David Greenspan: Other Mother's Day

In off-Broadway's Coraline playwright-performer David Greenspan pokes gender conventions in the black-button eye.

BY Brandon Voss

June 09 2009 12:00 AM ET

CORALINE 02 X390 (JOAN MARCUS) | ADVOCATE.COM

Advocate.com: As the musical's book writer, what were the biggest challenges in bringing Coraline from Gaiman's novel to the stage?
David Greenspan: I wanted to preserve the plot, so it was a matter of compressing the piece without losing the flavor of the novel, which is delightfully macabre. I also needed to find a theatrical vernacular that I was comfortable with, which was one that was not dependent on stage machinery, technical embellishments, or amplified voices. And I wanted to give it a sense of theatrical wit so that the wit of the book translated to the theatrical nature of the event.

When Stephin Merritt asked you to collaborate on this musical, were you always set to star as Other Mother?
That happened after. He first approached me just about adapting it, but we toyed around with the idea of a man playing Other Mother at one point. Then we planned a reading and offered the role to a number of actresses, who all, for one reason or another, couldn't do it that day. I had had it in my mind that it would be fun to read it myself, and I did get a shot. Stephin was delighted by it and was very interested in my continuing in that capacity.

What are the benefits of having a man play Other Mother?
It reinforces the artificiality of the presentation. Leigh, who is such a sensitive and intelligent director, picked up on that right away, and the result is in the untraditional approach to casting. I'm not the only man playing a female character. We've cast without regard to gender, ethnicity, or age, which reinforces a sense of pretend, and that's an intrinsic part of the theatergoing experience to begin with. And in the English pantos it was normal for a man to play an old lady, so it seemed appropriate.

Tags: Theater

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