LOST GIRLS: Interview with Playwright/Screenwriter John Pollono

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Tinsel & Tine Shines a Philly Spotlight
Theatre Exile's Production of "Lost Girls"

By Editor, Le Anne Lindsay

Theatre Exile continues their 20th anniversary season with the Philadelphia premiere of "Lost Girls", running February 16 to March 12, at Studio X. This hard-hitting drama is the story of three generations of women who struggle to rise above their limited prospects, in a world indifferent to their struggles, to prevent history from repeating itself.

The play was written by a voice new to Philadelphia's stage - John Pollono, an American playwright who also penned the award-winning "Small Engine Repair". Pollono has appeared on NBC's hit show This is Us, and he also wrote the soon-to-be-released movie Stronger with Jake Gyllenhaal.

I got a chance to ask John Pollono a few questions
about both projects:

T&T: Would you describe “Lost Girls” overall as a cautionary tale, a spotlight on class in America, a family drama or a story of young love?

John Pollono: I wouldn’t describe this as a cautionary tale. I just went for truth and told a story I felt hadn’t been told with sensitivity or specificity quite like this. Most people live paycheck to paycheck and, although a working class play is a genre in theater, most people actually live like this. But those of us who grew up like that still feel love and hope and pain the same as anyone. We just have additional obstacles.

T&T: Do you think Maggie or Lou or both would have been Trump supporters? And why or why not?

JP: Maggie would not be a Trump supporter, IMO. She is a strong woman and would not have put up with Trump’s misogyny. It’s pretty clear in the text that she has strong feminist beliefs. Linda is an example of someone who believes “boys will be boys” as we say in the play. Maggie often struggles because she is the smartest person in the room and doesn’t have anyone who can match her passion and wit and sensitivity.

T&T: a) Since this is a second mounting of “Lost Girls” did you have any thoughts of places where you’d like to make changes?
b) What are some of the differences in approach that each director (Jo Bonney at the Lortel & Joe Canuso Theatre Exile) brings to the piece?

JP: This is actually the third production, it ran in Los Angeles at Rogue Machine for about 6 months in 2013-2014. I made changes for the NYC production but now the play is what it is. At some point you have to let it go and have its own life. Jo and I are frequent collaborators and we really have a short hand to things. She directed "Small Engine Repair" in NYC, which is sort of a companion piece, so she was very familiar with the world. I haven’t seen Joe’s production, obviously. But we’ve been in contact. We’re in the post-Trump age, Joe has that whole level of subtext to offer now. A lot of the themes in the play are more resonant now than ever, so it’s exciting to have it being done again. And Philadelphia is similar to New England working class in many ways, so I’m thrilled that it will have that deeper connection. Sounds like Joe is really in tune with the characters and their struggles.

T&T: Your screenplay “Stronger” is about Boston bombing victim Jeff Bauman, other than the obvious that this is an incredible story of resilience and you’re originally from New Hampshire, what drew you to write it? At what point did you realize you were going to want to delve into the horrific incident to tell a story?

JP: The bombing was a very profound tragedy to everyone. When something like that happens in your neighborhood, or where you grew up, it hits especially hard. When I read Jeff’s book before it was published, I fell in love with the heart it had. And, since I grew up about half an hour from where the movie takes place, I knew I could tell the story in the voice it required. It was an incredible team to be a part of so that was huge. You know you have great collaborators when they bring out the best in you, and that was the case. And it felt like a really important story to tell. And then I met Jeff and Erin (the central characters) and knew I had to do them justice.

T&T: Were you consulted in the casting for “Stronger”? And what did it feel like when Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s known for doing off kilter movies (Nightcrawler, Demolition, Nocturnal Animals) expressed interest in your film?

JP: I had an unusually close relationship with the producers and director. The writer isn’t always as involved as I was. But everyone was so committed to making the best movie and to honoring Jeff that they kept me involved throughout. It was thrilling to have Jake involved, he brings so much to a production in terms of momentum and talent. He drew a lot of attention to the project, which you need to get your film made in most cases.

T&T: When you’re in Center City Philadelphia, what’s your favorite restaurant and menu item?

JP: Last time I was in Philadelphia, I was poor as shit and didn’t really enjoy any restaurants. Drank cheap beer and ate a cheesesteak. Looking at your blog made my stomach growl. I really missed out on some amazing meals. Anyone want to fly me out, I’ll give you a better answer!

I'm looking forward to seeing "Lost Girls" opening night! Be sure to check out Theater Exile's Schedule of performances

Directed by: Joe Canuso Honorary Producer: Louis Bluver Cast: Catharine Slusar, Trevor William Fayle, Sean Bradley, Molly Ward, Amy Frear and Susanne Collins
ABOUT THEATRE EXILE Founded in 1996 by Joe Canuso and Trish Kelly, Theatre Exile was created by a group of artists who wanted to rattle the gates of the mainstream. In 2013 Deborah Block was named Producing Artistic Director after seven years of serving as Co-Artistic Director. For their excellence in producing theatre, they have received 87 Barrymore Award nominations, with 19 awards total. Theatre Exile believes in freedom of expression formulated through innovation, exploration and provocation, all while providing a safe and creative environment, in which local artists can grow, experiment and ultimately, find their own voice.

T&T's last Philly Spotlight on Theatre Exile was a review of the Edward Albee play Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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