The inaugural production for The Weird Sisters Theatre Project, a coalition of artists associated with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Anton in Show Business is a fun, funny, sexy, tongue-in-cheek look at modern American theater. In this Feature Q & A, director Veronika Duerr gives insight into the formation of the group, shares some titillating aspects of the play and more.
How did The Weird Sisters Theatre Project come together?
Last summer a group of us decided that we wanted to do a show with some of the strong women at the Shakespeare Tavern (I used to be an associate there, and I still do a few shows a season). The problem with Shakespeare is that there are not a lot of roles for women. When you look at the breakdown of the plays, it is like 15 men and two women or 22 men and one woman. We decided to create more opportunities for ourselves since we don’t get a whole a lot of opportunities to play together. Last summer we put on our play, Desdemona, a Play About a Handkerchief. We did it under the name of Biscuits and Gravy, but this year, because we chose to produce again at the Shakespeare Tavern, we came up with a name that is more associated with the Tavern. So, we chose the Weird Sisters.
Why did you choose Anton in Show Business?
It is a brilliant piece of writing. I fell in love with the show immediately. What we are doing is truly a work of passion. We get the space for free, but that is all we get for free. We do our own marketing, set building, props and costumes. We all work multiple jobs so finding time to rehearse is difficult. It has to be a passion project. You have to think along the lines of I have got find a play that will hook everybody so that they all become impassioned by it so they all want to do it. I can only imagine that it is very hard to work on a piece of theater that you don’t feel passionate about, especially when it is your own money and your own donated time.
What is the play about?
It truly exemplifies the struggles of the female artist in the American theater. There are three distinct characters that move through the play. There is one from New York, one from Hollywood and one from San Antonio, Texas, where the regional theatre production is taking place. They all have their own struggles going on.
Will men enjoy the show?
I thought it would be more geared towards women, but I was wrong. Men love the show for several different reasons. First, they are not alienated by the female struggles that come up in the show. They identify with them as easily as the women in the show. On top of that, it is an extremely attractive cast. I think it is very easy for men to watch the show. The ladies in the cast are smart, funny and gorgeous. And we have this beautiful make out scene between two women, one dressed as a man, playing a man, but we all know it is two women.
Is it difficult to produce a play about theater?
It is difficult to put on a play that is all about theater because it is self-referential. But, there is something about this one that I felt was bigger than theater. I think that the larger theme truly comes out in Elizabeth’s last speech when she talks about how much she loves the theater and what it means to her. If you break it down, what she is really talking about is the importance of theater in society, which I thought was absolutely necessary to stage and put in front of people.
How does the play show the importance of theater?
Throughout the whole show there are questions arising. Why do we do this? Is it necessary for people to view theater? What does it bring to people? At the end, we are hit home by the idea that we participate in theater or view theater in an attempt to figure out why we live and why we suffer, which is from Chekov.
This is your first time directing. Has it been an intimidating journey?
It was an absolute, crazy, large, unbelievable challenge and one that I was really looking forward to doing. I am known as an actress, and in town I haven’t had an opportunity to direct. I teach at summer camps and direct little things with kids, but it is not what I am known for professionally and what people call me for. When we decided that this was the show that we wanted to do, I was the one that stepped up and said, “You know what. I haven’t directed, and I really want to direct.” The ladies totally supported me. They thought it was a great idea and wanted me to do it. I felt like I was taking a huge leap and a huge risk, but I had these ladies behind me every step of the way. It was the perfect fist team to work with.
What kind of experience should audiences expect with this production?
I think that audiences will be memorized by the amount of unknown talent on the stage that they haven’t been fully introduced to. And, I think they will walk away with a new appreciation for theater and why it should trump the TV and the movie screen.
Only a few performances remain to the show:
- Tuesday, August 14 at 7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, August 15 at 7:30 p.m.
- Monday, August 20 at 7:30 p.m. (Industry Pay What You Can, $5 suggested minimum)
- Tuesday, August 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Performances are held at The Shakespeare Tavern. For tickets and more information, call 404-874-5299 or visit http://prospero.shakespearetavern.com/Tickets/anton_aug2012.