Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A conversation with TALLEY'S FOLLY director Joy Bingham Strimple

Joy Bingham Strimple
by Gil Benbrook

The Pulitzer Prize winning play Talley's Folly is an intimate romantic work by Landford Wilson. Set in 1940s Missouri, the two character play takes place one summer night in the lives of the characters Matt Friedman and Sally Talley, two unlikely sweethearts as he is Jewish and she is Protestant, as they dance around their relationship in an old boathouse on Sally's family's estate. 

It is an incredibly well written play, full of comedy and dramatic elements, that will touch even the most fickle romantic heart. Director Joy Bingham Strimple took a break in the middle of final rehearsals for the Fountain Hills Theater production, which opens on Friday, to sit down and answer some questions about her experience with this production, exclusively for PHX Stages...

Talley’s Folly isn’t a play that is produced very regularly, so for those who don’t know the play, can you tell us what it is about?

"The plot of the play presents one evening in the courtship of two unlikely lovers, Sally Talley and Matthew Friedman. Sally is from a conservative, small-town, wealthy family of bigoted Protestants, and Matt is a Jewish accountant twelve years older than Sally. One year earlier they met and courted for seven days, then Matt returned to his home in St  Louis and Sally resumed her life as a nurses  aid in Springfield, Missouri  He has written to her everyday and now has returned to woo her and propose marriage in spite of her family's fierce objections.  It's a love story in waltz time- 3/4 time- a Valentine to true love."

What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?

"We hope that our audiences will recognize that human relationships and a celebration of romantic love, despite the fragile nature of communication, two people can find a way to form a lasting bond,"

This play only features two actors and is a dance around their relationship, set in real time in one 90 minute act. Does having such a small cast make it easier or harder to direct a show and how difficult is it direct a show, with no black outs or scene changes that is basically one very long, but exceptionally well written scene?

"The theatrical device of a single setting with no intermission running for 90 minutes with only two characters presents many challenges.  The story must capture the interest of the viewer immediately.  The characters have to strike a chord with us through empathy or fascination. As there is no escape (intermission) the writing must speak to the human condition as it relates to each of us. Working with only two characters is always a treat for a director. The opportunity to explore the history/ backstory of the character, to develop the personality of the character and find the motivations of why they behave as they do.  It becomes like a game of chess-each move of the character is predicated upon the movement of the other and the ending is always a surprise!"

Carrie Ellen Jones and Dave Ray
photo: Patty Torrilhon

Do you have a favorite moment in the play?

"Exposition is my favorite moment of any play.  This play presents an astounding and moving story from each character- different but related in their attempts to preserve their identity and individuality."

Have you learned anything during rehearsals that made you change your original ideas of how to direct this play?

"I approach each play by reading everything I can find about the play and the playwright.  With the internet this has become a wonderful experience as the research can go very deep.  My directors book gets to be full of reference materials - reviews, analyses, essays, synopses, historical references. Rehearsals can then begin to pull out the real story and the truth of the situations."

Why did you choose this particular play to direct?

"When I learned that Fountain Hills Theater was interviewing directors for this production, I immediately contacted them for an interview.  If they felt their audiences would embrace this play, I wanted to be the director!  After all, this play was a Pulitzer prize winner and a love story, what could be better?"

You've worked at many theatres across the Valley, what makes Fountain Hills Theater unique when compared to the other companies in town?

"I have performed twice at FHT but have been wowed at the talent and dedication of the staff and designers.  Each person has their area of specialty that contributes to the continued success of this theater. Consistency and loyalty makes the process of producing quality theater a rewarding experience for everyone.  That fact is demonstrated by the community acknowledgement in awards and accolades.  Additionally the atmosphere is encouraging and kind - no backstage drama or constant turnover of staff.  It's a pleasure to 'come to work everyday'. "

CLICK HERE to order tickets for Talley's Folly - playing January 8th to January 17th at Fountain Hills Theater

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