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Tacoma Arts Live Presents...Tribes Podcast Transcript

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David Fischer:              Hi. Welcome to a podcast from Tacoma Arts Live. My name is David Fischer. I'm Executive Director and co-producing artistic director at Tacoma Arts Live. This podcast is the beginning of a series of programs that will focus on our theater production work. There'll be four of these programs a year, and we'll dive into a specific production and the social positioning of each show. Today's episode is about Tribes by Nina Raine, and it's running November 4th through 21st at Tacoma's Theater on the Square. Today we'll be joined by director Louis Hobson, and the lead in the show, Michelle Mary Schaefer. We'll have a special interpretation, ASL interpretation and voicing for Michelle by Natalie Collins.

 We'd like to thank our sponsor, Columbia Bank, for this series, for their support. We really appreciate Columbia Bank and all they do in our community. They're a generous sponsor of nonprofits. I'd also like to acknowledge Brett Carr, who is our partner in theater production, and he serves as co-producing artistic director as well.

So, this program has really come about because over the past 12 years or so, Tacoma Arts Live has been producing live theater, on and off, with special projects. Finally, about two years ago, our board of trustees said, "You know, it's going really well. Why don't we make this a permanent expansion to our programs? And it will produce, consistently, live theater four times a year." So we launched this program in the fall of 2018 with a consistent four shows per year, all the way until the pandemic kind of shut us down for a while. But now we are so excited to be back and producing live theater at a professional level for the South Sound region.

We have a special vision for the work that we do. One part of that is really important to me. It's that we share the curatorial leadership among Pacific Northwest professionals with a deep and significant invitation to members of our BIPOC community. What we mean by that is, as we think about the plays that we're going to produce, we include our community of theater professionals. We have deep debate and dialogue. We do special readings so that we can hear the play out loud by actors before we make decisions. Then everybody gets to give their voice to those decisions.

Finally, we make the decisions based on a really dynamic and diverse set of goals that we have so that we're representing the broadest spectrum of humanity and our community. Of course, we still have to run a business. So we get all the inputs, we make the decisions, but with a lot of advice, and that gets me and Brett out of being the curator on high. Neither one of us want to play that role. So it's a great way for us to involve a bigger base in the community.

We're committed to producing plays that engage empathy, spark community conversations, broaden understanding, and of course bring joy, sometimes challenge, laughter, and catharsis to the audience. And because of Tacoma Creates, the voter approved tax support program for culture in Tacoma, we have new capacity for involving more community via a special ticket subsidy that we offer from free, to $5 a ticket, to $10 a ticket. So it's a way that we have more and more people involved.

Well, it's great to have our guests here today. They are Louis Hobson, as I mentioned, he is director of the show, and our lead, Michelle Mary Schaefer, the actress. So, let's get to know them a little bit. Maybe we'll start with Louis. This show was ready to go up and hit the boards in March of 2020. We went right at about 90 miles an hour into that brick wall called the pandemic, having to cut the show short for a while. We went back and forth thinking, "It's going to be fine. We'll just give it a week." A month.

Louis Hobson:             Two weeks.

David Fischer:              Two months.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah, just another couple of weeks.

David Fischer:              Exactly.

Louis Hobson:             It's all going to blow over.

David Fischer:              I got to say, you have been spectacular as a leader for this project.

Louis Hobson:             Thank you.

David Fischer:              It's been wonderful to get to work with you. Talk about throwing you curve balls, but you've just done such a great job. Tell us, you grew up here in Tacoma?

Louis Hobson:             Yeah. I actually grew up in Puyallup.

David Fischer:              In Puyallup.

Louis Hobson:             I went to Rogers High School. I went to school at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. My first apartment outside of school was at the Artist Lofts right next to the Harmon building, when there were still drug deals happening and prostitutes outside of our door. We love Tacoma. We've been here, with the exception of when we were living in New York, when I was working out there, we've lived in Tacoma the entire time. I've commuted back and forth from Seattle. People wonder, "Why do you live in Tacoma?" I'm like, "Well, because Tacoma's awesome. I have no desire to live anywhere else." Up until we started rehearsals for Tribes, I hadn't actually worked in Tacoma as an actor or a director or anything else. It's an absolute gift. I feel absolutely thrilled to be working in the same place that I live.

David Fischer:              That's great. Well, I have a goal to keep you more employed here in between all of your other gigs all over the country and all over the world.

Louis Hobson:             Thank you.

