Tina Satter’s ‘Is This A Room’ Play Heads to Broadway – WWD

“This was all the time an experiment,” says writer-director Tina Satter, a number of days earlier than her play “Is This A Room: Actuality Winner Verbatim Transcription” is ready to start previews on Broadway. “And this continues the subsequent stage of the experiment.”

It’s been a yr and a half since her work was carried out reside for audiences onstage, and since then, the play has taken on new resonance. Actress Emily Davis portrays whistleblower (and Air Drive veteran) Actuality Winner, who was arrested for leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference within the 2016 U.S. election. The script for “Is This A Room” is the transcript of the shock FBI interrogation on the day of her arrest, offered in its totality.

“This present is such an incredible dialog. It’s nearly like a interval piece in Trump’s America: one afternoon in Augusta, Georgia in Might 2017,” says Satter, who produced the play by way of her impartial theater firm Half Straddle. “It’s fascinating to consider what theatrical work can do to point out what a really particular second in American life has felt like,” she provides. “Who will get punished and who has entry to the knowledge? And the loopy high-security state we’ve now the place all these individuals like Actuality have tremendous excessive clearance ranges, however are civilians. It’s fascinating stuff. It’s all at play day by day now in American life.”

The experimental black field play premiered at The Kitchen earlier than heading Off-Broadway to the Winery Theater; the manufacturing ready for a global tour earlier than the pandemic nixed these plans. With performances paused and her educating work distant, Satter — who was named a Guggenheim fellowship recipient in April 2020 — headed to Vermont, the place she spent an excellent chunk of the pandemic along with her associate.

New York theater is again, as is Satter. Earlier this summer time, it was introduced that “Is This A Room” was headed to the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. The solid went again into rehearsal earlier this month; presently in previews, the present will open on Oct. 11.

“It was surprisingly emotional,” says Satter of returning to the theater. “There’s this surreality of being again, doing the present and type of as if nothing’s stopped,” she provides. “Everyone seems to be, like, I can’t consider we’re right here.”

The moratorium on reside theater had its upsides: a renewed appreciation for reside audiences and time for the work to deepen. “After two weeks within the rehearsal room, watching [the cast] after a yr and a half away…I used to be, like, ‘That is the perfect they’ve ever finished it,’” Satter says. “It’s nearly prefer it marinated of their our bodies and blood and hearts, and that’s popping out in even richer and extra pure performances.”

One other upside of the pause was that for the primary time, lead actress Emily Davis was capable of communicate immediately with Winner, who was launched from jail in June. “Emily has talked about it as this nearly ‘ghost presence’ we’ve projected onto and thought a lot about. We have been in contact along with her household, however by no means Actuality herself,” Satter says. “And that looks like a fairly large, vital, new a part of what this iteration holds.”

Like many People, Satter knew the identify “Actuality Winner” however was unfamiliar with the specifics of who she was or what had occurred when she occurred upon an article in regards to the whistleblower a number of years in the past. Satter was struck by the picture of a younger blonde woman in jean shorts and carrying a Pikachu hoodie that accompanied the article. “I used to be like — that’s the woman who leaked stuff?” says Satter, who then clicked on an FBI transcript of Winner’s interrogation. “The main points of her life and that first learn [of the transcript] have been blowing my thoughts. It was this one that had served in our army, owned a bunch of weapons — but in addition did yoga and fostered animals. I used to be, like, whoa, right here’s this Millennial patriot who actually cares about our nation. All on this blonde jean-shorted package deal.”

Satter was struck by how a lot the FBI doc learn like a script for a play, all the way down to capturing coughs and stutters. “It listed members the place it could usually say characters and it was, like, ‘Agent Garrick, Actuality Winner, Agent Taylor, Unknown Male,’” says Satter, including that the transcript learn like a thriller.

“Clearly s–t had gone down, and also you’re watching her cope with that, second by second, as all of them know her life goes to vary. When did they get her? After which they’re speaking about cats. I’m, like, what is going on?” The ultimate a-ha second was when Satter realized that Davis, a longtime collaborator, resembled Winner in look.

“We handled it canonically, like Shakespeare. We’ve to do all of this. We are able to’t make any cuts. The integrity of that is if we present it, we are able to’t attempt to manipulate it,” says Satter of her method to the supply materials. “The strongest factor we might do with this work, even politically, was to start out at the start and be, like, this occurred.”

"Is This A Room" Rehearsal

Tina Satter
Lexie Moreland/WWD


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