Lee Sunday Evans loves new plays. She’s also built a career collaborating with writers who aren’t afraid to experiment with form. “I’m interested in compelling, incredible stories being told onstage in surprising ways,” says the Obie-winning director. “I tend to gravitate toward scripts that play with that in some way.” Her latest project, the world premiere of Sunday by Tony-winning playwright Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) at Off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company, is a play about a group of 20something New York City friends who gather for a book club meeting.
Anxious to prove their intellectual worth, their emotional truths come pouring out. “Being where they are in their lives, there’s a restless searching, a heat, going on in this group of people,” explains Evans. “In this lovely, simple evening that they’re having, there’s also an undercurrent of something else going on. Jack makes room for that in the script in a really exciting way.”
Evans was drawn to the physicality of storytelling in Sunday. “Jack has put these amazing proposals into the script: for internal movements and dance breaks,” says the director and choreographer. As a former dancer, this is where she thrives. “I have a real passion for the emotionality you can connect to in people’s bodies,” she says. “The kind of athleticism and dynamism of actors’ bodies onstage can be so powerful to experience from the audience. I’m interested in physical language having the widest range of expression onstage and the way that can create an intoxicating magnetism.”
Sunday, which plays September 4–October 13, is a return Off-Broadway for Thorne, who has penned the scripts to recent Broadway blockbusters like King Kong and Cursed Child. “He has a sharpness of insight about relationships that I think is exciting for people to see in a different context,” says Evans. Her collaboration with the playwright is an exciting new one; the two worked together for the first time during a workshop of Sunday in London.
Just as she is drawn to experimental storytelling, Evans has found her own developmental process to be experimental and exploratory in nature. “There’s something about the ‘not understanding’ in the early stages of a play that I think is really important,” says the director. “It leads me to create productions that I didn’t necessarily imagine when I first read the play.”