by Paul Hansen 24 July, 2020
New Ohio Theatre is joining the ranks of theatre companies in circumventing the virus pandemic by presenting the 27th annual Obie Award-winning Ice Factory Festival through live streams. Among the plays being presented in the festival is Beginning Days of True Jubilation (BDOTJ), conceived by the theatre group SOCIETY, written by Mona Mansour and directed by Scott Illingworth.
The press release for the play describes it as a drama in which “A visionary vows to create a life-changing product, with the smartest minds of her generation ecstatically on board. What could possibly go wrong? A satirical journey through the cult-like, group-think of winner-take-all capitalism, from the early euphoria of a new start-up through its epic crash and burn.” The play is performing through this Sunday night (July 26). For more information on the live stream and the festival log on to http://NewOhioTheatre.org.
ScreenPicks' Paul Hansen posed some questions to Leslie Fray who appears in the production and is a veteran of such TV series as HBO’s The Plot Against America, Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and USA Network’s The Sinner.
Q. How did you become involved in Beginning Days of True Jubilation? What particularly interests you in the script and what issues do you think the play is exploring?
Leslie Fray: Scott Illingworth, Tim Nicolai, and Mona Mansour (the founders of SOCIETY) invited me and a group of other actors to partake in weekend sessions that would consist of us collaborating in the joint stock method (research, interview, and improve based workshops) to develop material for playwright Mona Mansour’s new play. After a year and a half of collaborating, BDOTJ was birthed and our company, SOCIETY, was formed.
Mona already had a huge interest in what drives mass collective thought/cultish mentality and that kind of evolved into a focus on the group think culture that exists at these crazy startup companies; we really started diving into how this mentality evolves, what kind of leader has the ability to inspire such a way of thinking, and what happens when the product crashes and burns?
I am fascinated by the psychology of the CEO, played by the fierce Annie Fox. She is the mastermind behind ASPHERA, a company that is breaking ground in converting plastic matter to water. Mona delved into the absolute delusion of this woman in such a brilliant way. The CEO’s refusal to acknowledge error, her inability to accept her own infallibility, at the expense of others, all in the name of success, is a terrifying thing to witness, but also so riveting.
Q. Are there any particular challenges and/or benefits to performing a play through a live stream?
Leslie Fray: There are definitely pros and cons to the streaming medium. Doing a play on Zoom was a very different experience. The challenges in creating a 3 dimensional world in a 2 dimensional medium will always be difficult. I think the biggest obstacles are technical ones- you’re in charge of everything, which can be great and terrifying. There’s really no one there to help you if something goes wrong, you have to be on it. Our director, Scott Illingworth, created such an intricate and beautiful choreography and aesthetic, but if one person comes late or out of order the image doesn’t have the same effect, timing has to be perfect. I will always choose live theatre over this medium any day, I miss the human connection, but I do think this piece specifically fits this form in a really special way. Accessibility is also a huge benefit for the streaming medium; all of us in the company have people all over the country that often can’t attend shows in the city, and this has proven to be an incredibly efficient way of allowing everyone to see it, everyone can pop on the screen and tune in from their homes, not to mention the prices are much lower which is beneficial for everyone.
Q. Are there any particularly memorable experiences that you can share with us from the number of TV series which you have worked on?
Leslie Fray: I flew to Paris to shoot the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, where I played a French woman translating the very fast talking Rachel Brosnahan as Midge. The monologue was the fastest and longest thing I had ever memorized in English let alone in French, but there was nothing more thrilling than walking the streets of Paris drilling those lines and then getting to do it over and over again on set with Rachel, it was a dream!
Q. Is there anything in general you would like to tell audiences about Beginning Days of True Jubilation?
Leslie Fray: You’ve never seen anything quite like this play before, trust me. This company is made up of some of the most generous and innovative artists and you will leave this play rocked in the best kind of way after seeing what they have created.
Q. Would you like to share with us what your future projects are?
Leslie Fray: Next up for me is Regina Hall’s new film Master!