Private Theatre Gets Ready to Play with Fire

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After 2010's site-specific production of Hedda Gabler, The Private Theatre has returned with another update of a classic. The group will adapt August Strindberg's Playing with Fire in a multimedia production co-conceived by Shane Bly Killoran and adapted by Royston Coppenger. John Gould Rubin will direct the production, which opens August 17 at 189 Chrystie St.   Playing with Fire looks at six depraved characters living under one roof: an incestuous father; an acquiescent mother; a philandering son; the son's wife, who is sleeping with her father-in-law while tempting her husband's best friend; and a cousin who pursues both friend and father. NYP recently spoke with several of the creative forces behind this work, The Private Theatre's Director of Artistic Development Salomé M. Krell.   NYP: Why did you choose Playing With Fire?   Salomé M. Krell: It's always been a part of The Private Theatre's mission to produce classic works in site-specific settings so when John Gould Rubin (our Artistic Director and Director of PWF) presented Playing with Fire to the group, everyone was really game to dive in and explore the possibilities. There were a few classical works we looked at while we were deciding but we all found this play (PWF) surprisingly so hot and sexy and (I suppose because this country is still under the influence of Puritanism) still relevant, so we all just gravitated toward this play.   Lucy Di Rosa: Everyone in the group is very familiar with Strindberg but it's John Gould Rubin, our Artistic Director and the director of PWF, who's the real resident expert when it came to his work.  He brings a real academic zeal to the proceedings along with the requisite visceral passion. NYP:Could you go into specifics about the kind of changes that have been made?   John Gould Rubin: It's a brand new adaptation by Roysten Coppenger (who also did the adaptation of my site-specific production of Hedda Gabler in 2010).  Royston did a straight adaptation of the play and then he broke it down to fragments as he, Shane and I didn't think we could mount any play in a conventional way at a space that was more dedicated to splash, party and spectacle than traditional drama. We determined that we had to use the whole space and that required video in order to compensate for sight lines that would otherwise have made that impossible and also contract an imagistic world that supported the fantasy of the play, and so Ian Brownell was engaged to design that element. And we decided that the intimate aspects of the play required that the audience's best relationship to some moments feel voyeuristic and so we determined to look for a kind of intimacy that required mic-ing and over dubbing, and Andy Cohen was asked to provide that expertise. Furthermore, we endowed it all with a sense of spectacle via music, composers Kwan-fai Lam and Sam Kidel, and choreography and so I asked my collaborator Bronwen Carson to join the project. Finally, we felt we had to confuse the worlds of real and unreal with some very intimate sexuality, so Shane, Bronwen, Roysten and I constructed a world in the production and in an elaborate pre-show that is intended to do just that. All of this amounts to an adaptation based on, rather than a straight production of, Playing With Fire. NYP: What does performing at 189 Chrystie Street do to this production?   SCM: I think doing the show at 189 Chrystie Street brings an additional element of sex to the table.  This place just oozes sexual energy -- you feel free of inhibitions the moment you pass the door ? not to mention, you just know what's gone down in some of the bathrooms in this club just by walking into them.  I mean there are stirrups in one of the stalls!   TG: I couldn't agree more.   Doing it in this space was such an inspired choice because the history and reputation of this club never lets you forget what this play is about: sex: the power of it, the passion of it and the destructive, corruptive and terrifying elements that can sometimes come with it.    More information about Playing with Fire can be found at

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