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

By Andrew Gans
09 Mar 2012

Blackwell and Hunter Bell in [title of show].
photo by Carol Rosegg/span>

Question: When did the idea to take those pieces that you had been working on and turn them into a show come about?
Blackwell: Well, I had been given some really good advice by some fellow Vineyard alums, actually, John Flansburgh and his wife, Robin Goldwasser. John Flansburgh is in the band They Might Be Giants, and he and Robin had collaborated on People Are Wrong! that had been at the Vineyard. And, they gave me some really good advice, which is, "Start your next project while you're still doing your current project," so I had that in mind that I wanted to sow the seeds of the next thing, and I also wanted to have an excuse to continue working with this group of people that I love so much. For me, it was the logical next step because it was work that we were already dabbling in, which is a more direct-address storytelling style that is blended with music. It was a very organic genesis from those pieces that we were doing around town at benefits and galas and appearances and fundraisers. It sort of came out of that.

Question: For this, the book credit is shared by you and Hunter. I was wondering how you work at writing together. What is your process?
Blackwell: It's really been excellent and interesting and aided by new technology. We use Google Docs, and what that allows us to do is as many people as are shared on the document can be in the document working, so Hunter and I sometimes will be sitting either side-by-side or across the country from each other, and we will be writing sometimes in the same sentence on a Google Doc, and sometimes we will be conferencing via Skype, so we'll be talking and writing simultaneously. For me, the funnest [laughs] or the most invigorating is when we are not in the same room… Not to say that I don't love being in the same room with him, because I do, but it always is a kick when we're across the country from each other and we are working on the same sentence simultaneously. I know what he's thinking, and we're just sort of literally finishing each other's sentences. It's very fun! [Laughs.] It's a real pleasure. And then, there are some pieces that are more in his domain, and he is sort of the chief writer on certain pieces, and there are things that are more my responsibility, and we consult each other and use each other as sounding boards. Also, we confer heavily, of course, with Jeff Bowen, who is composing the music and lyrics, and with our director, Michael Berresse, who has a very strong dramaturgical sense and is incredibly influential in the shape of the piece. I think when people see it they'll see that it's heavily collaged and quilted, and it's complicated. It's complicated, and we could not have done such a complex piece of writing without the eyes of Michael Berresse.