David Fischer:              So you have a number of creative projects. You have your own company. Tell us about that.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah. I'm multi-hyphenated. I kind of do a little bit of everything and I've been doing this for 25 years. After I graduated from college, I started working immediately doing theater in Olympia. Then in Seattle I worked at The 5th Avenue and I did 20 something shows up there. Then moved out to New York. I was also kind of working as an agent as well, because my wife owned a talent agency that she owned and operated in Tacoma. So I was doing sort of that on the side and I also do woodworking and I have my hands in a lot of different things, but acting was my primary thing.

I moved out to New York in 2008 and my first audition got really lucky and I got into the cast of Next to Normal, which is a Broadway musical, became a Broadway musical. We went out of town to DC and then came back into the city in 2009 and opened to very critical success and acclaim. The show won a couple of Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Then I did a few more Broadway shows out there and then became interested in producing.

I was always asking our producers what the billboards cost in Times Square, and I was really interested in the business side of things and worked my way into a couple of projects as a casting associate or a production associate on a show, and came out here to run a theater company in Seattle and then started my own company. Now we're working with Disney Theatrical on a new musical called The Song of Bernadette. We just dropped an album this week that we produced, Burt Bacharach's, first theater album since 1963, his Promises, Promises show that he did then. We did a show called Some Lovers that we produced Upstate New York a few years ago, and we just dropped the album this week. So I have my hands in like a billion different things, and it's amazing to be here in Tacoma working on this project. This is like my dream to work on this show. It's been fantastic and a humbling, wonderful experience.

David Fischer:              Great. I love theater folk because we can multitasks so well, and that's probably not the best description. Multi-project so well, because that's how we grow up. I mean, you're either in a show rehearsing, auditioning for the next one, closing the one that you're in, reading, participating in creative development, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So you are living and breathing that now. I just love the fact that you're based here in Tacoma. You have your family here?

Louis Hobson:             Yes. I have my wife and my three kids. We're here most of the time. They do travel with me occasionally. I haven't been traveling much in the last two years, obviously, but yeah, they get to go with me every once in a while, but home base is here, family is here, friends are here.

David Fischer:              Well, I'm just so delighted that you joined us in the first place and have stuck with us as we've been paused for the pandemic and now are coming back to life. So thank you so much for everything. Well, let's get to know Michelle Mary Schaefer. Michelle is an actress who's performed all over the country. Michelle, where did you go to school? Where did you grow up? As we talk to Michelle, I just remind our audience that Natalie Collins is interpreting ASL as Michelle is signing.

Michelle Mary Schaefer      So I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and I have done stuff in New York. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology. I studied theater at the Community College of Baltimore County, and that's in Essex, Maryland. That's where I studied theater in the beginning. So my whole job is to learn about theater, but I also got a degree in finance and communication as well. So I've got a BS degree. Then after that is when I went to Rochester Institute of Technology and I was studying deaf education there. But I decided that was just not for me, my heart wasn't in it. My heart is in theater and film. So I decided to go back to my first love from the beginning.

David Fischer:              So tell us a little bit about your experience working in the theater, emerging as an actor and a deaf person together. How has that journey been and what has been the most important thing for you to [00:12:00] sort of represent and carry, so that the hearing community can better understand what's going on?

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        So my journey, I'm an actor and obviously I'm deaf, but first of all, I'm a human. We all are. Yes, I happen to be deaf, but my deafness is not in any way going to stop my dreams. So it's just an added challenge. There's discrimination, there's oppression, there's bullying from people, even directors, cast members. So I feel like I've been very lucky and very blessed being around a lot of wonderful people who recognize my skill and my desire, and coming to different roles, I feel like there are a lot of opportunities for deaf people. So there's a lot of authentic stories to be told for deaf people and for us to be represented. So I just cherish that challenge.

David Fischer:              You are doing a magnificent job in this production and the rehearsals that I've sat in on. You have also played in plays that are not about a deaf experience. That's another kind of opportunity, it seems to me, for you to let your humanity [00:14:00] show up and show the complexity that has nothing to do with the fact that you're being deaf. Right? I know you were in a production of Hamlet, but some other projects too. So what's that been like and is that different than being in a play that focused on the deaf?

Michelle Mary Schaefer       So when I get a role that's not focused on the deaf, like you said, with Hamlet, I mean, we're talking powerful because that role is not about hearing. It's not about being deaf. It's about the character, the humanity of that character, the feelings, the emotions of Hamlet. Same as with Hannah in another play that I did, Sarah. It was about fear and it wasn't about deafness. It was a beautiful play. Again, like I said, it wasn't about deafness. It's just, I love playing characters. They don't have to be deaf. It's just a small portion of who I am, and the same with Tribes and Children of a Lesser God. Those are very important to teach and show relationships about understanding and communicating. It's not necessarily about the deafness. It's about whether people can understand me. So that's the kind of theater that I like to do.

