In the slide show above, Wesley Savick talks about the process of writing Miss Margaret LaRue in “Milwaukee.”
Hamlet’s line “The play’s the thing” is often quoted, but the marrying line of the couplet, “wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” usually vanishes. Hamlet was trying to trap his father’s killer, and theater large and small always tries to goad an audience — inspiration, agitation, contemplation, anything so long as there’s movement out there. All year, examples of that emerged in and around BU; this week, we revisit some of those “things.”
Wesley Savick is interested in plays that stir the imagination.
But “that’s a tricky business,” says Savick, writer and director of Miss Margaret LaRue in “Milwaukee,” produced last fall at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. After all, he says, “our society is used to being spoonfed how we should think or feel about virtually everything.”
Savick (GRS’08) says the play never mentions Milwaukee, his hometown, and that’s the point: its location could be anywhere. “Lots of people have Milwaukees in their past, whether it’s Cleveland, Minneapolis, or what have you,” he says. “Milwaukee itself becomes a metaphor for places we’ve left behind for the promise of other places.”
During one Christmas visit home, Savick was struck by a sense of loss, one of the major themes of the play. “I sat down and wrote this in a kind of fever dream in the course of no longer than a week,” he says. “And images, characters, situations, and evocations came out.”
What guided him, he says, was a group of very good friends in Milwaukee. And the characters are distinctly Midwestern. “But they are not simpletons,” he says. “What they say masks their complexity.”
Savick, an associate professor of theater at Suffolk University, has directed more than 55 professional plays, including Walker, by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, a retired College of Arts & Sciences professor and the founder of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Savick has been artistic director of Theatre X in Milwaukee and was an artist-in-residence at the DARTS/Subaru Theatre in Tokyo.
He recently earned a master’s degree in the GRS Creative Writing Program. “I relished the discipline of having classes and structure — it served to accelerate my process and, in some way, my ambitions to write,” he says. “And the program is very lavish in that it hires professional Boston actors to read, so you get a strong sense of how well your writing works.”
The play’s cast and crew included several Boston University alumni and students, among them Steven Barkhimer (GRS’08), Jeremy Barnett (CFA’09), Shannon Garland (CFA’10), Evan Sanderson (CFA’10), Aaron Sherkow (CFA’11), and Kate Snodgrass (GRS’90), artistic director of the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and a Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow, who made her Boston stage debut.
Robin Berghaus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally ran October 16, 2008.