A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Jan 16, 2013
From Trust to Betrayal in ‘Collected Stories’
Ruth is a successful writer and professor who takes on grad student Lisa as her assistant. Over six years, the women become friends, but their relationship is rocked when Lisa publishes a book revealing intimate details of Ruth’s life.
The play, presented by Forward Theater in collaboration with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, stars acclaimed Madison actress Sarah Day and Laura Fry of Milwaukee. It ran in November and December 2012 in Milwaukee and opens tomorrow at Overture Center’s Playhouse.
As the play was in the process of moving from Milwaukee to Madison, I posed a few questions to both Day and Frye.
What made you want to be a part of this play?
Sarah Day: I was very interested in a play about mentorship and friendship.
Laura Frye: I fell in love with the character.
Tell me about Ruth.
SD: She is a woman who has a career as a short-story writer and also a professor. She had some success while in her twenties and thirties. She describes herself as an artist who teaches.
LF: From Lisa’s perspective, this is someone she’s looked up to—she began reading [Ruth’s] collected stories in high school. Ruth is moving into that recluse stage of her life. She has already had success … she really has become somewhat of a homebody.
So much of [Lisa and Ruth’s] stories are similar in what they’ve had to go through in their lives. It really is a love story between two friends.
And how about Lisa?
SD: I think of her as someone who wants to be the very best student she could possibly be. She’s a good student and a good girl. She very much wants to please people and she needs someone that’s family—and so does Ruth.
LF: Lisa, at the time you meet her, is a grad student. Her mentor Ruth is also her teacher. Over the next six years, you see this relationship grow. You see the mentee surpass the mentor in terms of success.
What’s it been like to work on this play?
SD: It’s really fun to be able to do a two-person show. You’ve got to be engaged every moment. [Frye] just does lovely work in the play.
LF: This is my first time working with Sarah. That’s been amazing. I do like doing small-cast shows, especially for two women.
This seems like a very rich play.
SD: It ends up being about telling stories of one’s own life—and who owns the stories of one’s own life. Since Forward does talkbacks after every show, I’ve been interested in hearing audiences’ perspectives. There’s this real feeling of, “I told you something in confidence—and if I wanted to tell that story, I could have told that story.”
One of the things about being an actor is taking on the side of your character. It’s very clear there’s a discussion—and generational differences. I think it’s open-ended, but I wouldn’t have thought it would be because of my character. I just feel like that’s good art.
LF: It’s an extremely rich play. At times you want to say [Lisa] is misunderstood—you want to defend your character so much!
There’s definitely a generational gap … The younger generation of audiences sees what [Lisa] does as no big deal.
What are your thoughts on the play moving from Milwaukee to Madison?
SD: It will be interesting to see the differences between Madison and Milwaukee audiences. Madison is right in the midst of the university and the student-teacher relationship is really there.
LF: Milwaukee audiences had very strong reactions. Sarah and I would joke that they were either Team Ruth or Team Lisa—and in Milwaukee we found a lot of Team Ruth. It’ll be interesting to bring it to Madison, where so many people have those [mentor] relationships.
Collected Stories runs January 17–February 3 at Overture Center. For more information, visit forwardtheater.com.
Photo of Frye (left) and Day (right) by Zane Williams.