The Burrow Theatre is uncharacteristically bright this afternoon, as it will be every day and night that Millicent Hayberry is on stage here, playing an unwitting—and unwilling—detective in the highly-anticipated series of mysteries written by Gianfranco Colocolo.
The first play in the series, Godwit, opens tonight at 8:00 pm.
We caught up with both Hayberry and the author during rehearsals at The Park’s Burrow Theatre.
TMD: Thank you for doing this. We know it’s a busy time for you.
MH: We’re delighted. We’re just taking a bit of a break anyway.
GC: Well, Millicent is taking a break. I’m pacing.
TMD: That’s funny. Are you nervous about the gala opening tonight?
GC: Not so much nervous as…well, nervous.
MH: You have nothing to be nervous about!
TMD: Do you have anything to be nervous about?
GC: I don’t, really. I just don’t take anything for granted. It’s been a long haul and I can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction to my work.
TMD: This is your first play…well, set of plays, really. You did have your bestselling novel, Murder at the Fishbowl, made into a movie. But what was different about this process?
GC: Nothing but everything. Night and day. I’ve never written anything that was meant to be performed. Up until now, everything I’ve done was meant to be read. It’s a much different perspective for a writer, to be thinking constantly of another person interpreting your work.
TMD: Did you have anyone in mind while you were writing?
GC: I didn’t and I see now that that would have made it much easier…if I had. If I were to write another set of these plays, I think there’s no doubt they’d be written with Millicent in mind, even if she declined.
MH: I can’t imagine declining.
GC: Even so. Millicent is such a brilliant actress that she’s made the part her own. Even when I read the play to myself now, I hear every word in her voice. It’s quite remarkable.
MH: That is humbling, Gianfranco.
TMD: What is it about the mystery genre that attracts you? I want to ask both of you, but Gianfranco first.
GC: Well, as I told Yannis Tavros on his show a few days ago, I’ve found that you can tell the truth, the honest truth, in the mystery genre and you don’t get the kind of backlash from it that you do elsewhere.
TMD: Do you know why that is? Do you have a theory?
GC: I think there’s a long history of it, but I don’t really know why. I don’t know why some ideas are accepted in one form, but not in another. You’d think that would apply to all fiction, but I’ve found that it doesn’t. You can throw off a line that would be stinging in another genre, but you get nods of approval for it in mystery.
TMD: So you can get away with a lot in the genre, then?
GC: Oh, I don’t think you’re getting away with anything! I think you’d better be right if you’re going to do it. But if you are, I think your audience will allow you to, is what I’m saying.
TMD: What do you think, Millicent?
MH: I agree with Gianfranco. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard him say it, so I may just be getting won over. But I do think there’s something to that. The truth is the least accepted thing anywhere. We gloss over it, we deny it, on a constant basis. I think there are perhaps two places where the truth wins out: here in mystery and in comedy.
TMD: You are most famous for your rôle in the autobiographical one-Chipmunk play, Mixed Nuts. Wouldn’t you say that autobiography is another area of truth-telling?
MH: You would think so, wouldn’t you? But you wouldn’t believe how much backlash writers get for their autobiographical material. There is a lot of arguing about the truth that goes on. Of course, we all have a different truth, so that’s probably the reason.
TMD: Was there a lot of backlash about Mixed Nuts?
MH: By the time I got involved with it, there wasn’t. But Imogen [Aardeekhoorn] experienced a great deal of it. Even I was surprised at that.
TMD: Millicent, I opened this interview by saying that The Burrow Theatre seemed uncharacteristically bright this afternoon. Am I correct in saying that?
MH: You are, indeed. I brought the very talented Constantine Lampris with me for that purpose. He did the lighting for Mixed Nuts at the [Park] Repertory Theatre. Constantine knows me so well. He knows I don’t see very well in the dark. He lights the stage so that I don’t fall or trip, but it doesn’t get in the way of the play or the audience. I don’t think I could perform live without him.
TMD: I just have one more question. What are you hoping for with this production? What would you consider a win? Gianfranco?
GC: Well, I suppose a win for me would be for the critics to say it was a well-written set of plays. But once it’s been lifted off the page and put on stage, I think a win is really for the cast. A play isn’t much without the cast. At least these aren’t. They’re meant to be dynamic, not static. So, I guess, a win in my view would be the audience’s appreciation of Millicent’s work, as well as that of the other talented actors here.
MH: I have to throw that right back at Gianfranco and say that a win for me would be appreciation of his words. But beyond that, if the audience comes away with a feeling of satisfaction, that they’ve been entertained and enjoyed themselves and if they’d like to do it again soon, I think that’s the biggest win we could have.
TMD: Thank you both for your time this afternoon. Break a tail tonight!
MH: My pleasure.
GC: Mine, as well.