Photo credits courtesy of Leta Tremblay, used with permission.
Photo 1/5
Photo credits courtesy of Leta Tremblay, used with permission.
Photo 2/5
Photo credits courtesy of Leta Tremblay, used with permission.
Photo 3/5
Photo credits courtesy of Leta Tremblay, used with permission.
Photo 4/5
Photo credits courtesy of Leta Tremblay, used with permission.
Photo 5/5

“Di and Viv and Rose” is a play written by Amelia Bullmore and directed by Leta Tremblay that is set have its U.S. debut at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row from June 2 to June 19, 2016. The comedic and touching play follows the lives of a trio of friends over a span of 27 years. This play--which previously ran on London’s West End--is making its international debut in New York after receiving rave reviews in the United Kingdom. According to the official press release:

Away from home for the first time, and hailing from three distant corners of England, Di, Viv, and Rose form a complicated friendship during their first year at university. In their shared flat on Mossbank Road life feels boundless and bountiful—as intense as it is beautiful. But when time catapults the trio forward, apart, and then back into each other’s laps and hearts, we witness how their futures depend on a mutual preservation of their shared past.

Recently Leta Tremblay, the Producing Artistic Director of FullStop Collective & Caps Lock Theatre, spoke to AXS about her experiences working on this show and in the theater industry in general:

AXS: What inspired you to become a director?

Leta Tremblay (L.T.): My first memory of sitting in an audience and experiencing a moment of awe that I could identify as a dramatic choice was at a production of “West Side Story.” There were ramps leading up to the stage and the Jets made their entrance by running up them and flipping into the air to land on the stage. Or maybe they rode skateboards up and performed tricks. Whether there were actually skateboards or not, that was certainly the feeling. The sheer joy and enthusiasm of being a boy at home with your crew was perfectly captured and I’ve never forgotten it. It wasn’t until years later that I made the connection that this moment was shaped by a director. As an actor in high school, I viewed my directors as acting coaches more than anything else. They were just another teacher. I didn’t see all of the other decisions that they were making for the production as a whole. That lesson came in college where I finally had the opportunity to watch directors work. Both my fellow student peers and my professor teachers. I was awed again…and totally inspired. It was immediately clear to me that this was the role that I was meant to play in the theater.

AXS: Growing up, what shows and/or stories had the biggest impact on you? Why?

L.T.: I’ve always loved “Peter Pan” because the story is so inherently theatrical and full of magic. In its more recent iterations, it’s also a growing up story that every child can identify with. The desire not to leave childhood juxtaposed with the desire to exist beyond your parents, be independent, and seek adventure. It’s full of beautiful, imaginative worlds begging to be realized and exciting, strange characters leaping off the page. My cousin Peter (it’s true!) and I would spend hours playing out Neverland scenarios with great joy and glee. This story had such a strong impact on me that I recently took inspiration from it to create a devised play, “The Belief Project,” which addresses issues of gun control, post the Newtown shooting, through the lens of the Peter Pan myth. After years of development, my company, FullStop Collective, produced the piece at IRT Theatre in March 2015. As children, fantastical stories like “Peter Pan” (in any form be it play, book, musical, film, or TV) allow us to disappear into other worlds and either escape our daily traumas or work through them. Theater, at its best, does the same thing. As an adult, I am constantly thrilled and amazed that my job as a director and an artist allows me the opportunity to harness this magic and provide a space for audiences to vanish inside of a good story.

AXS: How did you get involved with “Di and Viv and Rose”?

L.T.: Leslie Erin Roth, who plays Rose, and I are alums of the Eugene O’Neill National Theater Institute where we each spent 14 of our most formative weeks in Waterford, Connecticut immersed in all aspects of creative theater: acting, directing, writing, design, and movement/voice 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Those kinds of shared experiences, even in different semesters, create a kinship between people. Leslie and I met at a number of alumni events and finally had the opportunity to work together on a short sci-fi play last May. Since then, we’ve both had our eyes on each other as potential collaborators for something larger. She invited me to attend a workshop of “Di and Viv and Rose” last December and I was so impressed by the performances that she, Olivia, and Raven gave and by their connection to the material. This is, without question, a play for actors. It contains beautifully complex characters that are big, bold, and continue to surprise you as they develop and change with life and experience. When Leslie approached me about directing their production, I jumped at the chance.

AXS: What other plays have you worked on and do you have a favorite?

