Take 5 with ‘Strait of Gibraltar’ playwright Andrea Lepcio   

Andrea picture profile

ANDREA LEPCIO AND SYNCHRONICITY THEATRE are old friends. We staged her drama Looking for the Pony, about sisters and cancer, in 2009, and first read Strait of Gibraltar three years ago. We’ve been waiting for the right moment to produce it.

Here’s a bit of Andrea’s philosophy:

“I write out of a need to make sense of the world,” she says. “My subjects include climate change, gender, baseball, justice, insurgency, friendship, love, hate, race, being female, art. Sick of being female, I write being human.”

Andrea lives in Bar Harbor, Maine, with her partner, France Hilbert, and their dog, Lady. She took time from Strait rehearsals to chat with resident dramaturg Kathy Janich.

SYNCHRONICITY: Where did the play begin for you (in your life, life experience, brain)?

ANDREA: I was driving around, by myself, listening to NPR. They were reporting on the Patriot Act. This was about 2012 or so, and I was shocked that there was so much I didn’t know. In particular, I didn’t realize that it eliminated habeas corpus for the accused. I pondered this. And, as usually happens when I am confused, I started to think about a play. A memory came to me. In the early 1990s, I had briefly dated a Moroccan man. This was nothing like the love affair in the play. At the time I worked for a bank. We met in an acting class. He came to me one day and asked if I would put money in my account for him. It wasn’t that much money, but he couldn’t explain why he needed me to do this and I said no. We stopped hanging out not much later. When I remembered this, I thought, that’s my way into this story.

S: Without giving anything away, what has changed in structure and plot since the early drafts in 2013?

A: The play is a love story, and a mystery. The trick is to sustain the mystery for the widest number of audience members. I know some will get ahead of me and some will believe what I tell them and some will be in between. As I progressed, I added more things to add doubt and suspicion to make the end more of a surprise, or, rather, as we like it, surprising and inevitable.

S: With a world premiere like this, a lot of script changes happen in rehearsal. What’s your philosophy on this?

A: Necessary. Actors and directors are smart. As they start to work through a text, they make discoveries, and I always treasure this process. It is fairly often that they come up with requested changes that I immediately agree to. At the same time, and probably an equal number of times, I make the case for why something is the way I wrote it.

S: What playwrights, past or present, influence you and why?

A: Milan Stitt was my mentor, and his play The Runner Stumbles is a masterful mystery. Tina Howe was also a teacher, and I love sinking into her super-detailed worlds. I love so many contemporary playwrights like Lynn Nottage and Diana Son. And Beckett, always and forever, Beckett.

S: Again, without giving anything away, how would you like audiences to feel when they leave the theater after seeing Strait of Gibraltar?

A: I hope the play puts them through changes, that they go through a process of figuring out who they trust and don’t trust. Then I would love them to think through why they thought/felt what they thought/felt at different points in the play. When they leave, I guess I hope they are energized to fight for a fairer world.