When the bonds that hold the family together are broken, twisted, or begin to dissolve, what is the shape of the thing that’s left? Is it still a family, something less, or something more? This spring, Pinky Swear Productions presents three plays, including two world premieres by D.C. playwrights, that ask this question in the most startling of ways.
Today, we're featuring Benched by Allyson Currin, which is about three friends and mothers whose friendship is threatened when one of them confronts one of life’s powerful changes.
Thoughts on Benched from the Artistic Directors ...
JACQUELINE LAWTON: What excited you about programming BENCHED by Allyson Currin as part of Pinky Swear Productions this season?
KAREN LANGE: Benched is such a warm, funny, relatable play. I firmly believe that our friends are part of our families. The women in this play exemplify that for me. When you see Benched, you will recognize each of the characters as people you’ve known. They are moms, but they are also people far more complex than that. Women are, too often, defined by their roles as parents after they have children. The characters in Benched remind us how much more every woman is – flaws and all.
JACQUELINE LAWTON: If there is one thing you want audiences to walk away knowing or thinking about after experiencing BENCHED, what would that be?
ALLYSON HARKEY: Look at the friends you have who have become parents. Do you think of them as just parents? Do you write them off because they are busy? Do you ever talk to them as just adults, without talking about the kids? You should. And remember – your friends are part of your family. You chose them - and they chose you. That is the most important thing.
Thoughts on Benched from the Director ...
JACQUELINE LAWTON: What excited you about directing BENCHED by Allyson Currin at Pinky Swear Productions? What made you say yes?
MATT RIPA: I laughed. I read a lot of comedies as an Artistic Director and I often find myself wondering if I missed the joke. I need to hear comedies, as comedy is about timing or sight gags. It is very rare that I laugh out loud while reading a play. Ally's play made me giggle and laugh more than once and that was enough for me. I’m also drawn to serio-comic work. I am a big fan of the Terrence McNally and Donald Marguilles style of writing. The comedies that make you laugh and then give you a solid punch in the gut. This play does that for me.
JL: What has been the most challenging/exciting part of bringing BENCHED to the stage?
MR: Comedy is hard. As a director, I find working on drama to be slightly easier. So much of directing comedy is about helping actors find their rhythm and timing. Having an improv background has always helped when I direct comedies. So it is challenging to know when it the play is working while we are in the rehearsal room. I find myself not laughing in rehearsal, especially when I know the punch line is coming and have heard it ton of times. It is hard for me to stand back and be a fresh audience member to see what is landing.
JL: If there is one thing you want audiences to walk away knowing or thinking about after experiencing BENCHED, what would that be?
MR: I want the audience to recognize something in their own friendships and relationships in this play. It is a very relatable play. I know these characters. I know their conflict. I've been through it. I think the audience will too.
Thoughts on Benched from the Playwright ...
Jacqueline Lawton: What do you hope to convey in the plays that you create--what are they about? What sorts of people, situation, circumstances, do you like to write about?
ALLYSON CURRIN: I’ve been thinking a lot about that question because I am a playwright who likes to write in so many genres (comedy, magical realism, drama, historical drama, sci-fi…). It can look to the outside eye as if I don’t have a central theme or focus to my work. But I’ve recently figured out that I actually do. Each of my plays is in some way about home: finding home, getting back to home, building a home. “Home” can be a literal place, a family, or a group of people the characters have chosen for themselves. I try hard to write characters that are deeply truthful and flawed and funny, and find myself drawn to the nuances in the relationships they have. I don’t write “bad guys.” Life is too complicated for absolutes, and everyone is doing the best that they can. I love to make audiences laugh, even in my more serious plays, because I think being able to laugh at something makes you care more about it. (Finally, being an actor myself, I refuse to write a role that I wouldn’t die to play!)
JL: Tell us about your play, BENCHED, and what inspired you to write it.
AC: BENCHED was born on the elementary school playgrounds of DC. When my twins were little, I logged in a lot of hours there with very smart, funny women who were making a lot of compromises to raise their children (some willingly, some unwillingly). Those friends you make in the trenches of any vulnerable period of your life are friends who share the good, the bad and the ugly – I sought in this play to capture what that experience was like.
JL: What excited you about having your play presented as part of Pinky Swear Productions?
AC: Renee Calarco and I had long talked about pairing BENCHED and BLEED, so when Pinky Swear suggested it, it felt a no-brainer! They really are a well-matched pair, and each play is very funny, and very painful. Renee and I also have similar senses of humor, so I think this pairing is a wonderful fit.
JL: What do you hope audiences are thinking about after experiencing BENCHED?
AC: I hope they will laugh, certainly, and enjoy the word play of the piece, as well as the wry observations of what it is to be a mother. But more profoundly, this is a play about friendship, deep friendship, the kind that transcends age and gender, and what happens when those insoluble bonds are threatened. I hope that audiences will be moved, and will feel that this play speaks in some way to their own experiences with friends from different stages of their lives.
Pinky Swear’s Mission is to produce modern plays with strong, engaging women’s roles where people talk to each other and things happen. Our productions are a little funny, a little dark, and a lot entertaining. Our goals are to:
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!