The following is an interview with Dara Harper regarding the recent production of External Forces in coordination with Towne Street Theatre and A Noise Within. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Harper about their contribution to the collection of short plays based on Greek tragedies, the shared creative process of working with the cast and crew, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You recently took part in a collection of short plays titled External Forces in association with Towne Street Theatre. What can you share with us about the unifying theme of this production and the inspiration behind your short play?
Dara Harper: Thank you for this opportunity on behalf of Towne Street Theatre. It’s truly an honor. It’s fascinating that you would ask about the inspiration for my short play. I was intrigued by the idea of adapting a Greek Tragedy that is a little obscure.
I did not know much about “Women of Trachis” written by Sophocles. I came across it and read it and let the story live in my head. I have to admit that the story was disturbing because it centered around an aging woman who was desperate to win the heart of her husband, Hercules, who had eyes for a much younger woman.
Personally as Dara, I feel that women are more beautiful and intriguing as they age. I know I have a lot more to offer than I did when I was 20 both intellectually and on other levels; however, many people in society view women of a certain age as disposable. I even wrote that line into the play.
I was having trouble trying to find the voice of my lead character until the very unfortunate suicide of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst. She was only 30 and she felt that her beauty had passed its expiration date. On top of that, she struggled with depression. What happened to her was heartbreaking. It dawned on me that I would have to remove myself and my own personal opinions about women aging gracefully and face the reality that many women struggle to embrace that.
BD: You had a tremendous cast and crew involved with the production! What can you share with us about the creative process of working with the team to bring your show to life?
DH: Veronica Thompson, the director, had an awesome vision from the start! I was so pleased with how she found the nuance and humor in the tragedy of it all. The lead actress, Teressa Taylor, in the role of Diane gave a compelling performance, taking the audience on an immersive journey with her talented co-stars, RJ Wayne, Aron Cobb, and Kira Hoag.
After several Zoom rehearsals, in-person rehearsals, and a rewrite, “Real Housewife of Tranchis” was ready! As a playwright, I’m constantly looking at the stage and listening for the energy of the audience. Their laughter. Their gasps. Their head-shaking moments. All of it! They responded in surprising ways that will open the door for me to expand the script in the future.
BD: This was Towne Street Theatre’s first return to live theatre since the start of the pandemic. What did you most enjoy about bringing this production to a live audience?
DH: COVID was and is still the ugly elephant in the room. So many people lost their lives or had their entire lives upended. All of us have our own quarantine madness story, I’m certain of this. To be back in the live theater was amazing beyond words. I miss it so much, and I’m so glad that Towne Street Theatre and A Noise Within partnered up to make this happen.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that the story of “Real Housewife of Trachis” connected with and impacted audiences?
DH: Engaging theater makes you walk out of the building ready to talk about what you just saw on the stage over dinner or coffee or whatever! I hope that audiences will reflect about the rigid societal standards for women that still exist when it comes to getting older. Even in Blockbuster films, you often see an aging actor in his 60s with a love interest half his age. But the older actresses are cast as Grandma. I’d like to see this change. I’d like for all of us to tone down our obsession with the fountain of youth and love exactly who we are…flaws and all!
BD: Do you have any other projects in the works that you would like to share with our readers?
DH: I’m going into production on a Christmas romantic comedy in Detroit directed by Victoria Rowell and starring Ella Joyce and Tony Todd. It is such an honor to bring this film back to my hometown with a majority local cast and crew! I can’t wait!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about External Forces?
DH: Thank you for the interview and I’d love to acknowledge my fellow playwrights, all of the actors, and the crew that made this possible. A special hug for the Artistic Producing Director Nancy Cheryll Davis. I admire her beyond words!