Morgan Gould, theatrical “stager in 3 dimensions” and “writer of live stories for a present audience” sat down (also known as emailed) playwright Gabrielle Reisman and director Portia Krieger about their upcoming production of Storm, Still, a loose adaptation of King Lear being performed September 11-19 in a backyard in Bushwick (Reisman’s, actually) featuring Becca Blackwell, Crystal Lucas-Perry, and Claire Siebers. Most people think it sounds cool, but Morgan had to be convinced. In a world with Hulu+ and Showtime Anytime, can we really trust the theater to do the trick? Some detective work needed to be done here. And Morgan was up to the challenge. Findings are as follows:
Morgan Gould (Rail): Portia, so I've heard that this is an adaptation of King Lear? Why isn't Lear Debessonet directing it so the marketing folks would only have to learn the spelling of one name and not TWO? Also, is it because your name is also the name of a Shakespeare character? What sort of tricks are you trying to pull here and why are you excited about directing this "play" as you claim it is?
Krieger: Oh man, spelling can be such a challenge. Fortunately for me, our publicist Kippy Winston knows what she's doing in the orthography department. I fell in love with this play last summer when Gab and I worked on it at the P73 retreat in New Haven. It has a lot of chewy vivid language, many jokes (some smart, some dumb), and the bones of the Lear story are pretty great. Plus Gabby has added this other very lovely layer about these three sisters. Also, it wasn’t written by a dead white guy nor is it particularly long. So it's checking a lot of boxes for me.
Rail: Now for Gabrielle—do you consider it "”cheating” that Shakespeare did all the work for you? Like, how dare you pass this work off as your own and just change the title and nothing else and write "by Gabrielle Reisman" on it? I challenge you to tell me a SINGLE THING that's different about your version of King Lear. Go ahead, I DARE YOU. And then I dare MYSELF to take it even slightly seriously.
Reisman: Hmmm. There is a scene in Storm, Still where Goneril and Edmund talk about death and sexual innuendo involving poppy seeds and then make-out. That part differs a bit from the original King Lear. At least the surviving folio. It is complicated by the fact that in this version Goneril and Edmund are played by sisters. I mean everyone is played by sisters. This play only has three sisters in it and they play all the characters. So sometimes the making-out gets weird... though Shakespeare would probably be down.
Rail: For both of you. Now. I happen to know that Becca Blackwell, Crystal Lucas-Perry, and Claire Siebers are all hacks. I’ve never worked with Claire directly, but she came to my last show and was delightfully gracious and nice, which tells you she's a total hack. The other two, I can personally say, are hacks of the highest order. So tell me, which one is your favorite and why?
Reisman: Though these actors are all unparalleled, Ella, my cat has been doing some lovely supporting work these last two weeks. Look for her napping or licking herself on the back stairs during some of the tenser moments, or as an English soldier in Act V.*
Krieger: My favorite member of the cast is Gabby’s guacamole. The mix of herbs, lime, and avocado is a perfect complement to Claire’s smarts, Crystal’s chameleon quality, and Becca’s absurdity.
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Act V?! WTF. How long is this gonna be? There had BETTER be booze there. THERE HAD BETTER BE.
Rail: I should also tell you I had a text conversation with Becca Blackwell last week where I asked about the show and among other things they said (and this is a direct quote “It takes a lot of acting skillzzzz.” Agree or disagree?
Reisman: Stolen Shakespeare is really hard. Mad skillzzzz.*
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Director Portia Krieger’s response was too explicit to be made public.
Rail: Speaking of hacks, Barbara Samuels is your lighting designer. I'll have you know she was also my college roommate, my first friend in New York, she likes the color purple [both the musical and the color] and now she is the Producer of my "theater" "company." Explain yourself. Why would you hire a person with such ill-informed tastes and how does one design a backyard and more important wtf is a backyard even doing in Bushwick—isn’t it scared of all the hipsters?
Reisman: This backyard wasn’t in Bushwick when I got here. I was told I could have a two year lease if I cut a hole in the back wall of my apartment. Once the hole was cut I decided I should put some grass in and once the grass was in it was obvious it was a theater. At least for a very limited run. Barbara is a wizard. What she is doing with a lighting system made from clip lights and IKEA household dimmer switches is clever/magical.*
Krieger: Barbara Samuels is the Helen Hunt to my Jack Nicholson. She makes me want to be a better man. Seriously. She is so game and smart and good at her job, it makes me better at mine.
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve seen examples of this in my home. I have a 6 year old dimmer switch in my bedroom thanks to her. I can dim the lights for “mood lighting” and “secret eating.” It’s very exciting. Theatrical, even.
Rail: I don’t really like Shakespeare, but I do like the television show Scandal. On a scale of 1 to Kerry Washington, tell me why I should DVR the premiere and take the J train to Halsey. Make it good.
Reisman: Wait, Scandal is premiering during the run?* Why did we not schedule around this like we did for Yom Kippur?? No, Morgan watch that shit on hulu like the rest of us, take the J out to my house and hang out in a backyard with a cocktail and thirty other smart people. These actors are great. The words they say are mostly funny, and the show’s an hour and change so you can still be a little wine drunk by the time you get home to watch Olivia Pope look anxious while drinking wine.
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Actually, no. It’s September 24th at 9pm. I was just being an asshole.
Rail: Gabrielle, I’m curious, as my schedule was open and yet my phone DID NOT RING, why was Portia the director for this project? Did you secretly just want to get free tickets to Fun Home or was there some other reason?
Reisman: Portia was hired for this job based on her skillful direction of several one minute plays I saw in 2013. All the Fun Home tickets are lagniappe.
Rail: Portia, as a director, every collaboration with every playwright is different. It’s like a marriage in a weird way. I guess what I'm asking is, would you divorce Gabrielle if given the chance? And would you hire lawyers or would a simple mediation dictate the terms of the settlement?
Krieger: I think I’ve been pretty clear about my feelings on Gabrielle as a chef. She’s also seriously not annoying as a collaborator and has a great no-nonsense way of expressing herself in rehearsal which I really appreciate. And I love her way of envisioning entire theatrical experiences rather than just writing words. So at this point I’m hoping the marriage will continue into the future. And that my husband and daughter won’t find out about my second family in Bushwick.Fortunately, they don’t read the Rail.
Rail: Do you have a subscription to American Theatre Magazine?
Reisman: Obvi. Plus a bunch of Dramatist Guild magazines still in their plastic mailing covers.
Kreiger: I prefer to get my print theater news from the SDC Journal. It fits better on the back of my toilet.
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author asks that you understand this is not an endorsement of American Theatre Magazine or any of its subsidiaries thereof.
STORM,STILL, by Gabrielle Reisman, directed by Portia Krieger runs September 11-19 (no show 9/15) at 8pm in Bushwick, Brooklyn (exact address upon ticket purchase). For tickets, visit
Morgan Gould is a playwright, director and artistic director of her own company, Morgan Gould & Friends. Learn more at www.morgangouldandfriends.com if you dare.