Dallas — Susan Sargeant knows the Festival of Independent Theatres better than anyone, as she’s been involved in the event for its entire 20 years. Her group, WingSpan Theatre Company, is the only group to have been in all 20 FITs. This year she’s directing Harold Pinter’s Landscape, which has two more performances in the final two weeks of the festival. We e-chatted with her to talk about her fascination with absurdism and the festival.
TheaterJones: Landscape has been on your list for years. Why was now the right time for it?
When I was considering what to bring to FIT for the 20th Anniversary, I wanted to continue to spread my wings and to continue to explore in the Aburdism direction. The last two years, WingSpan brought Edward Albee’s Finding the Sun (FIT 2017) and Play by Samuel Beckett (FIT 2016). Plus it is the 10th Anniversary of Harold Pinter’s death (passed away in 2008). Actually, in London this Fall, they are having a celebration of Pinter’s plays (one-acts and full-lengths) at The Harold Pinter Theatre. Landscape is paired with A Kind of Alaska. They are being billed as: “lost in the mist” plays.
WingSpan has done Pinter before and you acted in it. What did you learn from acting in Pinter’s Old Times that helped you direct Pinter?
No matter the playwright, they all have a unique criteria and Pinter is no exception. Besides that it was written by a Brit, you have to adhere to Pinter’s specific music, rhythm and punctuation.
Old Times was written after Landscape. You can see the traces of Landscape (written in 1967) in both Old Times and Betrayal. Pinter is a time bender—past/present/future. Landscape embodies past and present.
Pinter had a Beckett influence, as did Albee, who WingSpan has performed more than any other playwright. What is it about these writers, aburdism, and a hallmark of each of them—silence and punctuation— that speaks to you?
Absurdism is about provocative thinking and taking a journey that is fluid vs. a more conventional narrative. You have to stay on your toes with Pinter, Albee and Beckett due to the structure, language, depth of material, and complicity of music/rhythm/punctuation. The demand is high but so is the reward. I like the challenge and I also find the World of Absurdism very cathartic.
How does this play speak to WingSpan’s mission of plays “for, by or about” women?
A key element when selecting any play for FIT and/or main stage is that there has to be strong and/or significant role/s for women. The role of Beth, in Landscape by Harold Pinter, gives a mature actress a complicated role to take on.
Landscape is often paired with Pinter’s play Silence. Is that on your radar for some point?
Anything is possible ...
WingSpan has been in FIT for 20 years. How has the festival been important to the awareness of WingSpan?
I am a Founding Company of FIT and the Mission was and still is to provide a platform to springboard new and/or emerging theatre companies. Also for indie theatres on the Dallas landscape, to take on some risk with new plays and/or plays that you would not otherwise produce. FIT has been instrumental in growing awareness for WingSpan Theatre Company and other indie theatres. The Bath House Cultural Center/The Office of Cultural Affairs/The City of Dallas, deserves a huge round of applause for supporting the mission and keeping us flying.
» Landscape continues in the following performance blocks:
- 8pm Friday, July 27
- 8pm Thursday, Aug. 2
The 20th Festival of Independent Theatres
July 13- August 4, 2018
Bath House Cultural Center,
521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas
Tickets and passes go on sale in late June
Call 800-617-6904 or visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org