In this scene from the play Devoured By Tigers, Ruth Harper (Nancy Marcy) prepares for a planned family meeting with Vicki (Margaret Shelby) to discuss her youngest daughter's drinking problem.
Devoured By Tigers is one of the more than 350 performances in this year's KC Fringe Festival, which kicks off on July 18, 2013.
Interview Highlights: Taylor St. John and Michael Ruth
On taking a 'leap of faith'
"This play was created specifically for the (KC) Fringe Festival. This process was a big leap of faith for everyone involved because when I first approached (playwright) Michael Ruth all that existed was a very short ten-minute play that (in collaboration with the cast) has been crafted into a rich hour-long drama," says Taylor St. John, director of Devoured By Tigers. "Michael has a way of writing very recognizable characters that struggle with the memory, guilt, and addictions that affect all families. Ultimately, these are characters that you really care about."
On trust and confidence providing inspiration
"This past winter, Taylor (St. John) approached me to collaborate for Fringe, and I gave him two of those scripts which I was most interested in developing. He chose one of them," says Michael Ruth, the author of Devoured By Tigers. "I said, 'Give me some time to write a full-length draft and then you can decide if you want to continue working together.' And he said, 'I like your writing and I trust that whatever you write I will want to direct and produce.' I was simply astounded at the confidence and trust, and it really inspired me to create something for us to both be proud of.”
On building a play as an ensemble
“What made the process so exciting for me as a director was to have the actors and playwright all together in the same room asking ‘What if this happened?’ well before we went into rehearsals," says St. John. “The entire idea of building a play with an ensemble has been really alive for us as a group.”
On tapping cast members early in the process
“We identified some potential cast members early on, because we knew the play would go through several stages of development and we wanted to match the actresses to their roles as the parts were getting fleshed out," says Ruth. "In early spring we gathered the cast to read through the script, then we would talk about what was missing from the story, where the logical gaps were, and what was needed to firmly develop the characters and their story arcs. Then I would go home and re-write.”
On the impact of addiction
"I am troubled and fascinated with the impact that addiction has on families," says Ruth. "The desire to help is so strong, but the ability to help is so limited. In the end, there is so much frustration and pain, more than a non-family member would endure."