from the desk of the DIRECTOR The Bay of Fundy is a timely play about money and the choices we make, about having and losing and casting aside. It explores the ways we imbue objects with meaning and value, and the ways we define ourselves by what we own. From an elemental tale grows a modern myth about possession and our power to transform even when change seems impossible. Rich with poetic imagery and sharp dialogue, The Bay of Fundy tells the story of two couples and a table, and what happens when the tides change.
Resident Director & Lab Producer The Playwrights’ Center
THE BAY OF FUNDY BY SHERRY KRAMER MONDAY, JAN. 11 • 7 P.M. • at the PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER
RUTH EASTON NEW PLAY SERIES
A troubled marriage, a mysterious malaise, and where is all that water coming from? May has an antique early American table that is perhaps the most valuable table in the world, a husband who’s having a mid-life crisis, and a problem. A play about the myth of money in the new America. Tickets are free: 612.332.7481 • INFO@PWCENTER.ORG WATCH THE VIDEO TRAILER ONLINE AT PWCENTER.ORG.
WE SPOKE WITH PLAYWRIGHT SHERRY KRAMER IN ADVANCE OF HER january 11th READING AT THE PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER. In your own words, what is The Bay of Fundy about? It’s about the American idea of money, and my hope that it will change. American money, for a couple hundred years, was kind of fabulous because anyone could have it, anyone could make it, and once you made it, it made you. The American Dream, which is one of our major myths, was that you could make your way up the ladder in America—all the way up—with just money. So that part of the American myth of money was kind of great, because money in America was different than it was, say, in Europe. American money was a little more magical. But now, after going through the ’80s and the ’90s, money has colonized a lot of things that had sort of been—I don’t know if they were sacred, but things that had been left alone, that had value outside of the sphere of money, were all sort of swept up and either devalued completely or given a dollar value—in terms of what your life was about, in terms of how you decided if you were a success. One of the things that the play is about is this middle-class Midwesterner who falls into a pile of money. She marries money and loses her soul. She doesn’t understand this other money that she’s come into, and she lets it corrupt her, whereas middle-class money was sort of safe and kind. It didn’t make anybody into monsters. I grew up in a time and a place where people who were multi-millionaires lived in houses next to people who were just comfortable. And everybody dressed the same and everybody—on my side of town; there was another side, which I did know existed, but on the south side of town—you might own an airline (Ozark Airline! Krazo backwards!) or a huge truck line or work at the Piggly Wiggly. Your life looked essentially the same. It wasn’t about your money, but who you were.
When did you start writing this play? The play came to me after Katrina. I was in the process of getting my parents’ house ready to go on the market when Katrina hit. I’m surrounded by things, room after room full of things I have to keep or sell or give away—and by the images of all these people in New Orleans who one minute had all these things too, and the next minute had nothing. I sent two truckloads to the six apartments a local university was setting up for refugees—and it still didn’t make a dent in the things that were left. I was still surrounded by them. I don’t know if this happens to other playwrights—plays just sort of arrive and you say to yourself, “Oh, this is what I’m writing about.” I had for a long time wanted to write a play about money. It had long been a dream, an “American Dream” of mine, to write a play about money.
IN THE LAST 30 OR 40 YEARS, MONEY HAS BECOME SEPARATED FROM [THE] SENSE OF ITS RESPONSIBILITY. —SHERRY KRAMER
WHY MONEY, SPECIFICALLY? Because money is incredibly fascinating. I had done some research on the origins of money, and I had also been fascinated by the idea of philanthropy, completely obsessed by what that means and what money and power used to mean in our society. There are those who say that the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, the “pursuit of happiness,” has nothing to do with individual happiness, that that was not at all what the Framers meant, suggesting that what they meant was that we were all free to pursue the common good. In the last 30 or 40 years, money has become separated from that sense of its responsibility.
