Dinner With Friends

Interview with Set Designer, Allen Moyer

Posted on: February 7th, 2014 by Ted Sod



Set Designer, Allen Moyer

Ted Sod:  Where were you born and educated? When did you decide to design scenery for the theatre?

Allen Moyer: I was born in Schuylkill Haven. It is close to Reading, right before the coal region begins in Pennsylvania. I was the kid that always drew and painted and made puppets. I started out at Albright College, where I studied biochemistry—then I changed majors. I decided I wanted to study directing or design, but Albright had no theatre department, so I went to Penn State and ended up focusing on design.  Then I went to graduate school at NYU.


TS: Will you talk about what you look for in a director when you are meeting to discuss a play?

AM:  I like someone who is able to think about the big picture and understands what is important thematically in a piece, while being able to speak in specific terms about practical ideas and requirements.  What I have enjoyed about working with Pam MacKinnon is that she does those things really well. Pam is always clear about the things that are important to her, while at the same time giving me a sense of freedom to find a way to make an environment that can express our particular feelings or response to the piece.


TS: I love the coup de théâtre you designed for the set at the top of Act Two.

AM: Well, the whole design is based on that moment, really. I think this play is very cleverly structured. The beginning of Act Two really puts the whole play in focus. Often what interests me most when I am designing a piece is its structure.


TS: We don't want to give away too much, but you worked with an artist from Martha's Vineyard, where the top of Act Two takes place. How did you find her?

AM: I went onto Google and I typed "Martha's Vineyard Paintings,” of course.  There are hundreds of them, if not thousands. I picked a few that were in different styles and showed them to Pam.  We kept being drawn to several paintings by a woman named Page Railsback, which were not realistic. We liked the idea of an image that was much more abstract.  I think we were both drawn to the energy and enthusiasm of the piece and the way it appeared to be so quickly painted.  The colors were also so right for the feel of the scene, when these characters were younger and their relationships were still being defined.  I contacted the artist through her website, and I explained how I was hoping to have her permission to use the image. The painting had been sold, but Page suggested she paint a similar one and to the exact proportions I needed.  The painting was used by the scenic artists to paint the very large version we needed, and we hope to use it onstage as well, on the wall behind the bed in the very last scene of the show.  The character of Beth is a painter, so I suppose if someone thinks this might be something she painted that weekend years before, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, right?


Set model for Dinner with Friends


Heather Burns and Darren Pettie in Dinner with Friends.


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2013-2014 Season, Dinner With Friends

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Interview with Actor, Jeremy Shamos

Posted on: January 15th, 2014 by Ted Sod


Ted Sod: Why did you choose to do this play and this role?

Jeremy Shamos:  I've been a fan of Donald Margulies for as long as I've been interested in the theater and though I didn't see the original production, I've been interested in this play since it was written. The combination of getting to do this play, with Pam MacKinnon who I collaborated with on Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park is a rare and exciting opportunity.  This is also the first time I've gotten to do a production at Roundabout and it is one of the city's most admired institutions. A perfect storm of opportunities.

TS: How is this character relevant to you?  I realize the rehearsal process hasn’t begun yet, but can you  share some of your thoughts about what you find most challenging/exciting about this role?

JS: The character is relevant to me in the same way that I suspect it will be relevant to everyone who sees the play. He is person in a marriage/partnership, who finds himself questioning his life's circumstances that have gone on a kind of autopilot…chaotic events around us often make us flee and isolate or cling and fuse… the challenge for me is that Gabe is essentially a "clinger/fuser" and I've struggled with my instinct of isolating. It will be interesting to play a person who on the surface is very much like me, but who fundamentally has a completely different coping system.


Jeremy Shamos and Marin Hinkle

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2013-2014 Season, Dinner With Friends

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Interview with Director, Pam MacKinnon

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by Ted Sod


Ted Sod: Will you tell us about yourself? Where were you born and educated? When did you decide you wanted to direct?

Pam MacKinnon:  I was born in Evanston, Illinois. My father was pursuing a Ph.D. at Northwestern.  Shortly after my birth, we moved to Toronto.  My parents were Canadian, and my dad was offered several professorships, and one was in Canada. They decided to go back.  This was June of 1968.  Chicago was scary that summer.  Nine years later we moved to suburban Buffalo.  I have dual citizenship.  In junior high and high school I acted a lot and also played the viola, and I directed a short play by Thornton Wilder, Pullman Car Hiawatha. In college I took a step away from theatre.  I started to study political science and economics; really loved it and had great professors.  I continued in that and got a double major and then went into a Ph.D. program for political science at UC-San Diego.  This was right after undergrad.  My second summer into grad school I was in Madrid doing some research and couldn’t get myself to the union archives.  I sent postcards (this was pre-email) to friends telling them I was through with political science and I wanted to direct theater.


TS: So are you a doctor of political science?

PM: No.  I dropped out.  After the summer in Madrid I returned to San Diego and came clean with my advisor, who encouraged me and also let me stay on for the year as a TA.  I had a great transition year, directing in the UCSD cabaret spaces and parking lots, assisting student and professional directors.  Two years later I moved to my childhood town of Toronto.  Did some directing and stage managed.  I assisted on the musical Tommy and helped to put Tommy up in Germany.  I then felt ready to move to New York, imagining I would direct Broadway musicals of course.  That was 18 years ago.


TS: You have a bit of history with Dinner with Friends -- correct?

PM: It’s a little complicated. I was hired by Dan Sullivan to assist him on what was supposed to be a North American tour of Dinner with Friends after it ran off-Broadway.  He directed it at the Geffen Theatre.  We hopped to Boston to the Wilbur Theatre and then the national tour never happened.



TS: What made you want to revisit the material?

PM: I am 15 years older.  I’m now the age of these characters.  I think it is a great play and as I march through time, it has become more relevant to me.  I used to make the naive assumption that my closest friends would go through life as I am, prioritizing always what I hold dear.  Like Gabe, I have been surprised.


TS: How did you respond to this script when you first worked on it 15 years ago and how are you responding now?

PM: It’s now just much closer to home. The story felt removed, a delightful remove, at age 30 that isn’t there at age 45.  The play makes me reflect not just on coupledom in general but more on my relationship.

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2013-2014 Season, Dinner With Friends

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