Interview with playwright Steven Dietz

Interview with playwright Steven Dietz

Paragon Springs  Interview of Steven Deitz and William Brown courtesy of www.timelinetheatre.com TimeLine’s Artistic Director PJ Powers [PP] chatted recently with playwright Steven Dietz [SD] and director William Brown [WB] about TimeLine’s production of PARAGON SPRINGS.   [PP] Steven, what inspired you to do an adaptation of Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE?    [SD] I was approached by the Milwaukee Rep. about the adaptation. [Milwaukee Rep Artistic Director] Joe Hanreddy felt it was a timely play and could be given a new, American slant. I agreed and jumped in.   PP] Bill, what first interested you about this play, and why is it a relevant story to be telling now?    [WB] AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE is about tough moral decisions a community has to make – the way a crowd is influenced, the way democracy is shanghaied, the way the media can manipulate a story for popular reasons, the fact that hard choices that a community has to make necessitates sacrifice and you can’t pretend otherwise…and how comfortable it is to go along…how satisfying that is. These are all issues that have currency today. Steven’s play is rooted in Ibsen’s story and with his style of storytelling, yet this adaptation has a distinct American tone.   [PP] Tell me about the choice of setting the play in the Midwest in the 1920s.    [SD]It’s just such a rich and vibrant time – in terms of politics, business, music, exploration. A time when the modern America was being born, and thus a time of great and startling conflict. Plus, even though I spent a great deal of my early career in the Midwest, I had not written about that part of the world as much as I’d like. PARAGON SPRINGS was a chance to do that.   [PP] Bill?    [WB] First of all, I had yet to find a truly satisfying adaptation of AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. It seems to me that one of the things that comes up with Ibsen all the time is that it’s really easy for an audience to sit back and say, “Oh that’s the way things were in the 19th century in Scandinavia. It’s easy to distance yourself and not see yourself in the play. I always think, “What’s the point? That doesn’t really affect us.” This play is a disturbing play and a dangerous  play. It articulates ideas that are messy and not easy to come to terms with. What I love about this version is that the town is very familiar to us. It’s Wisconsin – our own backyard. Instead of it happening in some foreign venue, it’s something we know – our friends and neighbors. It...

Read More