DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Now. Here. This. and [title of show] Star Susan Blackwell

By Andrew Gans
09 Mar 2012

Blackwell and Jeff Bowen in [title of show].
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: What felt different and what felt the same in creating this work as opposed to when you all were working on [title of show]?
Blackwell: It's a little bit of a different — just because I am taking responsibilities as a co-author, a co-book writer — set of responsibilities for me. And, previously, I could go home after rehearsal and just relax or learn my lines. Now, after rehearsal, I have to address script issues, and I always appreciated the work that Hunter and Jeff did on [title of show], and now I appreciate it even more! [Laughs.]

Question: If someone asked you, "How would you describe the show?" or "What can we expect?," what would you say?
Blackwell: Let's see… I would say that it is… [Laughs.] Oh, Andrew, where to begin! I would say that it is a lot of great stories and great music woven together in a really fun rollercoaster ride.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for yourself, as a performer?
Blackwell: My favorite moment right now, to watch, is — let me think about this — I love watching Heidi Blickenstaff do a piece that's called "Give Me Your Attention." That is enjoyable. [Laughs.] As a performer… What do I love doing right now? Here's a pageant answer for you: I love being on stage again with these people that I love. So, right now, that's the part that I'm really savoring. There's so many good individual moments, but just the opportunity to be on stage with these people again brings me so much happiness.

Question: What do you think you learned from the developmental lab production at the Vineyard?
Blackwell: I think that the spine of the show came into focus. I'm mixing my metaphors, but I think that we became clearer about what it is that we wanted to say. We always ask ourselves, as a group, "Why are we breaking the silence?" You know: "Justify your existence." People pay a lot of money and take time to come and watch this stuff, so justify your existence/why break the silence? And, I think that we have really clarified what we're saying and why we want to say it.

Question: The [title of show] fans were so enthusiastic. Did you feel any pressure to live up to their expectations?
Blackwell: To what I just said, I feel the obligation to make something that values people's time and money. I feel the obligation, not to please people, but to honor the fact that people spend money and take time out of their incredibly busy lives to sit down for 100 minutes and stare at us. So, I feel the obligation to do my absolute best work for them and serve something that, I think, will be of quality and have meaning for them.

Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff in [title of show].
photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: What does the title mean to you — how did the title come about?
Blackwell: There was a monk named Thomas Merton — a Trappist monk — and he is reported to have said that if one can get to the intersection of "Now. Here. This." Now: the present moment. Here: wherever you are. This: whatever it is you're doing. If you can get to the intersection of those three things, then you will be free to truly appreciate your life. So, for me, Now. Here. This. is about the desire to and the struggle and the impediment to getting to the present moment and appreciating your life — being happy, loving who you are. So that's what that means to me.

Question: In the same vein, how has your life changed since [title of show]?
Blackwell: [Laughs.] Andrew, that's a good question! How has my life changed since [title of show]? I think that in many ways, it still looks very similar. I'm still married to my husband. I still get up and go to my office and work my office job. I still have the same group of friends. I think that it has changed my life in the following ways: I think I am more creatively confident. I think there are more opportunities that are offered to me. I think that I am freer. I think I am more free as a person.

Question: What's the feeling with this show? Are you guys thinking Broadway or are you taking it one day at a time?
Blackwell: Andrew! I'm always thinking Broadway! [Laughs.] I'm always thinking Broadway, but we're just taking it one day at a time.

Question: [title of show] is popping up regionally. I wonder if you've gone to see any of the productions and what that's been like to see.
Blackwell: I have! I've seen a couple of productions, and it is many things. It is surreal. It's surreal to see other actors in other cities enact a segment of your life in front of you. It is incredibly gratifying to see that it is simply a book musical, and it is the story of four friends having an adventure, and it's fun to see the jokes totally play when they come out of other people's mouths. It's really a kick in the pants! [Laughs.] It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see something like that, and I recommend it to people. They should write a musical, and then go see other people play them because it's really, really fun.