As Cyrano’s Theatre Company production of Ripcord heads into its final week of performances, Director Teresa K Pond shares her enthusiasm about their first post-Covid play written by David Linday-Abaire.
Tell us more about your vision in directing Ripcord, especially about the two lead characters Abby (played by Linda Benson) and Marilyn (played by Gigi Lynch).
It’s really a love story in a way between two women with very different personalities. In a way it’s about two women who have gone through similar stories of pain and love and loss in their lives, and have come out of those two journeys very differently. I think that’s what struck me as I get older in my own life. You realize as life gives you gifts and give you hits, you have a choice the way you live your life. One of these women (Marilyn) has made a very conscious choice to live life to the fullest every day that she is going to aim for joy and love in her life. And if you don’t know her she’s earned this. She’s had hits in her life and hard times. But we know this immediately about the role of Abby. This woman has been through a lot in her life. And for her the choice - I think that a lot of us make - that it’s a lot easier to see the negatives in the world, and she lets it kind of swallow her. She lives with her pain every day. It’s something that can teach us a lot about life. Abby is just hilarious. Which I found interesting for a woman that seems so crabby. She has great humor about her and yet there’s very powerful moments and scenes in this play that all the parts of our lives, our love, our regrets are expressed as well as what we see on the surface. That’s really the fun of it. The dare is if Marilyn can get mad and Abby can get scared. And what we expect is little things, but what happens are really big, crazy things.
How does ageism factor into this play?
It’s a big part of it. It’s set in a living facility which is full of elderly people. Some living there because they need extra care, some because they chose a different lifestyle. Locked up in that place, but they’re not locked up - as seen in the play. They are adults, free to make their choices, and we get to learn a lot from them. That’s a wonderful reminder because our elders can teach us so much about our world. What I love is you watch elderly lades saying and doing the craziest things…because grandma has a whole lot more going on with her than what meets the eye.
Without giving any spoilers away (and wow are they incredible) what can you share about some very creative scene changes and set design elements?
The scene change (for one in particular) wasn’t easy, it’s difficult to do all the things that needed to happen to make that happen, and we worked it and we worked it, and bless the actors who were patient with us figured out all the different senses. As the director it’s my job to create a world that the senses believe are real, what you see, what you hear, sometimes what you smell or what you touch. We are trying to use all the senses to create the illusion and the design team and the actors did just exquisite work.
What surprised you the most about the audience’s reaction to the play?
What surprised me is that I had no idea the audience would take it as shockingly as they did in the second act. Some audiences laughed right away, some have gone “oh my gosh!” and then they figure out it was a joke. We just didn’t know it would be so funny. The reveals are really the magic of the play. I just don’t think we tend to think that two little old ladies can shock us and I absolutely love that they do.
There are a lot of familiar and very talented faces on this cast from past Cyrano’s performances do you find that patrons have come to enjoy getting to know the actors as well as the characters they play?
It’s great to get to know the actors, it’s a family and we love that that people can come back and see their family members in a new show and different characters. We have such a wealth of talent in our acting community and here in Anchorage. We forget that other places may not have such a tightknit community that offers artists the opportunity to grow and prosper. We’re very lucky with the wealth of talent that we have.
The actors were cast for this play before Covid. How did that impact the performance of the play with 18- months to prepare?
They had so much time to work the script, weirdly they all thought they would fly through this, but it was still solid rehearsal process like any other show. To be right in front of each other, doing the staging, walking around the space, it’s very different how the lines are in your head. As Gigi and Linda could attest they had a heavy line load, it wasn’t harder but it wasn’t easy. The difference was the cast understood what was going on behind the work on such a richer level. That was a joy for me.
Cyrano’s has done a fantastic job with Covid safety precautions. Attendees must show proof of vaccination and wear a mask during the performances. How are you reaching patrons who aren’t able to attend in person?
Everyone has been so supportive coming out of Covid and reopening and the procedures we’ve put into place. We’re hoping for the best of options for everybody. For those who weren’t comfortable coming back to the theater yet or weren’t able to get vaccinated, or are living somewhere else we have taken the time to put together a beautiful streaming video of the show. It will be streaming over Thanksgiving weekend, starting on Thursday, on Thanksgiving, all through Sunday. They get the chance to see a combination of a couple of the best performances we’ve filmed. They can buy a ticket, click on a link and watch the show intimately from the comfort of their living room. It’s a whole new world that the pandemic has opened up to bring loved ones and friends outside to see what we’re doing. The streaming option is just going to be gangbusters. And we’re going to have live performances Friday through Sunday our last three shows. We are coming into a week we have the best of both worlds.
There are some unexpected and funny sexual innuendos sprinkled throughout the play what are your thoughts about younger audiences attending?
It certainly falls in to a comfortable PG-13 for this particular play. Kids over the age of 12 are allowed to come in and it’s really at each parent’s discretion. It’s great for those adolescents that are able to feel comfortable with some innuendos and a few words as I feel the rest of it is more than accessible. We are more than happy to give parents more information beforehand if needed.
Ripcord written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Teresa K Pond continues its final week of performances through Sunday November 28. For ticketing or more information visit cyranos.org, their Facebook Page, call 907-274-2599 or signup for their E-newsletter by emailing email@example.com.
Director: Teresa K Pond
Scenic Designer: Rachael Androski
Lighting Designer: Frank Hardy
Costume Designer: Giselle Nisonger
Sound Designer: Paul Rios
Props Master: Jan Jones
Stage Manager: Seth Eggleston
Asst. Stage Manager: Rhea Hood
Scenic Construction: Bill Heym
Abby Binder: Linda Benson
Marilyn Dunne: Gigi Lynch
Scott: Kenndrick Horton
Benjamin/Lewis/Clown: Anthony Lounsbury
Colleen/Woman in White: Danielle Rabinovitch
Derek/Zombie Butler: Jim Haacke