“I and You” Context Guide

For even more information on Whitman and Caroline’s world, check out our “I and You” Context Guide–or better yet, pick up a paper copy during one of our performances.

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Rehearsal Photos

Q&A with the Actors

The Actors

castMaegan Clearwood, Dramaturg: What excites you most about this play?

Rachel Tice, Caroline: I think what excites me about this play is about how it really does truly focus on the small stuff, and how an intimate relationship doesn’t have to grow off of something extremely major. I personally like the fact that we connect over a school project, not he loss of a parent or something big like that. Yes she has a disease, but Anthony’s focus is on her as a person. It’s about the project, which unbeknownst to her has a bigger purpose.

Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Anthony: I totally get what you’re saying. I think my favorite thing is about how universal this play is. Whether you’re someone grappling with loss and how to deal with it, or you’re dealing with deterioration of your own health, or something of the like, it doesn’t matter. It’s for people younger and older. I’ve heard people who read it saying, “Oh, it broke my heart.” When we read it and we cried.

RT: We’ve been crying for months.

TF: It’s how wide the range is of people it affects, which is a testament of how good the writing is and how subtle it is, and how that subtly can affect people. Small stuff.

RT: Yeah, small stuff. Also, being selfish, I’m really excited to have Thad as my Anthony. Our audition process was really special and we were rooting for each other the whole time. I couldn’t do this with anybody else.

TF: True, true, out of all the girls I auditioned with I couldn’t imagine being with anybody else.

MC: Have you ever been in two person play before?

RT: No.

Tf: No. This is the first two person play I’ve ever done. It’s challenging but also very rewarding, because the diffusion of responsibility is one person away. There’s two people, I’m one of them, and you have to take responsibility of each part.

R: You need laser focus, and the moment-to-moment has to be spot on. The ball can never drop, because then you let your partner down.

MC: What was it like working with the playwright?

TF: That was so great, because any questions we had—“I don’t understand this” or “I don’t think this person would say that”–she was very welcoming to any and all ideas.

RT: What’s great about her is she knows that her work is never finished, so she’s constantly adding, taking things away, truly taking things into consideration, how things are phrased. She’s very inspired by how Thad and I interact. We joke a lot and get along, so she felt really comfortable really increasing the level of humor, which is necessary with how devastating Caroline’s disease is.

TF: As a playwright, she’s very great at picking up on things, and she’s a phenomenal listener.

RT: She’s also funny as all hell. I love Lauren, she’s fantastic.

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Q&A with the Director

Q&A with the Director

directorMaegan Clearwood, Dramaturg: What attracted you to ‘I and You’? 

Eleanor Holdridge, Director: The language.  In contemporary plays, it is rare that realism, contemporary idiom and heightened language intersect so beautifully.  Lauren Gunderson takes teenspeak, adds a little Walt Whiman and ends up with a beautiful and simple story told with deftly handled language.  Seemingly realistic at fist, she really gets the quirky idiomatic vocabulary of the young and lets it express their deepest longings, terrors and hopes.

MC: What are the challenges and attractions of directing a two-person play?  

EH: It’s a very intense process.  And a lot of time with only two actors.  So they better be cracker-jack collaborators who have chemistry, get along with each other and can really bounce of the text.  Everything comes down to the dialectic between the two and it’s important to hone the action down to absolute specifics.

MC: What has surprised you most during the rehearsal process?  

EH: The incredible humor and vivacity of the Rachael Tice and Thaddeus Fitzpatrick in the rehearsal room.  With a huge appetite for exploration, they bring a dynamism and passion for the text, an incredible work ethic and real life to an already lively text.

MC: Caroline and Anthony forge a special connection with Whitman’s verse in ‘I and You.’ How would you describe ‘Leaves of Grass’ and its connection with the play? Do you have a personal relationship with Whitman’s poetry? 

EH: For some reason, I have never really encountered Whitman’s poetry.  Not in Middle or Upper schools, in college or in Graduate school.  Perhaps it was my intense and almost myopic fascination with the English Romantic poets and schools that let me pick my own electives.  But where was I?  It is so great to be finally invited to the party.  And so, discovering Whitman for the first time through this play, at this late date has been one of the highlights of the work.  I feel like the character of Caroline, who suddenly has her world opened up with the words and thoughts and sheer transcendentalism of the character. In Leaves of Grass, Whitman celebrates the ephemeral connectedness between the mind and the body and nature and the ineffable.  In the quote that starts the play, “I and this mystery here we stand,” it is something that is neither death nor life he explores, but something that encompasses both. I suspect that part of our identity as an American culture springs from Whitman.  But it seems like we need him again to inspire us.  How wonderful that Lauren’s given us the opportunity. Continue reading

I Have Liver Disease, But it Doesn’t Have Me

I Have Liver Disease, But it Doesn’t Have Me

A stunningly articulate account of liver disease and the emotional toll that serious illness takes on an individual, written by 19-year-old Owen Jennings:

My liver had failed. White coats danced like ghosts in front of my jaundiced eyes: doctors and nurses scrambled to dilute my toxic blood. I was sick. And I still am.

