What shall we start with? How about the name of your group "Off-Night Repertory"?
Gaby Ford: Off-Night Repertory means theater in English on Monday nights only. Traditionally, theaters are closed or "dark" on Mondays. While there have been other notable attempts to produce theater in English here in Rome, the essential problem has been consistency and building an audience. I thought the best way to package such an effort was to limit it to one night a week. The play would run longer and you'd have a better chance to fill the house. If you missed a show one week, there's always the chance you can grab it the next Monday.
But why in English?
Probably because my Italian is so poor. No, seriously, English at the end of the century has become trendy even on the continent and why not? Most major European cities have an English language theater, so why not Rome? Even the Italians who adore to dub films have started to show an interest in original language productions. In addition, Rome has an extremely large expatriate population.
Is the cast mother tongue?
No way. There's a nucleus of 12 people in this venture made up of seven actors and five staff who cover a good part of the globe: England, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland Italy, France, Africa and America. An interesting bunch who have been rolling with the punches and dealing with the obstacles. It's not easy for me to work as a producer and actor nor has it been for them. It takes a lot of energy and, in addition to rehearsing, we've got to read a lot because we're determined to choose only plays that have been written in the last 10 or 15 years.
From the "me generation" until today?
Nothing against the classics, mind you. I just thought if we could limit ourselves to a time period an interesting repertory would emerge reflecting modern tendencies today. For example, we are considering doing a play called Jenanne, a new interpretation of Joan of Arc which premiered a few months ago in Holland. It has a classical theme, but was written only recently.
So you want to challenge the audience with contemporary pieces as well as challenge them to go the theater on Monday?
Right. But I want to open the door too. If someone has an idea, the muscle and the drive, they have the forum to do it. One day -- Monday. If someone wants to fill the space accordingly, we'll lend the key!
So you want to bring other people into Off-Night Repertory?
I can't do it all the time. It's exhausting. Therefore if someone submits an idea or says "I've got this experience" or a director wants to have a two or three-month slot, I say, if it's in line with what we've talked about so far, fabulous.
Talk a little about your first production "Why the Beach Boys are like Opera."
I saw the play in New York City about five years ago on a minimal set with seven actors and the audience enjoyed it immensely. A minimal set is something to consider when you're working on a Monday-nights-only format. You've got to work with another play's sets and lights. The play is very funny and about post-feminism and confusion in relationships written by an American woman my age, Carole Real, who is now living and writing with success in Los Angeles.
Would you describe the play for middle-aged audience? A play that describes the situations, problems of those who came of age in the 70s feminist era?
Well, I would say that even though all the characters are upwards of 30, the situation applies to those in their teens, 20s or even 60s. I don't think they are particular to one generation. The crux of the problem, the issue is really about sexual relationships which spring out of urban environments and this doesn't just apply to one age group.
Would you say the play is a tragedy in the light of last comment?
I'd say more of a comedy even though I suspect that the European intellectual doesn't want to laugh too much now...
Oh Gaby, come on...
I think there is a fine irony, cyncism and deep sarcasm here in Europe, but what I don't feel is a sense of the future. Of course I myself don't believe in the Hollywood happily-ever-after. But I want to believe that things will somehow work out.