The Moors :: Juxtaposing The Old and The New

by Lisa Lipsey

Rage Monthly

Monday November 6, 2017

Is it true that everything old is new? Perhaps everything is just old? Maybe just timeless? The issues, relationships, the story of humankind? Playwright Jen Silverman investigates this concept in her play "The Moors," the recipient of a 2015 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.

By set and costume, the show takes place in the 1800s, but it is written with modern, current conversation. Director Lisa Berger admits, "That has been

the biggest challenge... and reward, of working on this show. Fortunately for us, Artistic Director Matt Morrow has a relationship with the playwright and early on in the process, he introduced us and I am trying to take advantage of that."

The show is billed as a classic Bronte sister's work. "Among the bleakest of moors, two spinster sisters dwell in their aggressively gloomy mansion with their brother, a mastiff and their maid-in-waiting. When a governess arrives, her presence threatens to unleash lethal secrets and raging desires in a home held together by lies and etiquette. A radical riff on 19th Century romantic novels and the sisters who conceived them, 'The Moors' is a riotous and wild comedy, pulsating with vivid, macabre glee that has more in common with the present than the period."

"One of the questions I asked was about this seemingly period piece, which is actually a current conversation. I love the combination and the actors and I are having a wonderful experience. They are rehearsing in petticoats and hoop skirts, it automatically puts you into a formal, period, kind of speaking. Jen [Silverman] in her e-mail message, told me 'It is really important to not play the period, to allow it to be more contemporary in sound,' she wants that juxtaposition," said Berger.

"The themes of this play, all are conversation we have been having for a while and still resonate today. Women were (not just women, all of us, as human beings) longing for visibility, to be heard and seen. The period costuming and set is a visual reminder to the audience that none of this is new. The play also has a big idea about our civilized self versus our wildness self and how to reconcile the two. I have been calling it 'a satire with a hard turn.' The show is very funny, but it also has this deeper river running through it about loneliness and longing and desire... it is, of course, romantic," explains Berger. "I am hoping this play, with its wonderful many layers, has audiences walking away having a conversation."

Aside from her director hat, Berger is an actor and teacher who received her MFA from the University of Montana and is also a graduate of The William

Esper Studio in New York City She currently teaches at Mira Costa College, City College and University of San Diego. She is co-artistic director of Meisner/ Chekhov Integrated Training Studio. Her San Diego directing credits include "When It Comes" (The Old Globe, workshop) "Skeleton Crew" (The

Old Globe, reading), "The Car Plays: Incident Row" (Wow Festival); "The Car Plays: We Wait" (La Jolla Playhouse, Moving Arts) "The Whale" (reading; La Jolla Playhouse), "Paper Cities" (La Jolla Playhouse) "Parlour Song" (Backyard Renaissance) "Anatomy of Gray," "Eurydice" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" (USD), "The Collector" (Animal Cracker Conspiracy) "Righteous Exploits" (So Say We All), "A Behanding in Spokane" (Cygnet Theatre) "Buried Child," "Simpatico," "Things We Want" (New Village Arts), "Killer Joe" (Compass Theatre) (Patte Award), "Miss Julie" (Stone Soup), "Crimes of the Heart" and "Anonymous" (Canyon Crest Academy), "Buried Child" (UCSD), "The Long Christmas Ride" Home (Patte Award), and "Looking for Normal" (Diversionary Theatre).

"Theatre is an extraordinary thing," she says. "I have been doing this since I was a kiddo really. When I figured out how to skip like Oz's Dorothy, I said, 'Let's put on a parade!' just so I could skip down the street like her. I was an actor as an undergrad and then moved into directing and when I lived in New York, studying under Meisner. Honestly, I wouldn't know how to do anything else, it is so much a part of who I am. My husband is an actor, so we carved out this life that is important to us, so much of who we are is wrapped up in creating," says Berger.

Speaking of creating, Berger and her husband Mike received a Creative Catalyst Grant about a year and a half ago. "In February, we will present a new show at the Cygnet Theatre my husband and I wrote when we were working with the Old Globe. It is a modern folk tale about our experiences around trying to have a child. They have a wonderful program, they provide finishing grants to help people bring to life a show that is close to venue ready, and make sure it is seen and heard. The show is titled The Price of Peace and includes puppetry which I love, love, love. It has a lot of fantastical elements, it is a metaphorical telling," continues Berger.

"The Moors" runs Thursday, November 9 through Sunday, December 10 at Diversionary Theatre. For tickets and more information, call 619.220.0097 or go to

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