But the only thing worse than being sick is having everyone know you are sick. The only thing worse than almost dying is having everyone know you almost died. My tug of war with mortality did not make me some sort of expert on the fragility of life. I don’t have any shrewd insight to offer; no profound advice. What my liver disease has taught me is straightforward and practical: being sick does not mean surrendering to all the connotations and denotations that come with being a “sick person.”

At the hospital, when my parents would tell me — late at night — “We’re going to stay over,” I would refuse. When friends and teachers and co-workers would ask how I was feeling, I would tell them I was fine. When my girlfriend, Kate, would kiss me on the forehead and ask if I had enough energy to watch a movie, the answer was always “yes.”

I’m not naïve. I know that my liver will never be completely healthy. I know that I will always wake up to a sea of clownfish-colored prescription bottles. And I know that I will always wear a medical tag that reads “OWEN BRITTON JENNINGS / TYPE II AUTOIMMUNE LIVER DISEASE.” But that doesn’t mean I’m an invalid. What scares me most — more than the actual, physical symptoms of my disease — is the prospect of letting it infiltrate my identity. Blood transfusions don’t alarm me anymore. I no longer shrink from the mammoth doses of steroids, or the pencil-size needles that the doctors use to biopsy my liver. What frightens me — what downright petrifies me — is the notion that my liver disease might yet win out.

So even if I don’t feel fine, even if I am tired, and even if I can’t find the silver lining, I refuse to let this major disease have a major impact on my life. I’m still a 19-year-old boy. Still a college student. Still a soccer player. And I still want to dictate what happens in my life, not some disease.

He is America. …

He is America. His crudity is an exceeding great stench, but it is America. He is the hollow place in the rock that echoes with his time. He does ‘chant the crucial stage’ and he is the ‘voice triumphant.’ He is disgusting. He is an exceedingly nauseating pill, but he accomplished his mission.

Ezra Pound, on Walt Whitman.

10 Pieces Of Life Advice From Walt Whitman

10 Pieces Of Life Advice From Walt Whitman

By  for the Huffington Post

I didn’t fall in love with Walt Whitman as a teenager. I found his summersaulting sentences and meandering poems too much to get a handle on. His lack of narrative and focus pushed me away. I understood that not all poetry provided narrative, but I preferred Edgar Lee Masters, with his precise eulogies in Spoon River Anthology or e.e. cummings’s playful torturing of punctuation and layout or Mary Oliver’s crisp images of the emotionally charged natural world.

I never could hear what Whitman wanted me to hear. Perhaps he had too much to say and said it too loud for me to absorb. Perhaps I was too gloomy a teenager and Whitman too proud of humanity’s both meager and awesome accomplishments. Perhaps it was his cataloging of archaic words, objects, concepts; perhaps it was his shifting of personas; perhaps it was his twisting lyrical paths that wrapped themselves around the throat of life and death, those pesky but alluring states; perhaps it was those ellipses…

Then, like two kids from the same high school who randomly meet up at a party years later, I began spending time with Whitman and finally connected. The celebratory poetic spirit — wherein Walt both wanted to be the Great American Poet and also wanted to encourage an entire generation of American Poets — snapped like lightening along the nerve pathways of my body. Electric? Electric doesn’t begin to describe how I began to feel that each line of “Song of Myself” was a poem in and of itself. The narrative I once believed was missing was found lurking there, threading, wrapping, appearing, submerging. It was the narrative of America, not a particular person. Continue reading

Mark Zuckerberg’s theory of privacy

Mark Zuckerberg’s theory of privacy

Ten years ago, a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg sat at a computer in his Harvard dorm room and launched thefacebook.com. The goal, according to a 2009 Zuckerberg blog post commemorating Facebook’s 200 millionth user, was “to create a richer, faster way for people to share information about what was happening around them.”

If you believe the clumsy collegiate dating scenes in the movie “The Social Network,” however, Zuckerberg’s motivation for creating what has become the world’s largest social networking platform was, at least in part, to meet girls.

He has definitely met the first goal. (He’s also reportedly happily married, so the second one seems to have worked out for him, too.)

Today, Facebook has more than 1 billion active users who, each day, share nearly 5 billion items, upload 350 million photos and click the “like” button more than 4.5 billion times. Facebook is the world’s most popular social networking service and the second-most visited Web site. Only Google gets more visitors daily.

All that ubiquity challenges how we think about what should be private, and what we broadcast to our “friends” — a term that now includes anyone we happen to remember from high school, that temp job from a few years ago, or last night’s party.

With every new product launch, from News Feed to the doomed Beacon advertising play, it seemed Facebook would wait for the inevitable negative reaction on privacy, then announce minimal changes without fundamentally altering the new feature. It would explain away the fuss with careful spin: “We are listening to our users,” or “We look forward to your feedback.” Each time, the people at Facebook reassured us all they really want to do is make “the world more open and connected.”

In 2011, I found myself at Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters for a gathering of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based privacy think tank. We met a number of Facebook engineers, advertising managers and public policy executives. All these Facebook employees were being asked about privacy concerns, in a room full of privacy advocates, but not one person ever uttered the word “privacy” in their responses to us. Instead, they talked about “user control” or “user options” or promoted the “openness of the platform.” It was as if a memo had been circulated that morning instructing them never to use the word “privacy.”

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