We talk about money being the root of all evil. We have all these old sayings about how bad money is. But money doesn’t have to be bad. If you understand that each dollar that you earn is connected to your community in some fashion, and to your responsibility to the common good and not just your own good, then money is something completely different. But it’s gotten really separated from that. After Katrina, and packing up those things to send to the apartments, I realized that the play about money I wanted to write was a play about reconnecting money to this part of itself. And of course, that’s where all the water in the play came from. You DESCRIBE YOUR PLAY AS “An Adaptation of One Line From The Mayor of Casterbridge.” How did that come to be involved? In the first chapter of The Mayor of Casterbridge, which is a novel by Thomas Hardy, a man who’s down on his luck and very drunk goes into a bar and sells his wife for five pounds. The next day he is beyond horrified at what he’s done. So he stops drinking and becomes a different man—the Mayor of Casterbridge, right? And he searches for his wife and daughter desperately but can never find them. So it starts off with the issue of value. It starts off by equating five pounds and a person. And all those relationships, father-daughter and wife-husband, are also being bartered for that five pounds. Then what happens is the daughter comes back into his life just as he’s about to get married to a very upmarket kind of woman. And the daughter, who’s never had, as we used to say, a pot to piss in—again, what an interesting way to think about money: a pot to piss in—is now living in the lap of luxury. And there’s this line in the novel, and this line blew me away: “She had discovered that take, have, and keep were pleasant words.” All of a sudden she understands what it means to be able to have something, to take it and keep it. And so she becomes, basically, corrupted by this money. She falls in love with money. And my character falls in love with a table. Speaking of the table,you ONCE referred to Italo Calvino’s idea that every object in a narrative is A MAGICAL OBJECT … Isn’t that wild?
In The Bay of Fundy,you’ve given some of the material objects in the play literalLY magical qualities. Some are huge, some melt, ETC. Could you expound on that RELATIONSHIP? It has come as a surprise to me that I have been writing object theater plays almost my entire life—that I have been obsessed with the way we live in the world with people and the objects that live with us. I wrote a play about glassmaking. I wrote a play about book conservators. I very much want to understand what happens when you spend all day making something. What happens to you? What happens to the thing? It’s a cliché that we put our soul into objects we make, but isn’t it a cliché because it’s kind of true? Then, with my play When Something Wonderful Ends, I noticed that part of our heart resides inside relics of our childhood. I mean, one of the greatest movies of all time is Citizen Kane. We’re all pretty clear about Rosebud. And then of course there’s jewelry, there’s rings and silver and precious things. We take one and decide that this will be the container of my love, or this will be the container of my hope, or the container of my belief. We make a vessel—we turn these things into vessels of belief and love and faith and hope and memory. So the magical properties of the objects in the play are necessary because objects in our lives are magical every day—they’re just more dramatically so because it’s a play. Your stage directions are very conversational. Is that a stylistic choice or a practical one? A script is an invitation to the reader to enter the world of the play. So I would like to invite the reader into the party as fully as possible. I like to make the stage directions candy. They should enjoy them. Having said that, there is a danger in putting in the stage directions what should be in the text. But it’s about the invitational nature of the work. What do you like or dislike in a play? What I dislike is a play that doesn’t make me put things together. I like a play that makes me really active. And I like a play that makes me hope. I like when it makes me see the world in a different way, when it connects me to the world in a way that I had not seen or understood before.
UPCOMING EVENTS THE RUTH
EASTON NEW PLAY SERIES
THEN WAVES BY KEVIN ANTHONY KAUTZMAN MONDAY, FEB. 1 • 7 P.M. • at the PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER
A discharged American soldier returns from war to do violence upon his estranged son, who may not be his son at all. Set in the American Midwest, Then Waves explores the issues of violence’s echo, the cost of war, and the impulses toward destruction that ravage families and destroy the future. Tickets are free: 612.332.7481 • INFO@PWCENTER.ORG
KEVIN ANTHONY KAUTZMAN is an American playwright born in North Dakota and a 2009-10 Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, where he studied history and philosophy. Kevin has studied drama in Minneapolis and London at the Workhouse Theatre Company, the Central School of Speech and Drama, and the Royal Court and Soho theatres. His work has been performed in New York by the American Story Project, the Living Theatre, and PoliglotTheater; and in London at the Dogstar, the Soho Studio Theatre, and the Tristan Bates Theatre. Then Waves was a finalist for the 2009 Yale Drama Series and the Seven Devils and Great Plains Theatre conferences. He currently lives in St. Paul. www.kevinkautzman.com.
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THE PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER 2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55406 P 612.332.7481 • F 612.332.6037 • INFO@PWCENTER.ORG
Published on Dec 22, 2009
We talk with Sherry Kramer about THE BAY OF FUNDY and why she always wanted to write a play about money. We also find out why her stage dire...