Babes With Blades WOMEN OF 4G Preview—Conversation with Director Lauren Katz, August 1 – September 14, The Factory Theater,1623 W. Howard St
August 1 – September 14
The Factory Theater,
1623 W. Howard St
Having seen many of the shows that Lauren Katz has helped to direct- and also reading the many insightful theater reviews by Lauren Katz on these pages—Picture This Post editor Amy Munice jumped at the opportunity to get the inside scoop on the upcoming Babes With Blades work – WOMEN OF 4G- a new genre that is part feminist and part sci fi and all theater.
Here Picture this Post (PTP) asks Lauren Katz (LK) to tell all…
(PTP) Have you been drawn to science fiction as a genre before- in film, books, theater? How had directing this play changed your interest in this genre?
(LK) I have always been excited by the science fiction genre in terms of books and film! I grew up on that material – especially Star Trek, Star Wars, and the entire comic book universe. When Babes with Blades asked me about this play, it felt like a win-win! I had never directed science fiction before but I have enjoyed the possibilities, and the ability to shape a new futuristic world.
What are the challenges of presenting a future fantasy work like this on the stage? How is this similar/different to presenting a murder mystery in more normal everyday/present day surrounds?
I would say that it wasn’t too different. The play begins as a murder mystery, but eventually turns into a story that is very different, and primarily focuses on a group of women who have to realize they are more than capable of accomplishing the extraordinary. That is something that is applicable no matter the genre.
In terms of building the world around the play, it wasn’t too difficult once we built the rules within it – especially with the help of my incredible design team. The play itself takes place 75 years in the future, and so we were able to figure out together what might change by then and what might still be the same. But if we think about it, 75 years ago today it was only 1944. While a lot has changed in terms of technology, there are certain things that remain, and we were able to have fun exploring those possibilities in the room.
What aspects of this script did you “discover” in more detail as you drilled into the details of directing it?
These characters are deceptively very complicated, and that is something that all of us discovered together in the room. Every woman on this ship has something to prove by completing the mission – and something to lose if the mission falls apart. In addition to that, this is very much an ensemble play, where most of the time all of the women are on stage at the same time. We had a lot of fun exploring the depths and complexities of those relationships – what comes out when they are all together, and what they try to hide in order to reach a larger goal. There was a lot of unpacking and I still discover more and more as I watch the play in previews. What always excited me about the play was that it was a story about a group of seven women – not mothers or wives, but specifically about scientists and military professionals working towards saving the world. There are a lot of politics within that – even 75 years in the future, and we had fun digging through those layers in the room.
How are you trying to make this work appeal both to women who identify as feminists and those who don’t? same question vis a vis men?
As I said earlier, this play starts out as a murder mystery, but becomes something much bigger. 75 years ago it was 1944, and I’m sure that we had hopes of the kind of world that women would be living in by the time we reached 2019. Now we are here, and I know we aren’t as far as we might have hoped. This play features women who have had to fight their way to some semblance of respect, or even continue to get pushed down and firmly believe that’s what they deserve. The character Wollman invented a program that could save the world from global warming, and she is still trying to prove that she’s good enough. Stark has more commendations than any other first officer, and she still can’t move to the Captain level. Worse than that, she has even started to justify it to herself. I know that is a story that we can all recognize today, and it’s sad to think that 75 years from now women might be fighting the same battles. Women constantly have to be reminded that they are capable of accomplishing the extraordinary, and Women of 4G presents the audience with the possibilities – a world that is worth imagining. I don’t think that necessarily has to appeal to feminists versus anti-feminists, or even made special to appeal to a man. I wouldn’t necessarily call this story just a “feminist” play, but if you are someone who doesn’t believe that there should be universal respect, then perhaps it is not the play for you.
Have you worked with many of these actors before? Was casting this play a challenge or?
I actually have not worked with any of these actors before! Some I knew from other areas of the field, and others I met for the first time in auditions. This is so much an ensemble play, and it was a lot of fun casting and figuring out all of those puzzle pieces. Each of the actors in this piece brings something exciting and original to the story. The characters have transformed into people I never even expected, and I know I could not have built this story without the incredible talent and dedication from this cast.
What has been the most fun about directing this play?
Most definitely the cast and crew. I am very much a collaborative director, and I could not have done this without a cast that was ready to jump into this adventure with me. There were certainly challenges – staging a 20-page scene with 7 actors in a very right space is certainly not easy. But the cast was ready and excited, and it made my job a lot easier. Maureen Yasko’s fantastic fight choreography adds even more exciting layers. Together we crafted the moving pieces and the relationships that would drive this story.
Then once we hit tech, the incredibly talented design team brought the whole piece to life in a way that is stunning. It felt important that we had a design team that reflected the themes of this play, and I am proud to say that the designers are all female or non-binary-identifiying folks. It has been a wild ride building this story, and my favorite part has definitely been the collaboration and uncovering those complexities together.
What is next on your docket?
I will be directing This is a Chair as part of the 5th Annual Directors Haven with Haven Theatre.
Other comments to help Picture this Post readers get a mental picture of whether this play is a good fit for their interests?
I would say Women of 4G has a little something for everyone. Murder mystery, space walking, advanced tech, some exciting fights, and some really beautiful, honest relationships. Whether you are a science fiction fan or not, I would say there is something to peak your interest in this play. I invite you all to join us on this adventure!