Joshua Morgan, Co-Artistic Director of New Rules Theatre Company, explains the challenges and delights of staging Andrew Hinderaker’s play, “Suicide, Incorporated,” about a man who gets a job with a company that helps suicidal people compose satisfying and eloquent final notes.
1. How did the play “Suicide, Incorporated” come to your attention?
We had settled on our 11/12 season when Brian (Co-Artistic Director and “Jason” in “Suicide, Incorporated”), who had been talking about this play for quite some time, asked me to read it for consideration for our final, what would be extra show of this current season. I was concerned about adding a play but I read it once, looked at Brian and said “we have to do this play.” Andrew Hinderaker is such a tremendous playwright and is doing great work around the country. I’m honored and humbled to be able to work on this great play with Andrew at the early stages of his career.
2. What makes it a good fit for No Rules?
It’s funny you ask this because, along with being such an amazing play, I’ve been talking a good deal about how and why this is such a good fit for us. NRTC is committed to presenting a broad spectrum of programming that is high quality, accessible and truthful. This play, following “Stop Kiss” and “Peter Pan: the Boy Who Hated Mothers,” is our DC premiere after its run at Roundabout in NY. Besides being a comedy and a daring/new play it also allows us to stay true to our values, which include honoring the “relevant context of every story” and our “collaboration with artists.” This play rings true on so many levels because, although it uses suicide (the 11th leading cause of death in America) as a guidepost, it really explores men and their inability to express themselves in a society that asks us to “stay strong.” Especially in Washington, DC, I think this play will strike a chord.
3. A review I read of a performance in New York mentions that the play turns serious and earnest, moving from dark comedy to sober drama. In the opinion of that reviewer, the tone shift is a problem. It seems to me that the play would be more important, more satisfying, and more richly textured as a result of going more deeply and seriously into what is a serious subject. Did you find that purported shift from dark comedy to drama to be a problem as you were working on the play? If not, why not? If so, how have you worked to try to smooth the transition?
I think this very thing is what makes the place so accessible and so brilliant. Andrew takes this major taboo topic (suicide) and guises it in humor. He gives us room to take in the story and laugh before pulling out the rug from underneath us. It’s an exciting journey and I’ve certainly played into that element of surprise and humor with our production.
4. The mission of No Rules Theatre Comany is “to present the broadest spectrum of high quality, accessible, truthful theatre that will open the minds and expand the expectations of a diverse audience.” With that in mind, I am curious about your plans for next season.
We have a very exciting season coming up, including some big news about our new home after the H Street Playhouse, which will be announced soon.
5. How much of what you produce is drawn from your submissions pile and is work unknown to you?
At this point, we have yet to produce an original work from a direct submission but we have gone to close collaborators and asked them what they’ve been interested in working on. That is how “Peter Pan” came about. We are committed to developing and producing new work, however, and are ac ttively seeking submissions from playwrights around the world.
”Suicide, Incorporated” opens in DC on May 30 and runs through June 23, at the H Street Playhouse, 1365 H Street NE.