Cate Brewer interviews Liz Maestri on her play Fallbeil, which will be playing at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival .
Cate: What peaked your interest in historical fiction as a genre?
Liz: I didn’t so much become interested in the genre as I became interested in Sophie Scholl and her extraordinary and horrific life story. At first I wanted to write a straight-laced, poetic biographical piece about her–almost like a theatrical eulogy–but I discovered that I wasn’t equipped for or interested in doing that. As the play took shape, I also realized that it really belongs to the character Else, Sophie’s modern-day counterpart. The love and friendship shared between these characters from two separate times in history are what drives the play for me, and that ended up pushing the form into something more abstract and playful.
Your two main characters are dealing with major conflict, the conflict in Nazi Germany vs. modern Germany and the on-going Middle East conflict, what led to the choice to juxtapose these worlds?
Sophie Scholl lived in a time and place of chaos; war seemed endless and the world seemed hopeless. I wanted to bring her back to life, so-to-speak, beyond her martyrdom as a real human being. At the same time, through writing Else, I was able to explore my own feelings of anxiety in the present day–as well as the guilt I feel for living so well and so freely in a world that is still consumed by endless war. There are wars that rage outside and around us whether we see them or not, as well as the invisible wars inside ourselves. This is, unfortunately, life on this planet no matter where and when you live/d. What is glorious about humanity is our ability to fight against darkness, to always strive to be better and braver. On a more technical note, two major influences for Fallbeil were the plays The Baltimore Waltz and I Am My Own Wife, both of which deal with very heavy subject matter while still existing in an elastic, somewhat magical world. The characters in Fallbeil are already trapped, and so I wanted them at the very least to be able to move freely within a universe of their own.
In commercial theatre we don’t see female protagonists as often as some of us would like. What are some of the benefits of writing about female protagonists?
Better, more numerous roles for female actors, and more diverse roles for an audience to connect to. Other than that, it’s just a play. I hope people see it that way, too, and not as some kind of siloed, special-interest piece of theater simply for its female protagonists. The sexist thought-process, much less when it comes to characters in a play, is ludicrous.
What was it about Sophie School that was the most appealing to you as a playwright?
So many things. Sophie exhibited just about everything I admire in people. She was smart, strong, contemplative, and diligent, and showed such an astounding bravery in the face of unspeakable terror.
You have been in the NYC and DC theatre scene for a while now. What major changes have you seen from a playwright’s perspective?
Social media and other free web and tech services, as well as the proliferation of blogs and public conversations, have dramatically changed the regional theater playing field. (The jury is still out on our overarching ivory tower system, though). Suddenly, your work, your opinions, and your personality are visible to anyone in the world. I have no idea where we’ll be in ten years as an industry, but it sure is an interesting time to be involved.
What major changes would you like to see in the future?
A new, diverse, forward-thinking generation of leadership.
Without revealing too much – are there any surprises audiences should anticipate at the fringe production of Fallbeil?
Other than the parade of elephants, aqua ballet, and pyrotechnics?
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the show?
If you’re not familiar with them already, get to know Field Trip Theatre. Just do it. They are an incredibly sharp group of people, and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for them, both individually and as a group.
Beyond Fringe, where would you like to take Fallbeil?
I’m game for anything. I’m a huge design/tech nerd, so I’d love to someday be able to see the play realized in a space with all kinds of fancy-pants technical capabilities. I can’t help it, I love spectacle so much.
What’s next for Liz Maestri?
Argh! You’ve caught me on a day in which I can’t announce upcoming projects yet. Follow me on Twitter (@lizmaestri) or at my website to check out upcoming gigs.
July 12th at 10:00PM
July 14th at 10:30PM
July 19th at 8:15PM
July 24th at 10:15PM
July 27th at 7:45PM
At Mountain – at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church – 900 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC.
METRO: Mt. Vernon Sq. 7th St. (Green/Yellow); Gallery Place/Chinatown (Red, Green/Yellow).
PURCHASE TICKETS HERE, OR CALL (866) 811-4111.