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Thursday, May 5, 2011


Ronan Noone’s Little Black Dress (which debuted at BPT last season) opens Off-Broadway in a production by The Exchange tonight. Get tickets here. Of course, we couldn't let the event pass without convincing him to answer a few questions for us.

American pop culture as metaphor is central to Little Black Dress. Was that challenging, particularly since you are not originally from this country? What made you settle on the icons you did (the little black dress, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra)? Have those choices evolved/changed during the lifecycle of the play?

Those choices have not really changed, if anything they have become even more embedded into the content of the play. But it does make sense that you see American pop culture as metaphor in the play, because I see the play, ultimately, as an emigrant play, with Amy representing the emigrant, Jimmy Jr. is the family left behind, Jimmy Sr. is Ireland, and America is the Gigolo. And I don't mean to be derogatory with this symbolism in any way. It is only recently I understood where this play was rooted. I am trying to capture the mixed, frightening, challenging, upheaval of emotions an emigrant feels when they leave their original home behind.

What lessons did you learn working on the BPT production of Little Black Dress last season? In preparation for the play’s production by The Exchange, were there particular aspects of the script you knew you wanted to address?

The BPT production allowed me to work out the kinks during rehearsal, to cut, add and create as we came closer to opening. In truth you can cut, add, and create all you like in a reading or in your writing room but there is nothing like having it on its feet, and actors aware that an opening night is only a couple of weeks away. There is a superb clarity and focus with that awareness. You don't have that time in New York. I have never found New York suitable towards workshopping or on the feet adaptability. In New York, I tweak the play. But I’m lucky -- BPT lets me create the play I want and gives it the production I envision.

What are some of the considerations unique to preparing a play for a New York audience?

Playwright Ronan Noone
Well, continuing on from the last question, I think I can answer this -- I have had 3 productions of plays in New York that have had their first outing at BPT. None of those productions felt comfortable in New York. They were successful here and they are fine plays, but there is an ineffable feeling about working with your own troupe here, the stage, the seats, etc. Similar to a home game and an away game of football. The difficulty in translating the uncomfortable comfort that playmaking demands is very hard to find in New York. The audiences certainly have a particular insouciance towards the playwright, that I have now learnt to appreciate.

Okay: You’re gearing up for an Off-Broadway opening. What is your state of mind right now? And given the play’s expansive development history, is it finally – dare I even say it? – finished?

Oh, it's finished. It was finished after Boston. But I will say, as I have said before, there is a trap in the development process, caught somewhere between building relationships with theaters around the country and introducing yourself to those theaters through development of the same play.  That said -- my state of mind is fairly stable. The anxiety will rise as I get closer to opening, but I have to repeat, the piece represents metaphorically all those feelings involved in emigrating that stay with you for life. I mean, yes, America is my home and it is a nation of emigrants and we often focus on the Golden Door that America represents, but discussion of the sacrifices involved in leaving your birth country is sometimes avoided. And I am very confident in this, allegorical tale I suppose, because it speaks to me above all.

What else are you working on now? What is next for you?

I have written a play called "A Small Death" and I will actively pursue its production. I have a couple more pieces tossing around in my head that need to be written, and, of course, TV pilots and a screenplay. I write those words so easily but it can be very difficult to really find a project that you love, that you really want to stick with because I know some of the stories that I am tossing around I like, but I'm not sure I will love them. Maybe it's statements like that that pave my road to hell. Aaaaaaaaaaa.

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