We've all seen love stories played out on stage before, but not quite so philosophical as this one. Anna Ziegler, an American playwright who was groomed at NYU and Yale, has recently become the talk of the theater world with productions of her smart and bittersweet works cropping up in major cities the world over. This month Albuquerque gets treated to one of her works, A Delicate Ship, produced by Aux Dog Theatre (3011 Monte Vista Blvd. NE) in Nob Hill. The week of the plays opening, director Sheridan Johnson unpacked a bit about its significance. A Delicate Ship is being played weekly through April 1; tickets and more information are live at auxdogtheatre.org.
Alibi: How is the play coming together?
Johnson: Anna Ziegler is a brand new writer; she's a new voice. And the play itself deals with so many different themes. It's so gratifying and relieving to see it come together and achieve catharsis and all this stuff that theater is supposed to do. It's finally on its feet and out of my head.
When did you discover it and why did you want to put it on stage?
My husband and I are going to have a baby. I wanted to make sure that I got to work on something, with the baby on the way, I wasn't able to act in a show. So this felt like the perfect opportunity to direct something. … The folks at Aux Dog and I both feel really strongly about promoting the works of female playwrights and I started looking for the right thing. I stumbled upon Anna Ziegler and sort of devoured everything she's ever written in one night. This play in particular is really beautiful. I laughed and I cried and it made me think. It's about family; it's about love; it's about a love triangle; it's about memory. It has a version of empathy that I think is unique. It's brought out so beautifully. There's a lot of themes at work but at its heart it’s a love story. It’s a matter of whose love story it is at any given time. … When I first started looking at A Delicate Ship no one was doing it, now it is in an extended run in LA, which I think is fabulous. I'm happy a new voice is raised up.
What do you like about Ziegler?
She has a lot of depth. There's a lot to her plays, not everything is predictable. Not like when you read a Eugene O'Neill play and you pretty predictable have a drunk mother or father in there somewhere. A drunk family. With Anna Ziegler, there's a lot more surprises.
Why is it important to emphasize up-and-coming women playwrights?
For a million reasons! It's so easy to think that theater is one thing. … It's so easy to think it is only measured by the standards that we all know. People have been writing about the death of theater for hundreds of years. It's an ever-dying art form. … But it’s not if you choose to take opportunities to see how vibrant and alive and ever-changing theater is. It is changing at the exact same rate as our outlook and our experiences do. It's beautiful and exciting to be able to hold up what I think is an incredible teaching tool. When we limit our resources to dead white men, then I think we're broken. If we want is to grow and inspire one another and to inspire thoughtful change, then the best way to do that is to be inclusive of all voices, of course women are a really important part of that. And it's refreshing to see the perspective of a woman written by a woman.
What has been your experience of directing this production?
My cast is amazing! I've been so lucky. … everyone is so motivated to make something beautiful come to life. I often feel in theater that there are a lot of individually great performances, but it's like they're not all together in the same play … like, when you put it all together, a tapestry it does not make. These guys have been so wonderful about making sure that every choice doesn't just serve themselves, but serves the play and everything comes together. Everyone's approaching it with so much love, I don't think I've ever felt so invigorated by being in a rehearsal room.
Will you be able to enjoy it when you finally sit in the theater on opening night?
Oh, yeah, definitely. I'm enjoying it now! … The actors are all so good at the comedy and the drama. They've created such a real world. I always wish I could disassociate and one of me could direct, and another could watch.
What are your hopes for viewers of the play?
I hope people walk away really with a sense of gratitude for the people that they love. I feel very strongly that I have met every single person in this play. … Their experiences are so human and so relateable. I think that everybody sees themselves and people they love on stage and that when they leave they remember what makes each person important and valuable and worth loving.