"Frozen" doesn't literally refer to ice, but the subject matter is chilling.
We caught up with Fresno State's Kathleen McKinley, who directs the Valley premiere of Bryony Lavery's 2004 Tony-nominated play, to talk about this emotionally charged drama, which opens today.
Question: What is the play about?
"Frozen" is the psychological journey of three people: a forensic psychiatrist, the mother of the young victim, and the offender, whose lives are chillingly connected by a horrific crime.
Why select "Frozen"?
We strive to present a season with a range of genres, as well as a balance of casting and technical demands. "Frozen" has been in my director's back pocket since it received four Tony nominations. As a Fresno premiere, adult drama, and actor-centered play, it fit well into our season this year.
The characters in "Frozen" are carrying some heavy emotional baggage accumulated over a period of years. What is it like to work with college-age actors in a play like this? Do you recall anything in particular that helped prepare them for these roles?
Yes, my cast members are younger than the characters they play in "Frozen." Ah, the magic and challenge of college theater! Of course, it would be rare for any actor, young or old, to have life experiences similar to the characters of "Frozen." One has to have the courage to dig deep and recognize the potential within for the heroic and the vile.
How did you approach this play in terms of working with your designers?
A team of student designers created lights, sound and costumes for this production in the Woods Theatre. Much of the play is memory, addressed directly to the audience, and characters transition from place to place within a single monologue. I urged the designers to realize a world that is more psychological than real, with each character entering in and out of cold isolation.
Forgiveness is a universal human concept that has lots of interpretations. I'd bet that most people think of themselves as a forgiving type, but it doesn't always work out that way in practice. Does this play have one clear definition of forgiveness, or is that even possible? Did "Frozen" alter your own views of what forgiveness is?
Ms. Lavery, the playwright, says, "I think you're lucky if forgiveness visits you. And you're in agony if it doesn't." The play is not a sermon for forgiveness. What are the limits of forgiveness and what is the power of remorse? The play poses those questions to the audience. My research included the Restorative Justice movement, especially in England where the play takes place. Victims testify to life-changing healing resulting from the humanization of offenders who have so harmed them. The mother in "Frozen" stumbles toward closure with detours thru false hope and fantasies of revenge. The play does not lecture, but asks the audience to go along on this journey.
What was the biggest challenge of "Frozen" for you? How about the cast?
Theater can allow actors and audience to venture into the unthinkable, and return again, enlightened, moved, disturbed but unharmed. I was drawn to the concise writing and tremendous acting challenges of "Frozen," but I admit that as a director, I questioned whether I wanted to venture into a parent's worst nightmare night after night. As scary as it seems, actors often revel in the exploration of seriously flawed characters!
Anything else you'd like to say?
This play is no more provocative than most prime-time crime dramas, but an intimate theatre setting can ratchet up the intensity, so audience discretion is advised. The play has darkly humorous moments as well; the playwright says she "has never been in a situation, however tragic, where there isn't something funny."
through March 22, Woods Theatre, Fresno State. fresnostate.edu/theatrearts
, (559) 278-7512. Tickets: $17, $15 seniors, $10 students.
The reporter can be reached at email@example.com
, (559) 441-6373 or @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.