Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
Nov. 22, 2011
Proof won just about every award that it was up for when it was first staged in 2001, inclulding a Pultizer Prize and a Tony. The play, by David Auburn, is a tiny production with only four characters. Yet it manages to encompass a wide range of human experience. JustArts spoke to director Jessie Field ’13 and stage manager Rachel Huvard ’14 about their experiences working on the show.
JustArts: Why did you choose to do this play, or how did that process come about?
Jessie Field: Well, I chose to do the play; I was actually in my very first theater course at Brandeis, THA2A, which no longer exists. I was assigned Proof in a group to do a short project about it, and I read it. It was one of the only plays I actually read and actually gasped at parts out loud in real life, and I just loved it. We had a scene from it, and … the whole time I was just itching to direct it. And Free Play is a great group that I’m a part of, and … it seemed like a great match.
JA: What are the themes of Proof, and how do those get established in the play?
JF: There are a lot of themes in the play. The one I focus on a lot is sort of this philosophical uncertainty, because the characters in the play are dealing with mental illness or questioning their own sanity or the sanity of the people around them. The play is called Proof for a variety of reasons, but they’re constantly searching for proof of everything: of love, of friendship, that somebody has written this amazing thing, that comes to mind. … There are also gender themes, things about following your dreams, your passion. Family is a big thing too.
Rachel Huvard: I would agree with that, like obligations to family.
JA: So, the cast only has four people. What is it like working with such a small group?
JF: Wonderful, confusing, the best.
RH: Not only are they a small group, but they’re also incredibly talented and amazing people to work with who have great ideas and have contributed so much throughout the process that it’s just a pleasure to work with them.
JF: Seriously, it’s astounding how talented they are and how much they bring to the table. Working in a close environment, you can really get into things. I know people very personally, it’s great.
JA: So where is the play going to be staged?
JF: It is going to be staged in Schwartz Auditorium.
RH: It’s kind of both a bad lecture hall and a bad theater space, so it’s an interesting space to work in because of that. It doesn’t really fully serve either of its potential purposes. We wanted it to be a more intimate-feeling space because of the small cast and the nature of the show, so we ended up building our own platform to serve as the stage, and it’s on the floor right in front of the audience.
JF: It really limits the playing space.
RH: Yeah, and keeps everything really close and personal.
JF: Then we fill in the rest of the forward seats so everyone’s really close. Because it is a huge space.
JA: So are all the characters crammed onstage at all times?
JF: No, in fact they’re never onstage at the same time—all four are never onstage at the same time.
JA: Have the stage or screen adaptations of Proof influenced the way the play is going, have you seen the movie?
JF: I have seen the movie, but it didn’t help at all. They had all the people in the world [to work with], and I wouldn’t want to base it on that anyway; Rachel has seen it too. A lot of people have seen it and hated it. It’s not a good representation. I don’t like how they [portrayed] some parts of the story. I think we tried to find out our own interpretation.
RH: I didn’t see the movie until halfway through the rehearsal process. After seeing the movie I was disappointed. Proof [has] such an amazing script. … The film was compromised by how many resources they had. I like our version, not that I am biased.
JA: This being such a small group, has the cast influenced the way you thought about directing, has it been a collaborative experience?
JF: I tried to make it a collaborative experience. We are all peers, and it is difficult for one person to take a leadership role. I do have ideas I’ll stick to, but most of the time I look at what [the cast is] going to do and try and make it work.
RH: Because we have such a small cast we have been able to devote a nice amount of time to the discussion and what we think of them
JA: Is this your first time managing/directing?
RH: I have stage managed before. I stage managed at my high school, and I was an assistant stage manager for Jessie during Margaret: a Tiger’s Heart.
JF: This was the second show I have directed at Brandeis.