Theatre on the Run in Arlington from Oct. 14-23 will host “Unprotected,” a modern-day drama about the struggles women face in contemporary society, as part of Pipeline Playwrights’ “Our Time, Our Stories” series of new plays.
For information on the show, see the Website at https://our.show/pipeline-playwrights/unprotected.
The Sun Gazette recently asked playwright Jean Koppen, producer Crystal Adaway and director Catherine Tripp about the work and the impact they hope it will have with audiences.
Who is the target audience for this production?
Crystal Adaway, producer: “It’s difficult to narrow it down to a single target. Pipeline Playwrights envisions a world where women’s stories take center stage. Jean Koppen’s thoughtful, thought-provoking play is not only for women and about women, it’s for and about everyone who cares about them. We want the play to speak to a variety of voices, as sexual abuse and assault take many forms and affect many people. In particular, however, an incident at the heart of ‘Unprotected’ involved teens in high school and Pipeline Playwrights is planning on a special discussion event during our November streaming of the play focused on teens.”
What was the gestation period for the work, and how did it evolve during the creative process?
Jean Koppen, playwright: “I wrote the play in 2016 and it was specifically inspired by the rhetoric I heard during the presidential campaign. In May 2017, Pipeline Playwrights had a reading of the play at MetroStage and a very lively discussion afterwards. Feedback from the audience at that reading, and from the actors who performed, helped me understand what moments in the play resonated and what areas needed more development. I was particularly interested in sparking conversation between different perspectives on the characters, and I felt as though the play successfully achieved that. Since that time I’ve refined the play and updated it to reflect where we are right now, both post the #MeToo movement but also now with Roe v. Wade overturned, and the feeling that women’s rights are as vulnerable as ever.”
How does a playwright/theater address a topic that can be uncomfortable for audiences, while also crafting it so audiences will want to come see it?
Catherine Tripp, Director: “I think that with any story we tell in the theater the key is to tell the truth as best we can with these characters. As long as we look at an issue honestly and respectfully, we are telling a story that belongs to the audience – either their story or their sisters, or their neighbors or someone they love that they don’t even realize has this story. I think audience feels that impact.”
What are the pluses and minuses of staging at Theatre on the Run?
Adaway: “What excites me most about producing this play at Theatre on the Run is the intimacy the blackbox space provides for both the actors and the audience. ‘Unprotected’ is an intimate play, and as the story unfolds our audience will feel immersed with the characters. The only minus is that the facility’s hours are limited on weekends, so we could only have matinees on Saturday and Sunday.”
Tripp: “Any director will always want more time in the theater for rehearsal, so I am not sure that is specific to Theatre on the Run. Staging is different in any space, but when we come together as a team I think we can overcome any challenges. I love that Theatre on the Run is so close to the community that I live in and that it is accessible by public transportation.”
If you had 20 seconds for an “elevator speech” to promote the show, what would you say?
Koppen: “I wrote this play to spark conversation. I think every character’s perspective is valid and audience members will hopefully leave debating who was right or wrong, justified or out of line, based on their own experiences. Most of all, I think the conversations this play inspires may encourage understanding and healing, which is for me what can make theater compelling.”
Adaway: “We have created in our society a tangle of conflicting, untenable expectations for girls and women – how to act, how to look, how to speak, how to feel. ‘Unprotected’ explores the consequences of trying to meet, and ultimately alter, those expectations.”
Tripp: “This play is the story of how easy it is to ignore the ways that society oppresses women. But that when confronted with actual events it becomes impossible for the family in the play to pretend that we don’t all need to work for change. The beauty of this play is that all the characters are right sometimes and all the characters are wrong sometimes. I think the audiences will be surprised at how many different characters they agree with only to then disagree with. It is a wonderfully nuanced story that will leave the audience debating about modern feminism all the way home.”