A Conversation with June Carryl

Roger Q Mason


I met June Carryl back in 2010 when the two of us were participants in Directors' Lab West. Her ideas about theatre mesmerized me because of their narrative specificity and rootedness in sound dramaturgical practices. In 2011, June was part of my playwright renaissance: I'd taken about 3 years off of writing in order to find out why I still told stories through this medium. When Son of SemeleTheatre invited me to present my play ONION CREEK, an Adam and Eve tale set in rural Texas, I immediately called June because she was an exciting theatrical mind whom I knew would direct the HELL out of that piece. My instinct was right – her work on the show was wonderful. But more importantly, I learned that she was a fellow writer, and her mentorship of my creative development process (as a burgeoning post undergrad finding his way in LA's theatre scene) helped mold the writer I am today.

But there is more – in addition to writing and directing, June is also a powerful actor, someone who knows how to really pull audiences into the center of a character's need through performance. Right now, June Carryl is performing in Celebration Theatre's production of CABARET. The show runs through August, and you can get tickets here: CelebrationTheatre.com

And if you know what's good for you, you will get some tickets. The show is amazing.

I saw the production, helmed by Celebration's co-artistic director Michael Matthew earlier this week, and - the old folks used to say – the show sent me, honey. Of course, I was gaga for June's turn as the now-alone but love-seeking boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider. She brings a tautly constructed, grounded, polished, and full-bodied interpretation to the character who, seeing limited options in light of changing politics in rising Nazi Germany, forgoes a chance at love in exchange for her perceived route to survival.

I was so proud of my friend June! And you know I had to get the skinny on the show. So you know I had to have a kiki with June. And better believe that I had to spill some of this tea for you guys, our lovely Better Lemons readers.

So, without further ado, here's my conversation with June Carryl:

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): This is your 13th collaboration with lauded director Michael Matthews! Wow, what an accomplishment!! How did you two start working together?

June Carryl (JC): In 2009 I got to do OTHER PEOPLE'S GARDEN GNOMES by Aliza Goldstein as part of The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Fesitval. Michael Matthews was the director. He was this lovely presence, fierce intelligence and vision, big brown eyes and just so kind and supportive. First day of rehearsal and before we went up he said, "Just say what you mean, and mean what you say." Part of my journey has been learning what that means.

RQM: You are a consummate artist - you act, write, and direct. How do these different disciplines inform each other as you make work?

JC: Honestly, I just want joy in my life and I get that telling stories. My mom achieved a lot in life, but I don't think she got to do what she really wanted. Writing is a way to take back some control. It's my way to vent, to talk about the world. I suppose directing is the same thing, though I get a real charge out of seeing an opportunity to shape words or a moment or a stage picture; acting is my excuse to play people who are just braver than I am, more messed up, but way more honest and vocal than I am.

RQM: Tell me EVERYTHING about CABARET - well, as much as you want. You're acting in the show, right? What's your role? What was the rehearsal process like?

JC: I get to play Fraulein Schneider who ends up betraying her heart for the sake
of survival. When Matthews told me he wanted me for this role, I was like, "You want me to WHAT?!?" It was really scary to think of myself as the betrayer. In life, you want to think you'll be stronger than that, but to get to be a full-fledged human being who is flawed and fails is just the greatest gift. Black bodies are so often portrayed as either wholly noble or demonic. We don't often get to be fully human. Matthews' rehearsals are really fun. He has a vision, a goal, but he leaves it to the actor to find their way there. You feel challenged and terrified and so supported. You're willing to fail because you're in such a safe space.

RQM: Why do we still need to see CABARET?

JC: We've cycled backward. We are staring fascism and genocide in the face and having to decide what direction we'll go with detention camps for immigrant children and an American president who wants his people to stand up and listen like Kim Jong Un. We are witnessing the last gasps of white supremacy, and not sure what happens next. This show asks the hard question of whether we go there before going in a better direction.

RQM: What is next for you?

JC: Don't know. I'm writing a musical with my singing teacher, Mia Milan who is AMAZING.

Roger Q. Mason is a writer whose work gives voice to the silenced. A recurring theme in his writing is the intersection of race, history, and memory.

Mason’s plays include Orange Woman: A Ballad for a Moor; Onion Creek; and The Duat. Mason's works have been seen at such venues as McCarter Theatre Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA; Son of Semele Theatre; Teatro Vista at Victory Gardens; and Chicago Dramatists. He is an Activate: Midwest New Play Festival finalist, New York Theatre Innovator’s Award nominee, and the winner of the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival Encore Producer's Award. Mason holds an BA in English and Theatre from Princeton University, an MA in English from Middlebury College, and an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage from Northwestern University.

Mason has received commissions from Steep Theatre and Chimera Ensemble in Chicago, as well as the Obie-winning Fire This Time Festival.

For more on Roger Q. Mason, visit www.rogerqmason.com

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