18 Apr Q&A with PASS OVER director Teresa Leggard, plus Director’s Notes
OCTA board member and public relations manager Charlotte Gilman caught up with director Teresa Leggard during rehearsals of Pass Over a few weeks ago. Read on to learn more about this new play by Kansas City playwright Michelle Tyrene Johnson and what you have to look forward to when you come see it! Then get more insight into the piece with Teresa’s incredibly thoughtful director’s notes which follow, along with links to photos, bios, and more. See the production through April 21!
Q: Is this your first experience with OCTA?
A: With their regular season, yes. But my introduction to OCTA was directing a snippet and then a subsequent staged reading for their New Works Playwright Competition.
Q: What do you want audiences to know about Pass Over?
A: That even though it’s a family drama, it’s perfectly okay—encouraged even—to laugh at the funny moments.
Q: What is your favorite moment in the show?
A: That depends on what day you ask me.
Q: What does Pass Over mean?
A: To pass something over could certainly be interpreted as passing it on or bequeathing it. Which makes sense in this play because we open with a brother and sister preparing to bury their grandmother. We explore what the grandmother has left behind, literally and metaphorically. But in addition to that, every character in this play passes over someone or gets passed over by someone. Within the context of their relationships, the pass over means to be overlooked, ignored, underestimated, or flat out rejected.
Q: Tell us a little about the characters.
A: Angelique and Paul Washington are siblings, the kind who probably wouldn’t be friends if they weren’t related. But that’s exactly why they’re so good for each other. The ribbing and reminiscing never stop with those two, but it’s all love. Gloria Washington, Paul’s wife, is warm and domestic, but she’s strong too. It would be a mistake to underestimate her. Jake Levy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and that is perhaps his greatest blessing and curse. We don’t see his wife, Dianna, as much, but when we do the dynamic between them makes it clear who the power player is.
Q: What do you want us to know about some/all of the actors?
A: Laura Schwartz reprises her role as Gloria; we cast her for a staged reading of Pass Over for Westport Center for the Arts in the summer of 2018. She has awesome instincts and a thoughtfulness that she brings to her character. Ebonee Grace was also part of the Westport reading; she read the stage directions. So it’s cool to get to see her in a different role for this production. I’ve never directed Robert Coppage before, but as an audience member and as an assistant director, I’ve seen his work. I’m happy to get to work with him on this project. This is my first time working with Larissa Briley and Jonathan Sachsman. I met them both through our audition process and was very eager to see what they would bring to the roles of Dianna and Jake Levy, respectively.
Q: What is it like working with Michelle Tyrene Johnson on this?
A: I always enjoy working with Michelle, and this production is no different. We’ve collaborated on several projects now, so we’ve developed a kind of shorthand with each other. There’s trust, honesty, creativity, flexibility, and a lot of laughing.
Q: Is this show for everyone (will kids get it, etc.)?
A: In terms of the subject matter, there’s nothing that you wouldn’t see in a PG-13 rated feature film (probably less, actually). The reveals are pretty surprising, so not only will people get it—they won’t forget it.
Q: Can you give a quick history of the show and how it came to be (is it based on real life, etc.)?
A: That’s a question for the playwright, but I do know it was inspired by an actual stock certificate she found in her home. It seemed to appear out of nowhere! Michelle tells the story much better than I do, though.
Q: What else do you have coming up?
A: Pass Over is my second production of 2019, and it’s only April. So I don’t have any projects fast following this one—not yet, anyway.
Family, legacy, identity. We all grapple with these abstract concepts. Our relatives may seem, well, relative in the age of chosen family. But as we grow older, gaining and losing various branches of our family trees, those abstractions become more and more concrete. We begin to define ourselves by who our people are. The rise in DNA and genetic testing kits demonstrates a longing to know where we’re from—maybe to provide a clue as to where we should be headed. For some, the further back in the past we go, the more we can romanticize our roots. The more recent histories, however, are often less rose-colored.
Family, like any other institution, informs identity, whether we want to be just like a favorite cousin, or we solemnly vow to never be like our parents. Legacy isn’t any easier to contend with—whether we’re trying to leave a family jewel or shirk a family curse. At its best, family makes us grounded; at its worst, it keeps us tethered. When we’re proud of our lineage, we hold up the banner. When we are ashamed, we try our best to bury it with the dead. But family history, like the past—as Faulkner warned us—is never dead; it isn’t even past. And whether we like it or not, who we are as individuals will be influenced by family—our own or someone else’s. It is up to us to choose if we allow family and legacy to inform our identities or overshadow them, to take us higher or take us over.
MORE ABOUT THE SHOW
–Read the PRESS RELEASE
-Check out the PRODUCTION PHOTOS
-Read about the CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM
-Watch the preview VIDEO with interviews of the cast and director Teresa Leggard