An Interview with Lizzie Vieh
Monsoon Season is currently smashing the Fringe
The Mumble caught up with its creator
Hello Lizzie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I am from Phoenix, Arizona, and I currently live in Brooklyn, New York.
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
In high-school. I needed an art credit and, lo and behold, discovered I liked acting! I was cast as Lysistrata in a production during my sophomore year, and I got to hit boys with a riding crop. I knew I’d found my career.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Don’t be boring, make me laugh, and make me not sure how I feel in parts. I like theatre that doesn’t tell me how to feel and that isn’t necessarily trying to elicit a particular feeling from the audience. I also like creepy stuff.
You’ve got three famous playwrights from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Caryl Churchill, Maria Irene Fornes, and Sarah Kane. Chips and guac, tacos, then a liquid dessert of tequila cause I’d love to hear what they’d have to say after a margarita or two!
What is the theatre scene like in the New York of 2019?
Tough. It’s tough to hang in there and keep making it when you have to work a day job and the rent is very high. Broadway stuff is a lot of revivals and shows for children, but there’s always good stuff going on downtown and in Brooklyn, if you know where to find it. Theatre people are pretty scrappy, they always find a way.
You’re bringing a play to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show & your personal role?
Monsoon Season is a two-person show consisting of back-to-back monologues. The characters are Danny and Julia, a recently divorced couple living in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a twisted love story set against the background of addiction, obsession, and violent crime. Also, it’s funny. I’m the playwright!
You originally conceived Monsoon Season as a 40-minute one-man show, why the evolution & how do you think it turned out?
Actually Monsoon Season was originally conceived as a seven minute show for a theatre company called Amios, that produces a monthly evening of six short plays centered around a theme. That month the theme was Halloween. That seven minute version was written in 2015. Then in 2016, I expanded the play to about twenty minutes and performed it at the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival. Then in the autumn of 2018 I expanded it to about forty five minutes for a workshop with All For One theater company. That workshop led to a proposal from AFO to develop the play into a full-length. At that point, I felt Danny’s story had become as long as it could – any more material added, and it would lose its cryptic, disjointed feel. At that point, my director Kristin McCarthy Parker came up with the great idea of creating a companion piece where Julia, Danny’s ex-wife, tells her side of the story. And that’s the play we’re bringing here today! I am very pleased with how it’s turned out – it’s been a wild and unpredictable journey. I’ve never spent such a prolonged amount of time working on a show, and I think it has helped me really dig into these characters and get to know them extremely well.
Can you tell us more about Richard Thieriot & Therese Plaehn?
I met Richard through Amios, the theater company that originally produced the seven minute version of Monsoon Season. That’s how the play was born — he was assigned to me as an actor, and I was told to write a short one-man show for him. Although I didn’t know Richard very well at that point, I knew he was a brilliant actor with a lot of charm and comedic chops. I thought it would be fun to work against that charm and inherent likeability – or rather, work into it, but then twist it around into something troubling and dark. Richard is wonderful as Danny and has added so much to the role over the years. It’s really deepened and become extremely specific. Therese, I met quite recently. We had auditions for the role of Julia, and she blew me away. She’s great with language – very smart and precise. She’s able to ride the line between funny and tragic in a disturbing way, that I think is essential for the role. I’m lucky to have two such great actors to work with, who have been game for all the twists and turns this play has taken in the development process.
Monsoon Season seems quite a psychodrama – from which sources have you drawn your inspirations?
On a plot level, I was inspired by my obsession with true crime. I love a good crime narrative, and I’m fascinated by abnormal psychology. As for the emotional dynamics of the play, the inspiration comes from a personal place. I am very moved by stories of people who are trying so hard to reach a goal, but they just keep getting in their own way. Their head is their biggest obstacle. My favorite movie is Sunset Boulevard, and I think there’s bits of Norma Desmond in Julia. When she fails, she fails big, and she fails gloriously.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh…
Come see a twisted, murderous love story that will make you laugh and then make you feel uncomfortable that you laughed!
Underbelly, Cowgate – Belly Button
Aug 20-25 (14:20)