The Pond Theatre Company’s co-founders Sarah Street, Lily Dorment and Colleen Clinton. Street is one of the stars of “The Naturalists,” which opens on Sept. 7, while Dorment and Clinton are the directors. For tickets go to thepondtheatre.org or call 212-279-4200. Irish Echo readers will get a discount on tickets by entering ECHO10 when purchasing.
By Irish Echo Staff
Next week marks a big moment for New York’s Pond Theatre Company – the world premiere of “The Naturalists” by Jaki McCarrick.
The new play is set in a rural hamlet in County Monaghan and follows the story of Francis and Billy Sloane, whose isolated existence is shaken by the arrival of the mysterious Josie.
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Starring an all Irish-born cast – Michael Mellamphy, John Keating, Sarah Street and Tim Ruddy – it’s billed as a “story of secrets, atonement, and how we can be healed by the land, by each other and, maybe, by the perfect stranger.”
The play’s directors, Colleen Clinton and Lily Dorment, are also with Street the cofounders of Pond. The Echo asked all three women some questions about the company and “The Naturalists.”
The Pond Theatre Company’s mission is to focus on new Irish and British plays, how do you find your material?
Sarah: Honestly we all read quite a lot of plays, and we tend to read plays out loud together when we are thinking about what we want to do next. Sometimes one of us will read a play and tell the others about it, and then if everyone likes it, we will organize a table read with a bunch of actors to see what it sounds like. We’ve done a lot of actor table reads over the last few years. It’s so much fun to get a group of people together in a casual setting, and read a play. That’s what we did with “The Naturalists,” and ultimately how we decided to produce this beautiful play.
Lily: We really try to keep up to date on all the new plays that are being produced in the UK and Ireland, especially those in smaller venues outside the West End. When we find plays we like we often devour as many plays as we can by that playwright, hoping to land on plays that feel exciting and resonant and never seen before in the United States. Over the past few years we’ve also developed some relationships with playwrights’ agents in London, so occasionally they will send us new plays or yet-to-be-produced plays by their clients.
So tell us a little about this play. What in particular that attracted you to this piece?
Colleen: Over the past two years we have become ardent fans of Jaki McCarrick. We have read three of Jaki’s plays as a company, two in our reading series “Belfast Girls” and “Leopoldville,” and “The Naturalists” as a group table read. When we sat down with “The Naturalists” together at a casual table read it was magic and unanimous among Sarah Lily and I that we would pursue this as our next play. We were fortunate that Jaki trusted us with this beautiful piece of writing. I think as a play it melds perfectly to the aesthetic we aspire to in performance. Jaki’s writing is smart, poetic and often darkly humorous, her characters are well drawn and a joy for actors to inhabit. She is a wonderful storyteller.
The cast of “The Naturalists”: John Keating, Sarah Street, Michael Mellamphy and Tim Ruddy.
Have you worked with this cast before?
Sarah: I’ve worked with John Keating before, we did a play together last year at the Irish Rep, but didn’t have one scene together in that play, much to my regret, as I think those characters would have been fantastic in a scene together. John also directed me this last January in a play called “Dyin’ for It” [by Derek Murphy]. I hadn’t been lucky enough to work with Tim or Mick before, but was familiar with both of their work.
Lily: Although I’ve never worked with anyone in the cast before other than Sarah, I’ve been a fan of these actors’ works for a number of years. John, Tim and Mick all work extensively on stage in New York and each of them is mesmerizing in everything I’ve ever seen them in. This is truly a dream cast in every way.
Sarah, you are in the play, and Colleen and Lily, you are both co-directing, and all of you are involved in producing the play, what is it like to wear so many different hats?
Sarah: In a word, challenging.
Colleen: We work for the most part like a well-oiled machine running on overdrive. We are lucky to have come from a similar training and our vision for the company and the day to day operations is pretty keenly aligned in a way that has allowed for the momentum that has brought us to “The Naturalists” production.
This play has never been done before and your production is the official World Premiere, how different is that from doing a play that has been done several times before?
Sarah: Well I think it’s very exciting to be the first to put your mark on something, I suppose that also makes it a little more high stakes in a way, there’s no guideline or map to follow. There is also the added challenge of line changes and changes in general throughout the rehearsal process etc., but that’s just par for the course with any new play.
Colleen: I would agree with Sarah. It is thrilling to discover the play every day for yourself, with the actors, and with Jaki. It is a bit like being an explorer in uncharted territory.
“The Naturalists,” by Jaki McCarrick, will run at Walkerspace, 46 Walker St., New York, N.Y. 10013 from Sept. 7-23. For tickets, go to thepondtheatre.org or call 212-279-4200. Irish Echo readers will get a discount on tickets by entering ECHO10 when purchasing.