A Preoccupation with Vermont

by Julie Haverkate

in Interviews,TCG Books

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At TCG, we’re absolutely thrilled to have just published the first collection of plays by Obie Award-winning playwright Annie Baker. Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, Nocturama and Body Awareness have been gathered in her debut volume, The Vermont Plays.

If you happened to be at St. Mark’s Bookshop in NYC last night, you would have witnessed first-hand what the Village Voice calls Baker’s “quiet, hypnotic charm, grace and humor”: The playwright cultivated a few readings of her work, bringing together members of the original cast of Circle Mirror Transformation (Peter Friedman, Deirdre O’Connell and Heidi Schreck) and SF Playhouse’s West Coast-premiere production of The Aliens (Brian Miskell, Peter O’Connor and Haynes Thigpen) along with actor Quincy Tyler Bernstine.

Amidst all the excitement, we were happy to find a quiet moment to speak with Annie:

Julie Haverkate: The four plays in this collection share a setting — the fictional town of Shirley, VT. In what other ways, if any, do these plays speak to each other, whether stylistically or thematically?

Annie Baker: The Shirley, Vermont setting sort of happened to the plays (and me). In no way are the plays meant to be performed in rep, nor do I think there’s any particular benefit in reading them at the same time or in a particular order. I was just preoccupied with this imaginary town from 2005-2010. After going over the galleys for this book, I realized a thematic similarity in all four plays that sort of surprised me. I’d never thought about this consciously, but in some way all four plays are about how art can save your life.

Julie Haverkate: One of those plays — Nocturama — is the only of the four yet to be produced. Can you tell us a little about this play and what it means to you?

Annie Baker: Nocturama is a play about depression and historical house tours and video games. There’s some stuff I really like in it. It’s a big, sprawling, messy play, and although I’d like to see it produced at some point, I’ve turned down a number of productions. It needs to happen at the right time and in the right place. In some ways I think it reads better than my other plays; the sparseness of Circle Mirror Transformation and The Aliens can seem, on the page, like either satire or just boring nothinghappensness. But Nocturama is kind of chock full of stuff.

For more Annie Baker, check out her adaptation of Uncle Vanya (for which she also designed costumes!) in its world premiere at Soho Rep in NYC June 7 – July 15. The busy playwright will also premiere her new play The Flick at Playwrights Horizons in the upcoming season. Baker is also a resident playwright at the Signature Theatre Company in NYC.

Annie Baker’s full-length plays include Circle Mirror Transformation (Playwrights Horizons, OBIE Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The Aliens (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, OBIE Award for Best New American Play), Body Awareness (Atlantic Theater Company, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright), Nocturama and The Flick. Her work has also been produced and developed at the Bush Theatre in London, New York Theatre Workshop, MCC, MTC, Soho Rep, Orchard Project, Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Ars Nova, Huntington Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Z-Space/Theatre Artaud, Magic Theater, Cape Cod Theatre Project, SF Playhouse, Bay Area Playwrights Festival and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Utah and Ucross, Wyoming. Annie is a member of New Dramatists, MCC’s Playwrights Coalition and EST, and she is an alumna of Youngblood, Ars Nova’s Play Group and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Recent honors include a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nomination, a Lilly Award, a Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship, and a MacDowell fellowship.

Julie Haverkate is Marketing Associate at Theatre Communications Group. Previously, she has worked at Meadow Brook Theatre (Rochester, MI), as well as in the literary offices of Electric Pear Productions and the Summer Play Festival in NYC. Julie has lectured and presented at conferences internationally, and her book, PARADE Diverges, was published by VDM. In addition to dramaturging every now and again, she also writes the blog Critical Confabulations and is a proud alumna of Florida State University (M.A. Theatre Studies ’08).