We here at Broadway World in Portland (read: I here at Broadway World in Portland) have been going on and on about this little play out of Imago Theatre, THE BLACK LIZARD. Well, there’s a reason. The running of this show is being hailed as a surprise success and the story is a punch to the gut that halts you, takes you for a little journey, and ultimately leaves you lying on the floor as it stalks off to admire its own reflection. Nude. (There’s nudity in the play, so that tangent is relevant). Everything about the show makes for a great evening out, and I was lucky enough to score a chat with several of the big players.
What follows is a short interview involving Jerry Mouawad (director), Laurence Kominz (dramaturge), Anne Sorce (The Black Lizard), and Matthew DiBiasio (Detective Kogoro Akechi), all from Imago Theatre's THE BLACK LIZARD. We discuss the play itself, working in Portland, working with each other, and the excitement of engaging with Yukio Mishima. Lastly, I should note that this is an interview that will be even more interesting for those of you that have seen THE BLACK LIZARD already, which means it’s just another reason for you to go see this amazing show! What are you waiting for?! There’s nudity!
BWW: For all of you, how are you feeling right now? The season's halfway gone, are you and the cast in a good place? Tired? Excited? Where are we at?
JERRY: We're very excited about the production. The show received more attention than I thought - when you continually create adventurous risky work you're not sure when one of them takes off. This one has.
ANNE: I’m feeling good. I wake up excited to go do the show. Each time is a chance to play and I always have things I want to try.
MATT: There was, and still is, a lot to figure out about this play and I still feel pretty energized and intrigued when I think about it. I am still interested in this show. The rehearsal process was longer than I am used to, but because of how Jerry rehearsed it, and the attention given to tech elements early on, it wasn't as tiring as 7 weeks of rehearsal sounds.
BWW: I have other questions specifically concerning THE BLACK LIZARD, but I also want to place this show in a broader context. This is the first English translation of this play and you've put it on in a city that has pretty great theater already. How was it, putting this show on in Portland? Do you feel audiences were ready for it? Were you nervous it might not click?
ANNE: Ready or not, here it is! One thing I love about working with Imago is that they are interested in exploring and doing new things. As an artist I find that exciting, but I also enjoy it as an audience member. I like going to see things that are imaginative and surprising. Working on this piece, there was a vision and an exploration Jerry wanted to see through and as a performer I am working with him to achieve that. That is what I’m focused on. We have to see it through and then share it and see what it evokes for people, how they respond.
JERRY: Imago is a place for risk taking. We have taken much bigger risks than "The Black Lizard" - in fact I see this play as one of our more conventional works. As to how I would feel if it had failed in Portland? It's would have been fine with me. But it didn't fail - the opposite happened (which is always good). When you experiment you need to be prepared for failure, and sometime from failure comes the unexpected. Risk taking in theater is painful and heartbreaking but ultimately it can be invigorating and certainly more rewarding than not taking risks.
BWW: Laurence, what prompted the selection of this play to bring to Imago Theatre? Why did you choose to work on the Black Lizard?
LAURENCE: The decision to produce Black Lizard lies entirely with Jerry (and Carol). What I wanted to do was to introduce Jerry to the plays of Yukio Mishima. I was confident that Mishima was the kind of playwright that would excite Jerry. Jerry read my Mishima play anthology, and the well-known anthology of modern Noh plays translated by Donald Keene. He and I discussed producing several other Mishima plays, before deciding on "The Black Lizard."