Hello, Again! John Dossett and Michele Pawk Share Another Stage in Giant

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04 Dec 2012

Pawk and Dossett in Hello Again at Lincoln Center Theater.
photo by Joan Marcus

Giant has undergone lots of revisions and streamlining since its premiered in Virginia at the Signature Theatre. Was Hello Again revised extensively during rehearsals and previews?

JD: Her scene! …Scene 8! There was a different version almost every other day. When it was all said and done, Michael John gave us as an opening night gift, what he called "The Scene 8 Songbook," which was every version of that particular scene.

What has the Giant process been like? Michele, you're new to the Public production, but John, you've been with it since Virginia, correct?

JD: No, actually we were both in the first reading. I had to drop out because I was doing another show. That was four and a half years ago.
MP: It was almost five hours long, and it was riveting every second of the way. I knew they were going to continue to work on it. I kept thinking, "What are they going to cut? What could you possibly cut?" It was epic in its scope.
JD: We got it down to four hours for the Signature [Arlington, VA] debut. I've always loved this piece; I had much more to do in other productions, but I don't think it ever would have been able to come to New York if they didn't get it into a three-hour version.
MP: And a two-act structure. That was part of it. It is also my hope that Michael John and Sybille are holding onto that longer version in the hope that an opera company, or another theatre might do the full three-act version in the future.

Can you tell me a bit about being in the middle of the revision process on such an ambitious work?

MP: Obviously, with the help of our director Michael Greif, and I think with [Public artistic director] Oskar Eustis' help, too, they made such smart choices about streamlining it. If you were going to take it from a three-act structure and bring it down to two, you have to ask, "What can you lose and still keep the meat and the juice — and still have people care about the love story? And keep that epicness of it, of what that novel is?" I think they did an amazing job. That's hard to do.
JD: I loved all the material, but I don't miss it. Well, actually I do, but it doesn't exist anymore! I had this whole "Coyote" song. I had a song that every actor would live to have. It was the end of the first act. It was like a nine-minute song and I exited the stage to musical fanfare, like something out of Copland. But it's gone for the best.
MP: I've been really encouraged and humbled by the cuts that they've made. Some of them did seem drastic and I know it wasn't without losing a little bit of [the authors'] heart. I know how difficult those things must have been for them.


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