AMY HERZOG won the 2012 Obie Award for Best New American Play for 4000 Miles (Lincoln Center). Her other plays include After the Revolution (Williamstown Theater Festival; Playwrights Horizons; John Gassner Award Nomination; Lilly Award), Belleville (Yale Repertory Theater, upcoming at NYTW in Spring 2013), and The Wendy Play (ACT, San Francisco). She has had readings/workshops at Steppenwolf, Manhattan Theater Club, New York Stage and Film, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and Lincoln Center, among others. She has received commissions from Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep, and Steppenwolf. Amy is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and the Helen Merrill Award. She is an alumna of Youngblood, Play Group, and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. She has taught playwriting at Bryn Mawr and Yale. M.F.A., Yale School of Drama (As of October 2012)
Photo by Zack DeZon
CRITIC’S PICK. HAUNTING, DEEPLY AFFECTING, AND UNFAILINGLY HONEST. Amy Herzog is one of the bright theatrical lights of her generation. The actors embody their characters with impeccable precision. Under the attentive direction of Carolyn Cantor, "The Great God Pan" is not something I'll soon forget.
Within its fascinating parade of alternate possibilities, [Herzog] has packed a set of big, beautiful, perpetually troubling questions, moral and philosophical. The work is tiny, but it runs deep. Carolyn Cantor's production is taut and quietly pitch-perfect.
Tim: How did you come to write the play?
Amy: Well first of all I set the play in the town I grew up in. And one of the memories on the list that you referred to is a memory I have of my grandmother swinging on this vine that the older kids would swing from at this creek and she fell in. So there’s a grounding in my childhood in that sensory experience and my own mythology of my childhood that I think is a sort of foundation of the play. It’s hard to say where exactly the plot came from; when I was twelve or thirteen I went through a period of being really obsessed with recovered memory. It was really in the news a lot at that time. There were a lot of sensationalist stories of recovered memories of sexual abuse.
The wonderful Erin Wilhelmi was kind enough to give us a little glimpse of what it's like on a two-show day of THE GREAT GOD PAN backstage with her and the rest of the cast, with her own captions on the photos!
Relativism. When I was in graduate school, this buzzword seemed to chase me around from subject to subject. The relativity of time translated to the relativism of memory which translated to the relativism of truth and identity. The "Theater of the Absurd" reflected this slippery unknowability of existence in aesthetic form. But I always had trouble with this notion. It seemed to me the elusiveness and fluidity of identity did not necessarily indicate the absence of identity. Everything I knew about the endeavor of dramatic action screamed the opposite. Drama is uniquely poised as an art form to represent the bubbling forth of submerged secrets onto the surface. It's called subtext.
"Freud has no rivals among his successors because they think he wrote science, when in fact he wrote art." –Camille Paglia.
When Freud popularized the concept of the unconscious mind at the turn of the last century, he sort of turned over a massive punch bowl at the stuffy cocktail party we were having. Our lives would never be, will never be, the same. However much we, in the day-to-day, choose or don't choose to subscribe to modern psychological concepts, we can't not be aware that every moment, every interaction, is colored by a now-instinctive knowledge that the people around us are far more complex than we can possibly make out, driven by the chemicals, experiences and non-rational impulses that one accumulates, voluntarily or not, simply by traveling through the world. As W.H. Auden famously said of Freud, "to us he is no more a person now but a whole climate of opinion under whom we conduct our different lives."
Early in Showtime's lovable-serial-killer series DEXTER, the show's titular psycho discovers a pool of blood and suddenly recalls the decades' buried memory of his mother's brutal slaying, the long-invisible engine of his murderous compulsions. Without the show's high camp style, its audience might fail to empathize with a murderer or forgive his loved ones' ignoring the giant bag of knives in the trunk. But no such assistance is required for most of us to accept the extraordinary mental mechanics at Dexter Morgan's core. Westerners take it for granted that a memory of severe trauma can be repressed for years, invisibly shaping one's neuroses, until resurfacing either on its own or with the help of a therapist.