“Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe.”

Don’t let the friendly smile fool ya…

 

 

Mark Gorman came to Vegas  about 3 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina where he had been the artistic director of a theater company called South of Broadway and the Board President for the League of Charleston Theatres. Before that, he was a performer and director in a bunch of fancy pants companies in New York that you’ve heard of but that I don’t wanna say because it will sound like I’m bragging. He’s also been in several APF shows and readings and directed some of them, too.

 

Most recently he directed our last staged reading, No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. Big affair, standing room only actually. Went well.

Sartre is a tricky one and make no mistake. Big ideas; lots of, you know, words and stuff. Mark and I were talking about the whole thing the other day and here’s what seeped into my brainpan.

Me:

What’s the scoop on this play?

Mark:

3 characters of very different backgrounds and beliefs are thrust into a confined space and left to search for the meanings of their eternal lives.  All the walls and defensive barriers that they have built around themselves to give meaning to their lives become false and fall away. Only then are they left naked.  Mirrors reflect only their pretenses; not anything real. But through the eyes of each other, they can truly see themselves.  When they reject how the others see them, they are never truly naked and thus live in a constant Hell.

Me:

I wonder if the notion is that we are incapable of actually forming truthful and valid opinions about ourselves, devoid of outside influence.

Mark:

I think there is an overwhelming sense in No Exit that the characters know exactly who they are.  It is through social interaction and real life existence that they put forth a persona, or an image if you will, of who they want to be seen as.  Perhaps a grand game of deception that lies so deep within themselves that they have truly convinced themselves the deceit is actually real.  Thus the outside influence becomes a stimulant to maintain the deceit.  In No Exit, Sartre forces his characters into a room where the eyes of others are not fooled by the deception and they are then judged solely on the truth.    The struggle then becomes not one of formulating or creating a truth but rather living with or accepting the truth of who you are.

Me:

How do you approach a play like this as a director? I mean, there’s no big dance numbers… I can’t remember a single swordfight in Sartre…

Mark:

Yeah, no. The major difference between an existential piece like No Exit and a normal “narrative” play is action and plot. Most plays have a simple plot line, Character A wants something and Character B wants something, and when they stand in each other’s way…  Conflict and Plot…  For the most part linear.  No Exit leaves much to the interpretation of the director and the cast.  Many productions of the play focus on the characters outward expression of themselves in the real world. I like to focus more on why each character is placed in the room with the other, what is the dynamic of each relationship.   Basically taking a step back from who they were and focusing on what they must have from the other despite obvious intentions. Two of the most powerful emotions that Human Beings possess are Love and Guilt. Love defines how we treat the world while Guilt defines how we treat ourselves. The exploration of these two states is what I tend to focus on in each of these characters as they are the dominate forces each tries to avoid.

Me:

Why’d you stage it the way you did?

Mark:

I believe a play like No Exit is perfect for being staged in the round. One, this allows the audience to be much more intimate with the cast. Subtle moments can be explored and the richness of life actors are living in “quiet” moments is beautiful to watch. Each audience member will have a unique experience based on the side of the stage they are sitting on. Two, there is no position of power; there is no upstage or downstage in the round, the actors are constantly on the same plane. No one character’s story or actions becomes any more important than the others. They must all exist equally at the same time.

Me:

So what’s next?

Mark:

I would love to focus my attentions on new works.  While it is important to produce known plays and bring that art to people who might not have had a chance to experience it yet or to experience new interpretations of known classics, my true enthusiasm lies in not producing what was on Broadway yesterday rather what will be on Broadway tomorrow.

Me:

Let’s get to it…

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