part you play in it.
The Chalk Boy is a dark comedy about four teenage girls, and if any readers once were teenage girls, they know that it’s a subject matter that can be pretty dark to start with. Josh Conkel, the author and director, has tapped into a lot of the truth of the subject, despite never having been a teenage girl himself. He gets the emotional turmoil and heightened urgency of everyday goings-on, but because he has the perspective of someone who’s come out the other side, he’s able to treat it with a great deal of heart and make it really quite funny.
The impetus for action in the play is the disappearance of one of the girls’ classmates, a popular boy, and we watch them react to that reality, and to each others’ reactions. I play a sort of tomboy bully/bitch – really, she’s just sensitive and misunderstood, natch.
What’s your role with The Management? And how was the company started?
My title is Managing Director, and the definition of that role has changed a lot since we started. While I enjoy what I do, a description of my work is pretty boring. I handle contracts and fiscal sponsorship and stuff. In a less official capacity, all of The Management’s members have a say in our artistic core and our ethos – we work well together as a team and everyone always has worthwhile suggestions for how we can proceed as a company. That’s something that I really appreciate about our particular chemistry as a group.
Our first production had a slot in 2004’s UnConvention Festival, which was a sort of oblique protest to the Republican National Convention in New York that year – the festival took place at the Abingdon Theatre, which was right on the soft border for security for the RNC. This, and many other factors, made our ensemble-based show quite a challenge, and at the end of it, we looked around at each other and decided that if we could get through that, we could get through quite a lot, so we just kept going.
How does The Chalk Boy fit into the mission of The Management?
The Chalk Boy fits perfectly into our mission – I sometimes feel like The Chalk Boy was a twinkle in our eye as we composed our mission statement. It’s darkly whimsical and an expose of American culture, and that’s what we do. As a company, our compassion and our love of community are two things that really drive us. We’re hoping to find our place, and help the artists we love find their place, and The Chalk Boy is about people who are really in the throes of finding out who they are and where they fit in. As you grow older, the urgency of needing to feel like you fit in lessens, or maybe just transmutes into a search for meaning and harmony in your life, of carving out or finding your place in the world. This show is about that same quest, but through a sort of hysterical, adolescent lens.
You all just finished a run of the show at the Capitol Fringe. What made you take it there and how did the run go?
The run was great! We received nothing but good feedback, and a couple of kick-ass reviews. Two years ago, We participated in the inaugural year of the CAPFringe and had a wonderful time. One of our Artistic Directors, Courtney Sale, was living there at the time. She heard about the festival, submitted us and we were accepted. We had packed houses and great responses, so we tried it out again, and there was a very warm reception after every performance.
Did any of you notice any particular differences between New York audiences and Washington, D.C. audiences?
It was refreshing to perform in a place where the audience didn’t have years and years of theories of how theater “should” be. I like performing for an educated audience, but at bottom, theater is just stories about humans, and if we can reach people on a human level, then we’ve got ourselves a good show. The responses from audiences in D.C. were very candid, and it was nice to be reminded that this show really reaches people on a lot of levels: it’s funny, it’s sad, it makes us feel a part of something and reminds us how many different paths there are for us to take.
The Management has another show planned for December. What’s that all about?
Our December show is a one-woman show titled The Scandal by Kristen Kosmas. Courtney met Kristen in Seattle, where Courtney went to school and Kristen still lives, and has been wanting to work on this show for a while. Thanks to our apprenticeship with Horse Trade Theater Group and the availability of our L.A.-based actor/Executive Director, Amy Golden, we’re able to produce it this December (incidentally, Amy and some other fine folks are producing The Chalk Boy in Los Angeles concurrently to the New York production, directed by Courtney). We’ve had a busy season, but we figured we should strike while we had a chance on this project. Kristen recently had a show at P.S. 122 called Hello, Failure, and stylistically, The Scandal is very similar to that show. It’s a sort of metatheatrical experience about a woman planning her suicide and the gossip storm that ensues – it sounds like a downer, but it’s actually kind of heartwarming and funny. But that makes it sound like a Lifetime movie, which it definitely is not.
Any further company plans for the new year?
We’ll definitely be continuing our Salon Series of play readings – they’ve been too much fun for us to stop now, and we’ve met some really wonderful people – and become closer with others we already knew – through the process. And if I may plug, we have two more installments of that series this year, excellent plays, both. We also have a show scheduled for early spring, but I’m not able to talk about that one just yet! So it looks like it’ll be another busy season, which we all complain about but secretly love.