Directed by Bree Bridger
by Elizabeth A.M. Keel
September 5-29, 2019
INTERVIEW WITH PLAYWRIGHT ELIZABETH A.M. KEEL ABOUT HER NEW PLAY OVERRIDE
Landing Literary Associate Brendan Bourque-Sheil, caught up with Elizabeth Keel to ask her thoughts on her new play, OVERRIDE.
1. So, more primitive versions of the touch simulator in this play already exist. Can you talk about the real-life tech you saw that inspired this play and any other interesting inventions you found in your research for this script?
I was deep down a YouTube rabbit hole when I came across a video about haptic gloves (from Haptx) which were being used in a video game, for virtual reality simulation. It could make the user feel like a little fox was climbing into their hands. And I knew that if I wanted to write this play, I would have to move very fast, before the tech exploded into the open market.
2. There was a lot of talk after the first table read about the possible applications for Louise’s helmet, and we all quickly went to some dark places, (negligent parenting, extreme self-isolation, torture) but we also talked about how this technology could be a medical miracle (Joanna Hubbard had the really touching example of parents using this invention to give their newborns in the NICU the sensation of touch). With the clear disclaimer that we are playwrights and not Futurists, would you like to weigh in on how you think this tech will pan out when it eventually becomes real?
Given what I know of the world in 2019... yes, I believe the tech will be abused by some, and exclusively priced, at least to start. But I also have enough optimism to believe that despite that risk, teachers will plan amazing lessons to incorporate it in their classrooms. Doctors, filmmakers, and caretakers will find applications even better than I can imagine from this side of time. So much wonder, humor, and industry will be born.
3. I know the seed of Override was a 10-minute play of yours. Can you talk a little bit about the process of growing it into an hour long two-hander?
As a playwright, I almost never write ten minute plays because I don't tend to have ten minute ideas. I'm a world builder, and I knew from jump that Override wanted to live longer, and had far more to say. There was initially a third character who was Louise's partner on the project, but I realized that she wasn't necessary to the overall story and instead moved Grav into the home. (RIP Mira, I'll write you your own show soon...) Basically, by dismantling the time restrictions, the characters bloomed into dialogue. The script quintupled almost overnight. If only it was always that easy!
4. For anyone who saw the play and thought “what’s a Sensualist” can you give us the backstory on how you first encountered the term, and why you wanted to include it?
Our director Bree had the same question. I got to work on a production of Man & Superman by George Bernard Shaw while in graduate school, and have been a big Shavian fan for years. Shaw was always willing to stop in the middle of the comedic marriage plot to air some of his philosophy, to sit and have a proper think and expect people to keep up. I like giving my audience that same acknowledgment of their intelligence: the courtesy of something chewy. You may not recognize "Sensualism" based on the word, but you certainly do by experience. Your vehicular body has felt the Houston heat and AC, seen the traffic and the green parks, and tasted the rich food of this town. I'm pretty certain you also have strong convictions based on those memories, and which you favored or disliked. That's why I was compelled to give the philosophy a chance to flirt.
5. I know you’re a writer who comes up with an elaborate backstory for everything that’s in your play, whether that backstory gets talked about in the actual text or not. Is there any backstory on this play that didn’t make it into the script but that you’d still like to put out into the world?
I'm a little amused and annoyed with myself for making Grav's family backstory entirely too interesting. Part of me now wants to explore the documentary mentioned in the script about his famous robot-building father, as well as his food-loving mother and automaton dog. Stay tuned for Grav: the Early Years.
6. I feel like every play I write teaches me some new lesson about playwriting, or reenforces an old one. What did Override teach you?
After the first read through, the team distilled the play down to, "This is a story about trust." Override was such a pleasure to work on because it honed my character skills. Grav and Louise are both quite shy when it comes to other people, and they show such courage in forging a bond. It helped my heart to bring them together as friends.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the show?
Thank you for supporting live theatre in Houston!
Brendan Bourque-Sheil is a resident playwright of the Landing Theatre Company, and the Literary Associate for Landing Local New Works Initiatives, which was created to help develop more creative opportunities for local playwrights.