Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your play, The Birthing Pit, is currently appearing as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about its premise?
William J. Meyer: The Birthing Pit follows the journey of a married couple fleeing a pestilence spreading through the Caribbean. It’s the end of the American Revolutionary War, and the husband and wife have been hiding out on the islands following the death of the husband’s brother. Now that the war is over, they are returning home to their new nation, specifically Rhode Island. But the ship they secure passage aboard is captained by a man claiming his blood is cursed, and then the pestilence appears to follow the couple out to sea, as well, as the first mate is thrown overboard, even though he just has a fever. The dread and the murders pile up, one after another, until the husband and wife are put through a supernatural crucible.
BD: As both the writer and director of the show, how do you feel that the roles complement one another throughout your creative process?
WM: The material is more malleable for one thing. I’d be less apt to manipulate the text, but since I wrote it, I can delete segments or massage the script as revealed to be necessary by the rehearsals. When production concerns arise or when an actor has a wonderful idea, I can instantly make a creative decision or rewrite a scene to complement the new impulse. One example is the flashback sequence, which I was free to create with the actors, Jensen and Maia, out of a wisp of an outline, rewriting on the fly as we workshopped the flow of the various vignettes. That was a wonderful discovery.
BD: You have a fantastic cast and crew involved with the project! What can you share with us about the creative process of working with the team and bringing the show to life?
WM: Thank you! Well, certainly on this, my first play, casting was of paramount concern, and I am thrilled with what Jensen and Maia have embodied in "John" and "Castella." Their ownership of the characters helped push the text, and that's exciting. I met the costumer Elena on a short film a friend directed, and only after working together on The Birthing Pit did I discover both Elena and I lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, for a time. Elena’s historical knowledge was a great comfort, a great starting point to ground the artistic deviations. Not only is this the first play I’ve directed, but the first I designed a lighting plot for, as well, and that was great fun! Our stage manager Beth helped me make the cues sing, and she was also gracious enough to redesign my lightning effects which were, truth be told, rather lame!
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
WM: Well, I suppose if I could articulate that I wouldn't need to write the play, but I can point to the suffering of spiritual and sexual angst and the importance of loving fully while you can-- otherwise you might find a gaping hole in your soul one day. Figurative or otherwise.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for The Birthing Pit?
WM: I'd say the do-it-yourself attitude and work ethic. I think especially for first-time playwrights such as myself, it’s wonderful to jump in and produce your own work, and make of your show what the intersection of circumstance and creative impulse can discover.
BD: The show will be appearing at the Studio/Stage through June 24, 2017. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
WM: We have one more show on Saturday, June 24th, at 12:00 p.m. At this time there are no immediate plans for future performances. I do think it would be a fun novel, though, after more historical research.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
WM: Sure. I'm writing a play set in the 1930s about another play set in the 1400s. I suppose I like nesting stories inside of other stories, as you can see by The Birthing Pit. I’m also rewriting a sci-fi audio drama series to produce later this year. The series is partly inspired by the MRI I had a few months ago, though ostensibly it's about a team of soldiers living inside a futuristic tank when one of them begins to doubt his own existence.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for The Birthing Pit?
WM: If you dig Jane Eyre or Dracula or Gothic Romance in general, come on out! We’d love for you to meet our characters and go with them on their journey of repression. You can see some photos on my website, www.bywilliamjmeyer.com. And tickets are available online and with cash at the door. Also, thank you for this interview!