By Martin Poole
Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, starring Monica Walsh, Crystal Parsons, Frank Barry, Norm Karlik, and directed by Frank Barry, will be showing at the LSPU Hall Second Space on November 19 – 22 at 8pm.
No Exit, is a play written in 1944 during Sartre’s existential period (after his phenomenological period, and before his Marxist period) when he began to address many of his primary philosophical concerns.
The interview below is with director Frank Barry
Tell Us how this production came to be
I met Crystal Parsons when she came to work as stage manager for my play 3 Dogs Barking, which was directed by Justin Simms. I liked her, and later sent her a copy of No Exit wondering if she’d be interested in doing it with me with her company, Nudding To Be At Productions. She decided she did and brought Monica Walsh on board. Then I got Norm Karlik involved. Monica, Crystal and I then sat down with the script and adapted it to reflect a more modern attitude with characters from here. We made a lot of changes in the language used while staying true to the ideas and structure as they were presented line by line. This was a great thing to do as we became very intimate with the play and were forced to discuss the playwright’s intentions very carefully. Since then we have been working hard in rehearsal to bring the play to life. I think I speak for the others when I say that the work has been both difficult and joyous.
Why No Exit? What is it about the play that made you want to explore it in such detail?
The main reason why I wanted to do No Exit is because I think it’s a very good play that offers a lot of challenges to both the performers and the audience. Also because of what I interpret as the main idea in the play, that outside of our consciousness, that place where we formulate our definition of reality and of ourselves, in that reality lies the consciousness of the other. To that other consciousness our definition of ourselves is unknown. In a very real way that makes us all strangers to each other, a strangeness that can never be altered, not even by love. Our inability to know what the other’s strange version of us is creates an existentialist fear. That fear is Hell. To direct and act in a play that tries to understand this conundrum of human existence, and one that does it in such a simple and, to me, darkly humorous way is a real treat.
Can you foresee any advantages that the LSPU Hall second space will offer in the context of Sartre’s portrayal of hell?
Doing it in The Hall’s Second Space is not ideal in many ways, but one great thing it does have going for it is the room’s innate feeling of claustrophobia. In a way, the whole room becomes our set and as we will be doing it in the round the audience will become the walls of our prison and I’m sure the St. John’s audience are up to that task.
St. John’s is currently being redefined, both physically and culturally, which will affect the population in many ways. Sartre’s No Exit addresses one’s desire to be free of definition from exterior elements; physical surroundings and especially other people (“Hell is other people”). When you selected this play, did you have similar themes in mind?
Right now in St. John’s we are going through a period of rapid change. There is a feeling that we are losing our identity. Loss of identity is no small thing. On a personal level it can lead to all kinds of mental anguish and on a societal level that same stress leads to convulsions in the fabric that make us uneasy and afraid. But the only way you can really lose your identity is not to understand what it is in the first place. Sometimes the trauma of change is exactly what’s needed to make you discover the fact of who you are. And if you want what you discovered to continue then you can fight to maintain it. I think that applies to the society as well as the individual. We all have to fight to be ourselves and not live in a hell defined by others. That is my understanding of the meaning of human integrity. A play that deals with these ideas seems to me to be a fitting play for this place at this time.
Executed by a seasoned quartet of local talent this magnificent play will be entertaining and thought-provoking. November 19 – 22, 8pm, at LSPU Hall. $20