Thesis Play: Lauren Wiener’s Count to Ten and Repeat

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The Trinty Tripod recently spoke to senior Lauren Wiener about her upcoming production Count to Ten and Repeat premiering March 7 and 8 at Austin Arts Center. The play is “a memory play about a relationship between a Girl and Boy,” and seeks to answer the following question: “No matter how much we want it to, do things ever really change or will the cycle always repeat?”

Trinity Tripod: What’s your major/minor?

Lauren Wiener: “I am a double major in Film Studies and Theater and Dance (concentration in Writing and Directing).”

TT: What was your inspiration for writing “Count to Ten and Repeat”?

LW: “The idea of it had been ruminating in my head for a little while but came to full form the fall semester of my junior year in my Writing for Stage and Screen class with Professor Mitch Polin. He played a song from Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’ and asked us to write to it. The song gave me the inspiration that I needed to put thought onto paper. The piece that resulted from this assignment is what I chose to extend on for my thesis.”

TT: How does it investigate human relationships, actions and the cyclical nature of life?

LW: “It is really a memory play about human relationships, and in my play in particular, a romantic relationship between a Girl and Boy. I think it’s pretty common for people to wish they could repeat a moment and have it turn out differently. The majority of people daydream and in our heads we can rewrite situations that happened in real life or imagine what could have happened instead of what did. Though some people recognize that it is only a daydream, there are many people who do keep trying to relive a moment, wanting it to be different this time. Thus, my play questions whether or not it can be different and if people can in fact change.”

TT: What do you want the audience to gain from your piece?

LW:“I know it sounds cliché but I want the audience to gain whatever they need to gain from my piece. It is open to interpretation and I want people to be able to connect to the characters and theme freely. For me, as long as people come out of it with things to think about, then I’ve considered my job well done as a playwright.”

TT: How long did it take you to write, and how long have you been rehearsing for?

LW: “I wrote it in pieces, more whenever inspiration would hit me, so it took about a year and half, on and off. We started rehearsals a week after we got back from winter break and have been rehearsing since.”

TT: What were you looking for when casting your own characters?

LW: “Casting can definitely be hard when you have such a specific vision of your characters, so it was trying to find people who could do what I imagined but also bring their own take on the character. I got lucky because the spring of last year, I was working with Caitlin Southwick for Disintegration Loops III and knew immediately that I wanted her as the lead, so as I was continuing to write the script, I had her in the back of my mind. I actually didn’t cast Will Tjeltveit until this past winter break so it was really close. But I had seen him act before and thought he was really great and then he nailed his audition, so I got very lucky with both of my actors.”

TT: Have you ever directed before?

LW: “I took a Directing class my freshman year so had directing experience before and then last spring, I assistant directed the spring play, Disintegration Loops III, with Professor Mitch Polin, so I definitely had experience before this, but this was my first big project that I wrote and directed.”

TT: What was it like directing your own work? Were there any conflicts, frustrations in portraying it the way you initially envisioned it? Did anything change during the process?

LW: “It’s interesting directing my own work because I have spent so much time with these characters, imagining how they would say each line, that to then try and convey that to your actors can be difficult. But though I had a specific vision, I still very much wanted my actors to explore their characters because I think that’s very important. I want them to make the characters their own as well, and often they come up with things you hadn’t envisioned but you like what they’re doing more, so things definitely changed throughout the process.

In fact, at the beginning of the rehearsal process, the script changed as well, with me cutting one big scene and then rearranging the order of scenes. That was a big change that I hadn’t been expecting but made much more sense. Whenever I write, I always think of the phrase, “Kill your darlings,” because though it’s often very hard to cut material that you love, it is usually for the best and will only help your piece. The whole process is about being flexible and not restricting yourself to what you originally envisioned.”

Count to Ten and Repeat starts at 7:30 p.m. on March 7 and 8 at Austin Arts Center, written and directed by Lauren Wiener ’18 and starring Caitlin Southwick, ’20, and Will Tjeltveit, ’20.

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