I last interviewed Sue Vinick during Flowertown Players’ run of “The Red Velvet Cake War.”
Sue is now directing “Over the River and Through the Woods,” an empty-nester comedy of Italian proportions with heartwarming family moments, written by Joe DiPietro. She came to Summerville in 2014 after her post as Artistic Director of the Cirillo Theatre in Windsor, Connecticut, where she directed Broadway musicals and cabaret performances, and mentored newer directors in their children’s division. Locally, her acting credits include roles such as Hannah Warren in “California Suite” and Ethel Banks in “Barefoot in the Park.” Vinick has also directed Del Webb’s Cane Bay Players.
Regan: Sue, tell us about this comedic play? Is it based on a true story?
Vinick: No, it’s a work of fiction, but it very well could be a true story, for all its realism. Nick is a young guy caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s been offered a promotion at work—and that’s a good thing—but accepting the job means he must move clear across the country to Seattle, and that doesn’t sit well with his grandparents! He’s been going to their house every week for Sunday dinner his entire life, and both sets of his grandparents intend to keep it that way. They’ll go to any amount of tomfoolery to get him to stay. That’s where the comedy comes in; these people and their antics are hysterically funny! Yet, it’s also where the realism comes in. The misunderstanding between generations is captured so well by the playwright.
Regan: Is this play, in any way, like “The Red Velvet Cake War” since both are comedies?
V: Oh, I think they’re very different plays. “The Red Velvet Cake War” is a farce comedy. It used highly improbable situations, stereotypical characters, and broad exaggeration as sources for laughter. Over the River and Through the Woods is more sophisticated and complex, drawing its humor from the situation at hand and the characters’ very different perspectives. It’s like comparing The Three Stooges with a sitcom like Cheers. Both are funny but for very different reasons!
R: Do you prefer directing a comedy to a dramatic play, or do you enjoy both?
V: I enjoy both and that’s why I’ve especially enjoyed directing this show! There’s no doubt this is a comedy. Audiences will burst out laughing from the very opening line and that mood will build throughout. However, there are some very dramatic, poignant moments in this play, too. Remember how the television comedy, M.A.S.H., primarily made you laugh but then, occasionally, the mood would get very serious? That happens in this show as well, and so it’s given me a chance to exercise both my funny bone and some dramatic muscle. That’s been a lot of fun for me.
Regan: You’ve also performed as an actress in such roles as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl”, Miss Hannigan in “Annie”, and Anita in “West Side Story”. Do you prefer directing now? Has being an actress has helped you be a better director?
V: I do prefer directing! It gives me a chance to be creative on so many different levels. You’re interpreting the playwright’s words and bringing a story to life visually and emotionally, using all the theatre has to offer. So much comes into play: the technical elements of lighting and sound, the design possibilities of set and costuming, and even the selection of properties. Working with actors in fine tuning their interpretation of the characters, their relationships to one another, and how they fit into the dramatic structure of the play itself is critical in depicting the author’s intentions. Having been an actress has helped me be a better director. I understand the process of how actors develop their characters and design a rehearsal schedule I think will best aide them in that endeavor. Because of my acting experience, I understand as a director what to expect and when to expect it at any given point in the rehearsal schedule.
R: What do you enjoy most about working on yet another production at Flowertown Players?
V: That’s easy. The people! Teamwork is the cornerstone of any successful organization and the Flowertown Players have that going on in spades! Everybody does their jobs—happily! They give 100% and then they give even more. It’s terrific being with such highly motivated and caring people.
R: What would you like audiences to take away from this current offering?
V: The play is a memory piece on Nick Cristano’s memories of his grandparents, how they helped to shape him and propel him into a life of his own. Just as the show so easily moves between snippets of yesteryear to the present day, we’re asking the audience to make that transition, too. We all have grandparents. We called them Nana and Papa, Grandma and Grandpa, Granny and Gramp--the names don’t matter; neither do their ethnicities, religions, or where they lived. What truly matters are the feelings and emotions that the utterance of those names evoke. What I want most for our audience to experience is the sheer joy in remembering our grandparents because this play is a love letter to grandparents everywhere!
R: What’s next for you after this?
V: Ha! Maybe I’ll become a grandma one of these days! Oh, you mean theatre-wise? We’ll see. Time will tell.
Mary E. Regan, Columnist, is a Publicist with her ProPublicist consultancy. Story ideas? Email: Mary@ProPublicist.com.