#57 – Leigh Silverman: What is Essential?

In This Episode

“It is, I think in the funhouse of this time, a very, very hard thing to feel like the job that you do and the way that you do it, and the life that you’ve chose as your north star is not there… and not only a thing you always felt was essential, but you really start to understand the word essential and you understand it differently and you understand it doesn’t include you.” – Leigh Silverman.

We’re trying, right? As we emerge from the rubble of this pandemic, lifting the theatre up has been a Herculean feat. In the middle of all this, we as individuals are experiencing existential dread and asking ourselves – as we essential?

Sure, we might not be essential workers, but we do have purpose. That’s one of the reasons Tony Nominated Director Leigh Silverman chose to direct Jane Wagner’s revival of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe starring Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong. 

“It is a play that deals with people who are searching for meaning at a time that feels meaningless,” continues Silverman. It does it through humor and it does it through pathos and it does it through a celebration of community and live theatre. It’s the reason why I wanted to do the play. I couldn’t imagine coming back to the theatre and doing any other play because this play articulates and recognizes the power of being together in a room full of strangers in the dark laughing and crying about the same things. And I just quoted the play.”

In this episode, Leigh and Michael ask the tough questions. What is essential? What is our worth within the industry? But these are the questions that need to be asked. Plus, Leigh keys us into what it’s like to direct a revival, the things that needed to be changed / rewritten, fangirling over Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, and the brilliance of Cecily Strong. 

And of course – how does the multi-hyphenate help the director? Straight from the director’s mouth – learn how the multi-hyphenate identity helps strengthen a theatrical experience by approaching work from different perspectives. 

Leigh Silverman has directed on Broadway Violet (Tony nomination); Chinglish; Well; The Lifespan of a Fact, and Grand Horizons. Off-Broadway: American Hero (2ST); Kung Fu (Signature Theatre); The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Playwrights Horizons); The Call (Playwrights Horizons); The Madrid (MTC); Golden Child (Signature Theatre); No Place to Go (Public Theater; Two River Theatre); In the Wake (Center Theatre Group/Berkeley Repertory Theatre and The Public Theater, Obie Award, Lortel nomination); Go Back to Where You Are (Playwrights Horizons, Obie Award); From Up Here (MTC, Drama Desk nomination); Yellow Face (Center Theatre Group/The Public Theater); Coraline (MCC/True Love); Blue Door (Playwrights Horizons); Well (The Public Theater; Huntington Theatre; ACT); Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Second Stage Theatre). Recent regional: The Heidi Chronicles (The Guthrie); American Hero (WTF); Chinglish (Goodman Theater, Jeff nomination; West Coast/Hong Kong tour). Upcoming: SUFFS at The Public Theatre. 

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