An Interview with Crouse and Leak
Q: How did a production of this play with two Lycoming College alumni come to be?
DUSTIN: I had been in New York for a couple of years and, over one holiday I was home, J. Stanley [Lycoming College associate professor of theatre] mentioned that Bridget Leak was living in New York as well and working to get her M.F.A. in directing. With both of us pursuing careers in theatre and having a history from our time at Lycoming, Bridget and I decided to reconnect.
BRIDGET: Dustin and I hadn't really seen each other in five years or so. A few drinks and six hours later, we had caught up on our lives, careers and aspirations. I was about to direct a version of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," which Dustin wasn't available for, and it got us talking about other possible shows we could do together.
DUSTIN: Interestingly enough the "Taming of the Shrew" Bridget was directing was set within the context of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, or the extreme sect of the Mormon faith. That Mormon context and some discussions about it ultimately led us to the excommunicated playwright Neil LaBute and his play, "Bash: Three Plays."
BRDIGET: J. also led us there. She continues to be a mentor in our lives and she is a huge Neil LaBute fan. We thought it was a great play to showcase Dustin's ability, as well as challenge me as a director. Dustin was immediately on board and willing to play both male roles, we found a wonderful actress—Dana Leigh Snyder—to play the female roles, then I landed us a producer and he got us the space at Theatre Row and the rest is history.
DUSTIN: It sounds completely clichéd, but it really was one of those great, serendipitous things where Bridget and I came back into each other's lives at a time we were both ready to take our careers to another level and work on something we were really passionate about. What's even crazier is Dana, my stage partner, was trying to get a separate production of ‘Bash' going when we first talked about her meeting Bridget for our production. I think the two of them met, or we all did together, for a read-through and we could just feel it—we were the production.
BRIDGET: So rehearsals started and we finally performed it Off-Broadway this month!
Q: What brought this Off-Broadway production to Lycoming?
BRIDGET: It is really thanks to J. Stanley that "Bash" is getting another life. She is the mastermind behind it all. It might seem like the stars were aligned: Dustin and I are both pursuing theatre careers in New York City, both are Lycoming College alumni and Lycoming College is celebrating its bicentennial, but it's J. that made it happen.
DUSTIN: It's true. J. wanted this to come to Williamsport. We all did, but she went to the school and pitched this concept along with Bridget's proposal. Dana and I heard the news of us being invited and were ecstatic that we'd get to perform this show again, in another space and in front of a completely different audience. It's funny…Dana and I both learned about this play in college—I'm pretty sure J. was the one who gave it to me to read, as she directed "The Shape of Things," another LaBute play, my senior year, and I know Dana's mentor steered her to it as well. The fact that we were all introduced to this playwright in college and are now performing one of his most challenging plays at a college from which two of us graduated is sort of incredible.
BRIDGET: Our goal with the Lycoming production is to bring intimate NYC theatre to Williamsport. This is a fantastic opportunity for the students to see the practical side of a career—how what we were taught as undergrads can be applied to life. It was really important to us that we make ourselves as available to students as possible so Dustin, Dana and I will be working with students during two acting classes, visiting J.'s modern drama class, hosting talkbacks, as well as a special theatre department Q & A and an alumni night.
DUSTIN: It's all pretty exciting, but scary too. God knows how I'm going to answer these students' questions. I'm still learning something new about this career and the life of an artist every single day. Seriously.
Q: What have you enjoyed the most about working on this production?
BRIDGET: These stories are gruesome and horrific, but the characters are not monsters. That has been the toughest part, helping the actors justify their actions without writing them off as simply crazy. Labeling them it makes it easier to understand their crimes, but like the ancient Greek myths they resemble, there is nothing simple about them, they are deeply human and I think that's the scary part.
DUSTIN: I think Neil LaBute would hate me for saying it – distilling his play down to this – but I think to some degree these stories are cautionary tales about how in just the "snap" of a moment a decision can be made—a decision that is pure evil and is based in the purest and most prideful need for survival and retribution. These are dark things and we are all capable of being caught in them. Then what's even more stirring is how people defend their actions when they make a choice from these places.
Q: How does it feel to be performing in this revival on Theatre Row?
BRIDGET: The stars were aligned on this one! This is the first New York revival of the play since it premiered 12 years ago, with Paul Rudd and Calista Flockhart, and we performed it on the same street where it first premiered! We are incredibly excited for and proud of part one of "Bash."
DUSTIN: It's awesome! To have your Off-Broadway debut in a play you've known and wanted to perform in since college is pretty great. And I'm just going to say it—Theatre Row is a great space! Walking through the stage door at the top of my call time, going to our dressing room, relaxing and walking around the space before performing this bear of a thing is exactly what I want to do all the time. It's terrifying and invigorating at the same time! And knowing that the show will have a second life soon after we close at Theatre Row makes it all the better.