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Eagle Q&A: ‘Mary Page Marlowe’ director Lila Neugebauer

We caught up with the busiest theatre director in NYC

July 20, 2018 By Peter Stamelman Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lila Neugebauer. Courtesy of Polk & Company

Lila Neugebauer is the busiest theatre director in New York. In addition to directing Second Stage’s current production of Tracy Lett’s “Mary Page Marlowe,” Neugebauer (pronounced NOY-guh-bower) is also slated to direct “The Waverly Gallery” this fall on Broadway, a new piece with her company The Mad Ones at Ars Nova in the winter and Christopher Shinn’s “Dying City” next spring at Second Stage. Prolific doesn’t begin to describe the Park Slope-based Neugebauer. The Brooklyn Eagle recently caught up her during “Mary Page Marlowe” rehearsals. Below are edited excerpts from our conversation

 

Brooklyn Eagle: What attracted you to “Mary Page Marlowe”?

 

Neugebauer: First, I found the fundamental questions Tracy is asking about identity to be very compelling and theatrical. How many different people do we get to be in our lives? In subtle and sophisticated ways, Tracy explores this question with eleven snapshots, from infancy to 69. Tracy is deeply wise and unsentimental about the daily struggles and small resurrections that all of us go through. His writing is darkly funny, yet also deeply moving. He writes with a thrilling muscularity.

 

Eagle: In the script Tracy doesn’t specify the physical locations in which the scenes occur. Did you find this sparseness to be a challenge?

 

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Neugebauer:  The scenes of this play are grounded in psychological realism, but Tracy’s structural design and casting conceit are quite theatrical — they engage metaphor. Laura Jellinek (our set designer) and I both felt that certain key naturalistic details were vital to playing these scenes, to capturing the various periods and locations in which the play is set. We also felt that these 11 scenes would be best contained, overall, by a more abstract scenic envelope — one which has a more poetic, evocative relationship to the world of the play. The set design engages a dynamic between the literal and the metaphoric, between suggestion and representation.

 

Eagle: Having read The New York Times interview with you and the six actresses playing Mary Page Marlowe, I know you worked with a voice and dialect coach in order to help the actresses speak with a single voice. But how did you direct the actresses to integrate and harmonize their body language, their gestures and their movement so that the six performances achieve seamlessness?

Neugebauer: It’s been a layered process. In addition to our work with a voice/dialect coach, all of the “Mary Pages” attended each other’s rehearsals. We’ve maintained a rich, ongoing, collective conversation about who this character is, how she changes and how she doesn’t and how we might encompass her complexity in our production. These actors did a great deal of watching each other, responding to each other, incorporating their observations of one another into their own work.

 

Eagle: Finally, having lived in Brooklyn now for almost a decade, what are some of your favorite things to do in the borough?

Neugebauer: Spending as much time as I can in Prospect Park. Eating at Rucola and Henry Public and having coffee at Cafe Regular. 

Mary Page Marlowe is currently playing at the Tony Kiser Theater at Second Stage. For tickets and more information, go to 2st.com

Kayli Carter as Wendy Gilbert, Ryan Foust as Louis Gilbert, Susan Pourfar as Mary Page Marlowe. Photo by Joan Marcus

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