Verité director Moritz von Stuelpnagel answers more of our questions about the play.
Even though this play is funny, you’ve mentioned some of the more serious ideas it addresses. How do you balance these themes with its innate humor?
I think the heart of every comedy has to have something we connect with deeply. Otherwise, it risks being trite. For Jo, she wants a fulfilling life, a notable life. I mean, really, that seems to be an obsession many people have nowadays. And because it's a conceited flaw many of us have, we recognize it in Jo. That's the power of the theater, to get us to laugh at our own flaws. The difference is that Jo goes recklessly beyond what any of us would ever consider. And that's the unbridled joy of the thing. But if we're disconnected from her initial impulse, it's just utter lunacy.
Jo has to decide how far she is willing to go for her art. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for yours?
The question should really be what isn't absurd about making art? There's at least one moment in every production, usually it's something really mundane, like when I fuss over a prop, whether a phone should be blue or pink for example, that I step outside myself and have to ask what the heck I'm doing with my life. But then there are the more obviously bizarre moments too. I had to stage a toilet nightmare once. Don't ask. Another time, I designed a kind of mechanized strap-on as if it had come from the sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci. And in my last play, Hand to God, which I'm thrilled is coming back, there's a graphic sex scene between hand puppets that took up a lot more rehearsal time than one might expect. I actually heard myself say things like, "Can the puppets transition more smoothly from cowgirl to doggy style?" That's crazy.
But along the way, there were plenty of crazy things I had to do to support myself in survival jobs too. I've passed out cheese samples, I've built Christmas windows for department stores, I've taught college kids with a straight face. Looking back, I guess the arts required of me a kind of conceited ambition, not unlike Jo's. Huh. Right, um, I should go make a phone call... sorry...