Dallas — WingSpan Theatre Company returns to the Festival of Independent Theatres with Edward Albee’s Finding the Sun. Susan Sargeant’s company has participated every year, and this time around she explores the absurd with Albee’s multi-generational story. This production begins WingSpan’s season focusing on Edward Albee’s work.
TheaterJones: You’ve participated in every year of FIT, yes?
Susan Sargeant: This is the Festival’s 19th year and I’ve done all 19. And it’s Wingspan’s 20th anniversary season. So I’m excited about that, having made it to 20. It’s a hard climb for independent theatres. I’ve been in Dallas since the early ’80s, I’ve seen many theatres hit. And then they disappear and don’t make it. My sister company, Echo Theatre, is also celebrating 20 years. It’s great for us to be in our 20th anniversary seasons and have the Bath House as a major catalyst towards our success.
What makes FIT so special? Why do you keep coming back every year?
I just love the energy of it. There’s nothing like eight companies in rotating rep. under one roof. Having all of these artists in one building is just energizing and that’s the one reason why I come back every year.
When we first started back in the olden days—when it was grassroots in 1999 when David Fisher started it—it was six companies. All of us were new. WingSpan was only 2 years old, Echo was the same and there were other companies that no longer exist. None of us really had audiences.
David Fisher’s idea was to have us all fly under an umbrella, to each give an “entrée” to make us more powerful. Instead of one voice, you have six or eight.
It has grown since then. Other companies that are associated with it have an audience. Now, we bring our individual audiences and people who were here to see another company can see, “Oh I didn’t even know this other company.” It gives an audience a wide span of what they can expect not only at the Bath House but also in Dallas. It’s serving a different purpose now.
Doing a one act is maybe not something you would take a risk on in a main stage venue, but you’re willing to do it for FIT because its about adventure. It’s about journey. It’s about risk.
You’ve chosen Edward Albee as your playwright for Wingspan’s season?
Yes, I have. Of course he passed away in September of 2016.
I’ve directed several Albees; my first one was in 2000 at Circle Theatre, that was Seascape. By the time I am done with fall 2017, I will have directed eight Albee plays.
What made you decide to focus on him as the playwright for your season?
First of all, when he passed away, I just knew that it was just the cosmos calling me to honor his legacy. Since it tied in with my 20th anniversary season and I’m noted for having done Albee, I thought this would be a perfect fit.
The play, The Occupant, that I’m doing in the fall, I’ve waited a long time to get the royalties for that one. They were looking for a larger production. When they finally lifted the restriction, I was able to make it all work out.
With Finding the Sun, there’s a cast of eight people. It’s the largest cast that I’ve taken to FIT. It’s been in my pile for many years, and I thought “Do I really want to take this on now?” Since you’re celebrating his canon, if you don’t do it now, when will you do it?
It takes place on a beach, and that resonates since we’re on the shores of White Rock Lake on the Bath House and it’s the summertime. Now, it’s an absurdist beach, but it’s still a beach. But it’s Albee, so it’s never fully light and fluffy; that’s just not who he is.
Albee wrote three sand plays: The Sandbox, Seascape, and Finding the Sun. Since he wrote this one as the final of the sand cycle, you’re getting the voice of a more mature playwright. With me being slightly more mature, I connected with it on a level. It’s dealing with the deep questions. He’s a provocateur. This one, we’re dealing with the passage of time, love, loss, identity, etc. The humor and bite of him is delightful, but there’s also pathos… He takes you everywhere, as does Samuel Beckett.
Why do you think an absurdist piece is appropriate for the time we are in right now?
I think we have to think out of the box. Albee takes on the big questions and forces us to think. Being in the middle of today’s sensibility is a very difficult place to be. We are polarized in so many different ways.
Absurdism forces you to think about who you are and how do you want to be in the world. One of Albee’s big things is “Be Awake. Stay Awake.” When you get up in the morning and you’re breathing, that means you have to go do something. Beckett had the same philosophy, because Albee was taking a page out of Beckett’s book.
» Finding the Sun opens in the 8 p.m. Saturday, July 15, performance block, paired with Ali Smith's Trace of Arc from Echo Theatre.
Finding the Sun is performed in the following blocks:
- 8 p.m. Saturday, July 15
- 2 p.m. Sunday, July 16
- 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20
- 5 p.m. Saturday, July 29
- 5 p.m. Sunday, July 30
- 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4
See more info about the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres schedule here.