Georgia Clark's Arts Mixtape
Hungary for More
A Hungarian family must confront the post-communist, Americanized world that has drastically altered their lives…and their deaths.
Sabrina and her divided Hungarian kin struggle violently against the infiltration of fast food, designer clothing, infidelity, assimilation and uncompromising youth. Photo by Biz Urban.
The Theater at 30th Street
259 West 30th St, NYC
October 17 – November 7, 2009
Tickets $18. Information 212-868-4444 and www.electricpear.org
There's nothing like good family drama. Throw in multiple generations, death, and a rich culture and you've got "Balaton", the world premiere play by Ashlin Halfnight. Directed by Kristjan Thor, "Balaton" jumpstarts the new season at Electric Pear Productions. We spoke with playwright Ashlin Halfnight for a behind-the-scenes look at this show.
Q: What inspired you to write "Balaton"?
A:I spent a year in Budapest in an artisan residence at the National Theater. "Balaton" was born out of an interview I did with a friend of mine - he is essentially the inspiration for the play. He was living in Budapest at the time and was a very intelligent, articulate guy. He was hamstrung in terms of financial prospects, as a young Budapestian guy, and also the lure of the western economy, mostly American. He battles with his mother in particular about his way of life and his ideas vs. hers. His father was an Olympic athlete who died when he was young. He was a very rich person in terms of experiences and life stories. It was an eye-opener for me listening to him.
Q: "Balaton" is presented with the support of the Extremely Hungary Festival. Can you tell me a bit about what this Festival is?
A: In the city over the past year, a number of cultural institutions have presented a lot of post-communist country work that commemorates the 20 years that have passed since the wall falling. The Extremely Hungary Festival is the more Hungarian-specific version of that general trend. It's meant to be a celebration of Hungarian culture and awareness raising of the fact that there are many Hungarians in the city and there is a rich culture that comes out of the country.
Q: The play is set in the "tenuous afterlife." What exactly does this mean, and did the setting present any challenges in the production of the show?
A: Yes, it certainly did. One of the biggest points was sort of defining the physical space of the play. The afterlife being contested and difficult to define, it presented the single biggest challenge. Establishing the rules of the world was also a big challenge- being able to be clear about the rules of the afterlife in any particular case.
Q: Can you share any interesting or funny moments in the preparations of the production?
A: I teach at a middle school, and two girls that are in the play are actually actors in their own right but also students of mine at the school. I think they've been both really shocked at how I take off the teacher hat and put on the playwright hat. It's slightly a different relationship and there have been times were they've been like, "Oh my god, you swore!" and I've said, "What happens in this room stays in this room, you're not allowed to tell anybody back at school that I said the 'f' word." But I think above all everyone's been having a good time. It's an interesting cast with a wide age range. They've all been doing a fantastic job.
Interview by Diana Christine
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