In Conversation with Mani Eustis – Director of “False Start” at the 2016 Toronto Fringe
Interview by Madryn McCabe
I had the chance to talk to director Mani Eustis about False Start, the show she has directed for Green Box Theatre Company, which opens this week as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival.
MMC: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the show?
ME: False Start is a story about relationships, how they evolve over time and how we overcome hardships, or at least try to work through the obstacles life throws at us. The show follows one couple at two very pivotal points in their lives. Zoey and Jake meet in high school, and the play alternates between scenes of their awkward teenage beginnings and their present married life.
MMC: This show deals with the sensitive subject of miscarriage and how it can affect a marriage, but seems to come from a place of humour. How do you, as a director, balance the humour with the drama?
ME: I don’t know if I would say that the show comes from a place of humour, but there are definitely funny bits because life is funny, right? Even in really dark times, life can still have delightful moments. I think that it’s important not to overwhelm an audience with SAD BAD HORRIBLE DARKNESS. In my opinion, that can be very de-sensitizing. But to answer your question, as a director, I haven’t really had to balance the humour because the script and actors do a really good job of that! I am just there to make sure that jokes read timing-wise and that they come from a place of love. Most of the humour in this show comes from a place of love. I think that’s why it works with the serious subject matter.
MMC: I see that you directed the original workshop production of this show at last year’s New Voices Festival at Ryerson University. How has the show evolved since its first presentation? What new and familiar things can a returning audience expect?
ME: Well, both the cast and the script have changed a bit. With new actors come new perspectives on the characters and interpretations of the text. We are also focusing a lot more on the production elements this time around. The first workshop of the play was a lot more naturalistic, and quite minimal in its production elements. This time I really wanted to use lighting and sound to portray the movement through time that is so integral to the play. For example, one of the major ways we are doing this is through projections.
For this production, I am more focused on the storytelling, and doing so in a compelling and creative way. I think returning audiences will be happy to see that the show still has the same heart, but it has been refined and polished.
MMC: The show has four actors playing the same couple as the younger and current versions of themselves. Did the actors get to work together to create specific character traits, or did you want a decidedly marked difference between the two portrayals?
ME: We actually really lucked out with casting in that the actors look very similar, and have similar mannerisms. So it hasn’t been a huge part of the process. Overall I think the similarities between the characters shine through in the writing and the actors’ performances without any sort of forced physicality. One thing that I think helps is the fact that the actors are on stage with one another for a lot of the show (even if they are not part of the “action” of the moment). They are constantly watching one another or at least being in the presence of their younger or older self. I think that adds a unifying quality between the younger and older couples that has happened naturally.
MMC: Is there anything you want your audience to know about you or the play before they see the show?
ME: Nope, I think going into shows knowing as little as possible is the way to go! I truly believe that the most important thing going into a play is having no expectations, an open mind and an empty bladder.
Presented by the Green Box Theatre Company as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival
Playwright: Nicole Hrgetic
Company: Green Box Theatre Company
Director: Mani Eustis
Cast: Andrea Brown, Andrew Knowlton, Elizabeth Adams, Dylan Evans.
Christine Luksts – Stage Manager
David Beisel- Lighting Designer
Sophie Moynan- Set Desginer/Props Manager
What happens when a misunderstood, football-obsessed teenage boy meets an intelligent, caring teenage girl? It’s textbook stuff: they fall in love, they get married, and they resent each other. Zoey and Jake have been together since high school. In the aftermath of a traumatic event, Zoey struggles to have a baby while dealing with the one she married.
St. Vladimir Theatre
JUNE 30th – JULY 9th
June 30th: 10:00pm
July 2nd: 7:30pm
July 3rd: 12:00pm
July 4th: 1:00pm
July 6th: 4:30pm
July 8th: 11:00pm
July 9th: 7:00pm
By Phone: 416-966-1062