Meet the Playwright: Simone Marie Martelle

Interview by Tatiana Rivera

The general public will look at your title and automatically think about the bedtime story they used to hear as children. But your play is clearly not an adaptation of that story. Why the title?

Well… what always fascinated me about the fairytale ‘The Three Bears’ was this idea that the Daddy Bear had the biggest bowl of soup, the biggest chair, the biggest bed etc.  Meanwhile the Mommy Bear had the medium things and the Baby Bear had the smallest.   As a child, I thought this was normal. I took it for granted that it was just the way things were: the father had the biggest and best things.  After all, that was how my family worked… but as I got older, I started to question this logic and through that, I started writing this play.

How does it feel to be watching people re-tell such personal stories about your life? Do you worry about the reactions from the audience? Reactions from your family?

I was worried about my family’s reactions at first.  I used to just give my mother snippets of the play – parts that I thought she would like and omit what she wouldn’t– and I used to always ‘forget’ to send it to my father when he asked about it. I never even mentioned the play to my siblings.  But over time, I got sick of my family asking about it, so I just bit the bullet and let them read it… and surprisingly, no one took it as badly as I thought.  Even my dad.

Reading your play makes me hungry.

Ummm… me too?

Your play is incredibly intimate; bordering claustrophobic. What is the reasoning behind it? Was this intentional? Am I just imposing my own personal issues onto your play?

It was intentional.  My intention behind the play was to look at what happens to a family when they don’t like each other that much to begin with, when you cut them off from the rest of the world, and when you lock them up into a small, very small space… The only way I could do this was make the play claustrophobic.  Chandler has even enhanced this with the staging of the play.

How did you start to write this play?

It started with Kelly’s exercises… something just got unleashed and before I knew it, I was working on a whole play.

Families and their dynamics sure are interesting, aren’t they?What were the struggles you found in writing this story?

The main struggles: I guess, because I chose to write about something so close to home, I struggled a lot with letting go of reality.  I had to turn this play into fiction at some point.  I had to let go of what really happened, and change, edit etc. so that I could make a piece of theater… It took a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of coaxing / suggestions / edits from Jay and Ellen.

Without giving anything away, the last scene,  for me, was the most heart wrenching. As the assistant director to your own play, how were the most emotional scenes handled? How was the experience for you to basically give your heart to complete strangers?

Oh it was so hard at first!  And it led to me writing pages and pages of notes trying to explain how I saw the scene and then, Chandler and I bickered a lot… but in the end, I had to once again, learn to let go and just let the scene find its own rhythm and life.

What IS your favorite wine?

White wine! Ha! Chardonnay maybe?

The kids in your play are “gobble-them-up” cute. Seriously. Is this your first time working with kids artistically? Will you work with children ever again?

Aren’t they? Yes, it was my first time working with them in a theater setting.  I tutored kids of this age, and I have my niece and nephew, but that’s not really the same.  And yes, absolutely I would work with them.  They are very professional and they make rehearsals a lot more fun.  We get to learn all the elementary school gossip!

I’ve read your play an obscene number of times. Okay. Maybe more like 3 or 4. But every time I read it, I laugh. I know this is supposed to be a serious play, but why is it so funny? Is it just that way on page?

No, the actors have definitely managed to keep the humor – which is great.  I think the play needs a little lightness at parts.  But, to be honest, I have no idea why it’s funny.  Maybe we just like to find other people’s misery funny?

What will you do with this play once the show is over?

I guess I’m hoping the play will go somewhere – whether a workshop or a festival or maybe get another staging somewhere else.  Fingers crossed.

Columbia University’s Schapiro Studio, 605 W. 115th Street between Broadway and Riverside

Performances will be on Friday, Nov 12 @ 8PM, Saturday, Nov 13 @ 2 PM and 8 PM, Sunday, Nov 14 @ 2 PM.

Admission is free! Reserve tickets via email at VeryImportantPlays@gmail.com

 

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