No plans Saturday night? Why not see Clayton Community Theatre’s (CCT) workshop production of And It Shall Be Forgiven, written by local playwright Jason Slavik and directed by costuming legend, Tracey A. Newcomb. It will mark her St. Louis directorial debut, and the second production in the play’s history.
I arrived to Clayton Community Theatre’s performance space on a balmy Wednesday evening to interview Newcomb, and the hearty cast and crew of And it Shall Be Forgiven. Rehearsing and performing in an old high school auditorium from the 1950s, the theatre itself feels as if it’s been outfitted from another time. Rows of graduated seats fold down to reveal well-worn, polyester covered cushions that have faded with age. It smells of time. Of meetings and students and the lectures given decades ago, and of the many productions that still make these walls come to life. It’s a place perfect for time travel.
Which makes it ideal for a production that experiments with the boundaries of space and time. And It Shall Be Forgiven depicts two starkly different worlds, one of 1942 German-occupied Amsterdam and another of the millennial collegiate experience of 2007. One room and 65 years between them, two characters— Friedrich and Micah— suddenly find they are able to communicate. And they have much to teach each other.
Clayton Community Theatre presents a workshop production of And It Shall Be Forgiven this Saturday, June 24th at 8pm. Read on for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes interview with the cast and crew, as well as what you can expect on Saturday evening if you’re in the audience!
Let’s start with your fearless leader, Tracey! Assuming we’ve already read the plot synopsis, what do you think this play is about?
Bare bones, I really think it’s about forgiveness of oneself. And how we go through life and we put things upon our own shoulders –our own sins—we bury them on ourselves. In order for you to have another’s forgiveness, you need to forgive yourself first. I think it’s also about connecting with one’s past. And ancestry. And that sense of knowing who we are depends on where our family came from. And those experiences mold us into the people that we are. It’s about self-discovery. – Director, Tracey Newcomb
Your stellar reputation as a costume designer across the Saint Louis area is no secret! How has your background in costuming applied itself to this show?
I’m also costuming and stage managing the show! With a workshop production, we’re really pulling from our own crew to keep it as in-house as possible. We’ve been focusing on creating as much authenticity as we can with our German, and individualizing each character. As usual, [the costumes] should support the character with integrity, even if the play is set in modern day. Although many [designers] will say, ‘just pull something from your own closet’ if the play is set in present day,’ this makes me cringe. You shouldn’t wear clothes that are yours, because when you’re wearing your clothes you aren’t somebody else, you’re you. Each character needs the detail to be who they are. – Director, Tracey Newcomb
What sort of person will love this show?
History geeks! – Mark Neels (Friedrich)
One of the unusual things about this show, is that it touches on the Holocaust, but it takes it from a whole different angle. It’s not the Holocaust story that you’ve heard before. While it may hook people in from a historical standpoint, but from a human standpoint it’s a different story. It’s not a well-trodden path. – Tom Moore (Colonel Günther Dietrich)
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
The play speaks to say that The Holocaust is not the only time a nation had done bad things. The important thing about remembering [faults]—and stopping them from occurring again—is admitting your own sins. – Robert Tierney (Obersturmführer Victor Erfunden)
I think it also touches on family values, and how your [ancestry] can help define you as a person. Or how sometimes you choose to look away from certain things in your past. If you’re lost, this play can help people understand where they fit in. I think it’s really a show for everybody. – Drew Rydberg (Devin)
What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive away home after the show?
[This play] is time-relative in a lot of ways. America is a country going through a time where there is a great premium placed on exceptionalism. On America, the exceptional nation. On What are we? And Who do we want to be? And How are we better than other countries? Similarly, Germany also considered themself a great nation. [My character,] Friedrich says, “We’re a great nation. Our fuhrer is going to lead us to great things .You just watch and you just wait and see.” Until he comes to a striking realization, a turning point for him, where he realizes that he has bought into the narrative that we were great, that Germany was great. I always say that The Germans did not think of themselves as evil. And I think that it’s important for Americans today, and people of the world today, to know that there aren’t good guys and bad guys. That there is a large, diverse society of people who are sometimes doing good, sometimes doing bad. Sometimes doing good for the wrong reasons and sometimes doing bad for the right reasons. – Mark Neels (Friedrich)
What do you love about your character?
I love his playful attitude, but also he’s very thoughtful in all of his actions. There’s something throughout the play that goes through his mind. He plays one instance over and over and thinks how it could turn out. Also the way in which he interacts with the other characters while he hasthese wheels turning in his mind – Stephan Peterson (Micah)
What do you hate about your character?
I’d like to say his intelligence level. He doesn’t even know the names of the cities they’re in. But then his character changes. That’s my favorite part—his character change and development. And I like his attitude toward things; he’s never completely negative about anything. But I just hate his intelligence level at the beginning. He ends up realizing that it’s a bad character trait toward the end though and changes it. – Drew Rydberg (Devin)
How is your character similar to you?
That’s a difficult question! I am a man who defines himself by his work, and tries to do right by his work. And if put in Friedrich’s situation. To discover that at the hands of the work that I held so important, such terrible things had occurred, I have a feeling that I would have a breakdown in the way that Friedrich does. – Mark Neels (Friedrich)
Without giving too much away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?
Serina is really sarcastic and snarky, and she’s a skeptic about this whole thing. My favorite part is when, at one point after she finds Devin’s joint, and he says, ‘Saw a ghost!’ and she replies, ‘Saw a ghost, huh?’ – Katie Schares (Serina)
If you could play another character in the show, who would it be?
Well I auditioned for Serena. (The room bursts into laughter) The character description. The character is basically me. I wouldn’t’ be acting if I was playing that role, I’d be onstage going by a different name. So I was really attracted that because I very heavily identified with her. But I look forward to the challenge of playing someone with whom I identify with very little.
Last question! You have a five minute break during rehearsal; what do you do?
Go to the bathroom! – Cindy Duggan (Sara)
Read a book! – Mark Neels (Friedrich)
Five minute breaks! What are you talking about?! playfully adds director, Tracey Newcomb
Catch up with the whole cast after And It Shall Be Forgiven, this Saturday evening, June 24th 2017 at 8:00pm. Clayton Community Theatre is proud to present the work of local playwright, Jason Slavik, and celebrate the Saint Louis directorial debut of Tracey A. Newcomb. Tickets are $12, and are available at the door or in advance on their website here. Proceeds go to the production fund of CCT, without which the work of Clayton Community Theatre would cease to exist. Consider supporting local art and theatre in Saint Louis and attending this one night workshop production!