Theatre : Excellent direction to Playhouse
When asked how long it takes her to complete a play, playwright/director Joann Green Breuer's response is simple and immediate: "A lifetime plus two and a half weeks."
It is that lifetime of work in the theatre that enables the quiet mannered, but impressive director to effectively rehearse and bring a play to performance level in a matter of weeks.
As artistic director of The Cambridge Ensemble, Ms. Breuer directed plays and adapted works from classic to contemporary. She has directed deaf/hearing companies, directed her libretto of "The Log of the Skipper's Wife" in Stratford, England, with the Royal Shakespeare Company (which was invited to the Kennedy Center), and staged "Finding My Mother's Voice" in New York. There's more: A Harvard professor, she is the author of The Small Theatre Handbook and is the recipient of an Elliot Norton Award for Continuous Excellence in Directing.
It began when she was three and saw her first play. The impact, even then, seems to have been profound. Ms. Breuer managed a student playhouse in college and later became the artistic director of her own theatre, as well as a professor at Harvard University in the theater department.
The director began working with the Vineyard Playhouse 12 years ago, and as an artistic associate of the Playhouse, spends four months each year on the Island.
Ms. Breuer directs plays that run throughout the season, including an upcoming performance of Mark Twain's "The Diary of Adam and Eve."
Ms. Breuer devised and wrote the play using every word of Twain's story, hoping the performance would increase the audience's appreciation for the literary icon. "It's an old story told in a new way," she says of the play, "It shifts the view of the world in some pleasurable way as art should."
Ms. Breuer worked with actor Peter Howard, who plays Adam, at Harvard. This is her first time working with Margaret Daly, who plays Eve.
"I have respect for each artist," Ms. Breuer says, "I really enjoy being in a room with them and I hope the audience feels the same."
She is very protective of her rehearsals, not wanting to reveal the play until it is ready to be performed. She also resists discussing her intention or philosophy about the script. "I would like people to be surprised," she says, "that's the joy of theatre."
Only a brief segment of the performance, in which Adam and Eve encounter fire for the first time, was revealed to this writer, but it was enough to recognize Twain's humor.
"Humanity is what is really striking," Ms. Breuer insists. "But because it's Mark Twain, there are no human beings without a sense of humor."
The director observes that each play in the Playhouse's season has had some mythical aspect, but says there is more of a mythic context in "The Diary of Adam and Eve," - as intimate and personal as any play can be. "The world is such a mystery, we'll never figure it out," Ms. Breuer observes. "The best thing to do is enjoy and treasure it."
She adds, "There are very few stories," she reminds us, "it's how you tell them that makes a difference."
Mark Twain's "The Diary of Adam and Eve," Tues.-Sat., 7 pm (Tues. and Wed.), 8 pm (Thurs.-Sat.), through Sept. 6. Sept. 4: 3 pm matinee. The Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. $25; $37.50 reserved seating. For tickets or more information call 508-696-6300 or visit vineyardplayhouse.org.
Samantha McCoy, who attends Cornell University, is a frequent contributor to The Times.