by Linda Lombardi, Literary Manager
Director Lucie Tiberghien makes her Arena Stage debut with Love in Afghanistan. No stranger to world premieres, other directorial credits include the world premieres of Stephen Belber's Don’t Go Gentle at MCC Theater at The Lucille Lortel Theatre, Katori Hall's Hoodoo Love at Cherry Lane Theater and Lee Blessing's Great Falls at Humana Festival. Her complete bio can be found on our Who's Who page. I sat down with Lucie at the beginning of tech week to catch up on her process directing new plays. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
What attracted you to Love in
Immediately, it was because it took place in Afghanistan. I’ve had a love affair with Afghanistan and its ongoing dramatic history and when I found out Arena was doing a play that took place in Afghanistan that caught my eye. Then I read just a few lines about the premise and I thought how fascinating to put a young African American hip hop artist and a young Afghan interpreter together and have them fall in love. That could only lead to incredible drama.
What do you like about working on
I like the collaborative aspect of new plays. Being part of the ongoing creative process - feeling part of something at its inception, and being able to bring in a director’s perspective to the play - that’s exciting. Personally, I’m attracted to plays that operate on a large canvas, that are far-reaching, and this is an incredibly ambitious play.
Charles and I work really well together. He’s incredibly open and I’m incredibly detail-oriented. My perspective is a little bit outside of a usual perspective, because I grew up in France, so the questions I ask are different. I think it’s true for our Dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke as well. The fact that he’s Irish, I’m French and Charles is American - it’s an interesting trio and our questions trigger something different in Charles in terms of how he thinks about his play. It’s not anything we’re doing; it’s just where we come from.
I know that in working with actors that’s also true. The different cultural backgrounds open up a conversation - and that’s what I really like about working with people from a different culture. Like Melis Aker, who plays Roya. Her approach and her questions are definitely influenced by the fact that she’s from Turkey. And the fact that I didn’t grow up in America allows me to have a different perspective on the racial question in this country. We have our own issues in France, definitely, but I’m not part of the conversation here in the same way - I’m a little bit outside of it.
How would you describe your
approach as a director?
My approach has become more and more clear to me as the years go by, but it’s always about telling the story. All of the questions I’ve asked Charles in his process of writing the play were story-based: what’s happening? Why is this happening? How does that affect the next scene? I come from a dance and experimental theater background, but really the reason I do plays is that I think telling a story is vital. The story is what brings people into the play. If the story is clear then they’re willing to think about anything, they’re willing to be challenged on anything. They have to be able to go on the emotional journey of the story. It’s the same in classical plays - you look at Molière's plays - he’s a master storyteller. So whether it’s a classical play or a new play, all I want, from the beginning, is to tell the story. And then how to tell it, conceptually how to approach it, all those things, are guided by that story.