Theresa Rebeck: The Art in Crafting a One-Woman Show

Julie White, Haneefah Wood

Associate Producer, Rebecca Bradshaw, interviews Bad Dates’ playwright about the exciting and exacting process in making one character hold her own.

Rebecca Bradshaw: What inspired you to write Haley?
Theresa Rebeck: At the time I had been hanging out with my friend, actress Julie White. One night when we were sitting around making each other laugh, we thought about this idea to do a cable show called “Bad Dates” in that we would interview people about the worst dates they’d ever had, and then we’d do dramatic reenactments of them. That conversation moved into the idea of this one person who hasn’t been dating and decides to start dating again.

The play is centered around Haley’s dating life, but the strongest relationship we see is with her daughter, Vera. What was your choice in showcasing a single working mother?
Listen, I know plenty of people who that’s their story, and at a certain point, that romantic dream of having the perfect partner show up falls by the wayside. There is so much life right in front of you. And that life itself becomes more important than that particular dream. I think that is what happened to Haley. I have a friend who doesn’t date very much anymore. She gets asked out a lot, and she said to me, “Euch… it’s so much work. Men are so much work. I got enough to do.” She was from a different generation, but I understood what she meant. I think that’s a little bit of what happened to Haley. But then, I have two kids and you do go through the moment where you realize that your children will move on and the closeness that you have with a child is going to open up. Haley’s at a time where she can think about [dating] again.

I read an article about how you thought of yourself as an “impatient person” and that the words stream out of you like a spigot – was this play a quick write?
No. It took four years. It was the most time I’ve ever spent on a play. The form of a one-person play is very challenging. I felt like I was being dragged backward all of the time. It’s not a form that tells you what comes next, which is what storytelling is all about. Because she is telling the story of what happened to her the night before or last week, there is a kind of drag on the narrative. It became very important for me to have her daughter Vera to talk to or have a box of money under the bed. There are things in the present moment that were pushing her life forward. It took a while to figure that out.

What makes something funny to you? What type of comedy inspires your comedy?
It’s extremely difficult to talk about comedy. Everybody sounds like an idiot when they do it. I will say there are several things to be aware of: there’s a surprise element, there’s a timing element, and for me, there’s a kind of simplicity. And blood on the floor. There’s pain. There’s a lot of pain. I’m not very interested in jokes, unless they have larger spiritual context.

Do you have a shoe that is associated with a pivotal moment in your life?
Yes, I do. Do you want to know what it is?

Sure, love to!
Well, the shoes I got married in. They’re black with cute beads all over them. And there was also a pair of Frye boots that I lived in when I was an undergraduate. I wore them to graduation, so they show up in all of my graduation pictures.

What are you working on now?
I’m going to DC to direct The Way of the World for the Folger Theatre. And I have a movie coming out in March, starring Angelica Huston and Bill Pullman called Trouble. In terms of writing, I’m working on a commission for Arena Stage about witches – I like that. I’ve always wanted to write about witches, and I never had the courage to do it. So, I’m starting to walk down that road.

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