Feature Q & A – Nathaniel Lachenmeyer Explores Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

A cast of veteran Atlanta actors has been assembled to perform a reading of award-winning author Nathaniel Lachenmeyer’s new play Yesterday Today, and Tomorrow. The reading of the play will be directed by Del Hamilton and take place at 7 stages on January 20, 2013. In this Feature Q & A, Nathaniel Lachenmeyer describes his new play, the reading to take place at 7 Stages and more.

What inspired you to write Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow?
I have been interested in the subject of cults and coercive groups for a long time now. One of the things I address in my book The Outsider is the impact growing up in a Christian Science household may have had on my father’s development and thinking. Also, because of my experiences growing up with a father with schizophrenia, I have always been deeply interested in and affected by the divide between rational and irrational thought processes, and the ways that division plays out in individuals and communities. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is, among other things, an exploration of the impact of irrationality on one family, particularly on the son who is struggling to escape the cult he was raised in.

How was the cast selected for the reading?
The director Del Hamilton and I worked together to cast the play. In part because Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is the first significant play I have written (as well as the first play of mine that is getting developed), it was very important to me to reach out to and work with some of Atlanta’s best and most experienced actors. I could not be more excited to be working with such talented actors, and with Del and 7 Stages. I am very grateful for the generosity of all involved.

What are you looking forward to most for the reading at 7 Stages?
The adulation. Just kidding! Sitting in the audience and watching the actors bring Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow to life. Of course, this is a reading, not a production, so I am also looking forward to gaining insights into what changes I need to make to bring the play the rest of the way home.

What are your plans for the play after the reading?
Ideally, I would love to see Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow premiere locally next season with this incredible cast. Only time will tell!

What do you hope the reading audience and future audiences will take away from the play?
I hope they find Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow entertaining, exciting, and engaging, emotionally and intellectually. I hope the audience walks out of the theatre happy that they decided to spend their time in the company of the play. If a playwright can achieve that with a play he wrote for himself—I can’t imagine anything more satisfying.

Have you recently seen or read a play or musical that particularly resonated with you?
I try to go to as many plays locally as I can. Every time I go, I learn something new. The play that always resonates the most with me is Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. It contains my favorite line, a line I had in mind when I wrote Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: “None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.” In a sense, I believe this to be true. At the same time, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is both an exploration of the challenge and importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and an expression of the hope that it may be possible for us to rediscover that true self after all.

How does your process for writing a play differ from writing a book?
It is hard for me to compare, but that is a function of the kinds of books I have written so far. Nonfiction books are a world unto themselves. My children’s books (so far) fall into two categories: picture books and graphic novels, which are both very visual mediums. I love to write and conceptualize stories visually. What these books have in common with plays is a strong reliance on structure. I write my picture books and graphic novels as schematics, with panels and pages broken down—it’s a little bit like writing a screenplay—which is something I enjoy. I also enjoyed working within the general constraints of theatre and the specific structural constraints I set for myself with Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Beyond that, playwriting is an entirely differently animal. It was exciting and liberating to be writing again with an adult audience in mind, and to try to meet the challenge of writing a play that was worthy of being staged and seen. One thing I know for sure: the experience of writing this play has made me a better writer regardless of the medium.

What other projects do you have in the works?
I am working on two new plays at the moment, one for adults and one for children. But I tend not to talk about projects before they are finished. I also have four forthcoming children’s books (in addition to a couple of brand-new children’s book projects that are with publishers now). One book I am particularly excited about is an all-ages graphic novel story collection called Hop, Hop, Wish, which is being published next year by First Second, an imprint of Macmillan. Hop, Hop, Wish was inspired, in part, by my son, who is a dedicated herpetologist; he has been asking me to write a book starring a frog protagonist for the past four years–ever since he caught his first frog, at the age of five.

 

The reading of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Sunday, January 20, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at 7 Stages (1105 Euclid Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30307). For more information on Nathaniel Lachenmayer and his works please visit www.NathanielLachenmeyer.com.