L.T.: Most of my directing work in New York over the last 8 ½ years has been on new plays with living playwrights, which I absolutely love. Some of my favorite projects have been bringing to life the words of my art wife Mariah MacCarthy. Our first collaboration was “The Foreplay Play,” a story about two couples (one gay, one straight) attempting to have a foursome with disastrous results. We produced it site specifically in the living room and kitchen of a real apartment in Williamsburg, which added a voyeuristic intimacy to the production. We loved the experience of presenting a play in an apartment so much that we next created “Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion,” an immersive party play in which the audience was welcomed to the event as guests of the party and classmates of the characters 20 years ago. They were free to move about the space, listen in on conversations, and discover secrets to piece the plot together on their own. It was always a wild night and one of the most fun theatrical events that I’ve ever worked on. Most recently though I had the pleasure of directing Mariah’s “Honors Students” at The Ensemble Studio Theatre and this one may take the cake as my new favorite. Think “Heathers” meets “Fight Club.” You’re intrigued already, right? It’s a “you can tear your eyes away” type of story with new shocking surprises at every turn. Mariah’s characters always jump off of the page with life, which allows me to play with actors and engage with audiences as a director in an incredibly glorious way. I’m so grateful for our collaborations.

AXS: What would be your “dream project”?

L.T.: I would LOVE to create an epic Joan of Arc Pop Rock Musical. Combining this historical figure with a modern music mentality would bring her story of a young woman on a mission to save her country into our current climate. The opportunities for drama and connection are limitless. Joan was a badass teenage girl from a peasant family who became a solider and led an army to victory purely because her belief that she must do this was so strong and nothing but success was possible. What would a modern Joan look like today? What would her cause be? Would we be able to recognize her? Is there a choreographed battle on silks suspended in the air in this epic musical experience? I’m excited to push the boundaries of what theater can be. Find new ways of telling stories with not only text but also bodies against dynamic visual landscapes. Use sound and music in unique arrangements to jar visceral responses from audiences. And at the same time, mind the simplicity of a person on stage grabbling with an honest experience, and sharing it with the rest of us. That can truly be epic.

AXS: So far, what has been the most rewarding thing about being involved in the theater industry?

L.T.: Hands down my theater community has been the most rewarding part of making and presenting work in New York City. It is such an honor and a privilege to know so many incredible artists, to learn from them, and to be inspired by the work that they are doing. They have consistently shown up for me professionally and personally. I love having them in my audiences. Some of the most exciting opportunities for audience engagement that I’ve experienced in the theater community/industry have been in my collaborations with Diana Oh. I’ve directed two of her solo shows now, “Diana Oh is Going Rogue” and "{my lingerie play}: Installation 9/10: THE FINAL INSTALLATION” and in both we invite the audience to join her onstage to live in the experience with her. And they have joined us, en mass, each and every night. Diana is another visionary theater maker who I consistently feel honored to be aligned with. She asks really big questions and challenges audiences to stumble through the answers with her--always with generosity, joy, and enthusiasm.

AXS: Career wise, where do you see yourself in ten years?

L.T.: Way to ask the hard questions! Honestly I’d love to still be creating new work with boundary pushing living playwrights. Just on a larger scale. With live music and wild dance and big budget designs. Resources are everything for an artist and the constant struggle for me is not in finding brilliant collaborators and engaging stories to tell, it’s in the practical of finding a way to tell those stories, create space, pay people, provide doors for audiences to walk through and seats for them to sit in. In ten years I would like to see myself released from some of that burden.

AXS: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?

L.T.: Mariah, Diana, and I are creating a brand new never before seen piece of theater that is incredibly intimate and fiercely honest. We have the fantastic opportunity to unveil it at Project Y’s Women in Theatre Festival on Tuesday, July 19 at 8pm. Amazingly we’ll be performing in the same space as “Di and Viv and Rose”! The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row. Mark your calendars and get ready.

AXS: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a director?

L.T.: Read everything that you can get your hands on. People watch. Ask lots of questions. Create your own opportunities. Find collaborators and a community that you jive with and keep them close. Be kind. Make new friends. Do whatever is necessary to stay healthy in mind and body. Fail. You learn the absolute most from failure. Enjoy your successes. Have fun.

* * * * *
Tickets are priced at $27.25. To learn more, visit the play’s official website and the Studio Theatre website.