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An Interview with Playwright Mary Fengar Gail

By Gary Wien

What do you think Touch of Rapture is about?
I think it's about love and loss. It's the idea of possessing a gift and passing it on. I've actually have always been fascinated by genetics and the idea that people will be customizing their babies and someday they may find the genetic marker for gifts such as being a musician or a painter or mathematician; someone's destiny will be completely figured out for them before they're even born. So I thought, what if a gift could be passed through shear will? And that's the impetus of the play. Also there's a red cloth that goes from scene to scene and it's about how we perceive an object. They've discovered that the person perceiving the object actually affects the object at a subatomic level. All of these ideas coalesced in my mind - my demented mind - and became this play.

Was there a particular reason that you have the play set in London?
Well, one of the characteristics of the English people is eccentricity, so I thought it would be more fun to have it take place there. There's also a big sculpture movement in England; a very active art world. And I'm allowed a lot more liberties with regards to language. I can use words like bullocks. It's a wonderful language that I couldn't use if it took place in New York.

The other thing I like is a heightened passion that takes me to unfamiliar worlds. If the characters have English accents and a kind of slanted speech it asks the audience to listen in a different way. And maybe they'll enter the whole fantastical world... Or maybe they'll resist but it's more fun for me.

The laughs in Touch Of Rapture seem to grow larger as the play moves on.
I think people need to get comfortable with the play and each other and give themselves permission to laugh. It is a comic drama.

The play is very much based in fantasy but plot driven as well.
Aristotle said the essence of drama is story and I think he means plot. I have to admit I do love plot. Look at the shows on tv that are successful - shows like Law & Order - and they're plot driven. So, because I love story I do put the story element in my plays. And sometimes it takes me a long time to figure out what the story exactly is but the characters are clear and they help write the story.

I'm just grateful when anybody agrees to my run with my perversions. I don't think I write in the normal, more conventional-linear-sequential- domestic-realism style. I prefer a more fantastical theatre and not everyone's willing to enter my demented world.

Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.

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originally published: 02/01/2005



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