Sunday, January 14, 2007

Noir Interview #7: Sheryl Kaller

Do you have a favorite film which for your most clearly defines the film noir style?

SHERYL: CASABLANCA. Not a film noir in the classic sense, but definitely containing many noir-ish elements, particularly in the lighting, compositions, and performances.

What does film noir have to offer the theatre artist?

SHERYL: Noirs are known for their complex narratives, and their acerbic, witty dialogue. In terms of design, the noir style invites all kinds of extravagance with costumes, lighting, and mood effects.

Why do you think the past few years have been so noir-saturated in film, television, and theater?

SHERYL: Film noir is a style that adapts across different genres – even sci-fi. Noirs are very romantic and visually beautiful. People in noirs are tough, smart, and sexy, and the locations are usually exotic and seductive. The noir sensibility is instantly recognizable and distinctly American. The thematic elements are particularly appropriate during an era of corruption and fallen innocence.

Your publicist tells me that ADRIFT IN MACAO was very much a collaboration between you and [the authors, Peter Melnick and] Christopher Durang. Tell us a bit about the piece and the nature of this collaboration.

SHERYL: ADRIFT IN MACAO began as a 40 minute reading at the York Theatre. Peter and Chris had written a one-act version that we later expanded for a workshop production at New York Stage and Film. Then a year and a half ago we did a full production of the play at Philadelphia Theatre Company where it won a few Barrymore Awards. Peter, Chris, and I work together very collaboratively, sharing different ideas back and forth. We’ve made some changes to the play and now where moving it to Primary Stages in New York.

What particular elements of noir were you trying to parody?

SHERYL: Chris Durang’s script provided all the necessary parody. He’s obviously having a great deal of fun recreating the stereotyped performances of 1950’s movies – particularly how women, men, and ethnic characters were portrayed. We also found it very amusing that characters in a dark, moody thriller would suddenly break into song and dance.

How did you prepare to direct a noir parody?

SHERYL: I watched a lot of movies! Mostly, I studied the lighting and shades of black and white.

Has the production changed at all since its Philly run?

SHERYL: We learned a great deal from the Philly run. It’s changed by about one-quarter. Much of the staging is being adjusted and there are a couple of new songs.

ADRIFT IN MACAO begins previews on January 23, 2007 at 59E59. Find out more and buy tickets here.

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