I think it's time for a lot more plays and projects to be written by deaf people. So it's time. It's time. That is something I've been working on. I think we need to share more stories about our culture and our lived experience, compared with hearing people, and a lot of hearing people just don't know those stories.

David Fischer:              Right. Well, it also, what I love about what you're saying, is that it's this beautiful opportunity to confront a hearing audience with a different way of hearing, with a different way of experiencing humanity. That because they're not hearing, they have to work a little harder and that gets them sort of leaning into the narrative, leaning into what's going on. I think it's able to touch people in a different way. Have you found that to be the case, and what's that been like?

Michelle Mary Schaefer       So I like for the audiences to not ... Sometimes they're thinking yes, I mean, it's what they're doing, but I want them to sit there and really, if you're watching somebody signing and not speaking, they start to get a little uncomfortable. I like to let that happen for a moment because then people are like, "Well, okay, what's going on?" Because they're very focused on their ears and sound and not so much on what they're seeing with their eyes. You know what I mean?

David Fischer:              I do, and in truth silence on stage often more powerful than anything else. It can capture the attention of an audience more than almost anything else I can think of.

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        Absolutely.

David Fischer:              So you're a bit of a itinerant actor, like most actors, right? You are moving around the country to different projects. Now you have moved back to Tacoma. We're so happy to have you back with Annabel, your service dog, who is about the sweetest thing in the entire world I've ever seen. But that is a certain kind of life, of being on the road a lot. Is there a place that you feel really anchored and that you love to come back to, and maybe is there a place that you love to go to and escape?

Michelle Mary Schaefer       So I've been blessed to come back to the Pacific Northwest for the last five shows I've done here. Pacific Northwest is always going to be a home and a special place for me. I feel a very strong connection with this place. There's just something about the Pacific Northwest, I don't know what it is. I mean, you can attest to that, Louis, and you too. I just think here. I feel like my heart just is very connected to this area. Where to escape? I don't know. I would like to do some artistic theater and perhaps film. I would love to work in London.

David Fischer:              Great. We'll put that out in the universe here for you. We have four people here in the room who are completely dedicated to the Pacific Northwest and got to love that. Okay. Well, let's talk a little bit about this play in particular. So this play, again, is Tribes by Nina Raine. Louis, why don't you tell us where you're coming from and how you are thinking of this play?

Louis Hobson:             All right. Well, the play is about this family, a Jewish family in England, that has a deaf child. In the original script, it's a deaf son, but we started the process being open for gender for a lot of these roles. And also approached some color conscious casting on one of the roles, and just being completely open for what this play could be in this moment, in this time. But the play in first reading it felt a tremendous responsibility to, especially in this moment, to represent deaf culture correctly. This is a play by a hearing artist for a hearing audience, but we've endeavored to create an experience that is intersectional, both for our hearing audience and our deaf audience. It's not going to be perfect. It's not only for a deaf audience. It's not only for a hearing audience. But we're trying to create something that is rich and powerful and of substance for people coming at it from different angles.

The play has a lot of amazing, wonderful themes that I think are incredibly relevant to today. This idea of tribalism in this family in different cultures, like deaf culture, conservative, liberal, there's so many different Tribes that are sort of carved out in this play that I think is relevant and parallel to what's happening in the world that we live in now, and how language helps define these different tribes.

David Fischer:              Or divide them.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah, or divides them. I mean, language is like a hammer. It can be used as a tool. It can be used as a weapon. I think this play is so much about language. But I think in really diving into the play and looking at what's underneath of everything, to me, Tribes is about not just language, but communication.

I had this great acting teacher in New York who used to say to me that the mind doesn't have words. The mind doesn't have words. I chewed on that for a long time. I wrote it down in my journal. The mind doesn't have like letters and words in there, I don't think, for me anyway. It's ideas, it's emotions, it's notions that we then attach to these sounds and syllables and consonants that becomes language. But how do we get that thing that's inside of us, especially for a character that hasn't been given a language? How do they communicate and how do we communicate with one another?

I speak English, I hear, I'm not a deaf person, I haven't grown up in a deaf household. I have problems communicating what's inside of me using my language. Some of the words like love don't really make sense to me, because I love sandwiches, and I love my wife, and I love my children, and I love ice cream. Love is the same word every single time. There's something inside of each of us that needs to get out and communicate it to another person, and I think that that's the beauty of this play, is all these people are seeking connection, seeking to communicate.

David Fischer:              It also seems to me that the family, particularly the parents, are working really hard to keep the family behind a wall. In some ways that wall has meant that one of the characters is not thriving academically or thriving in his job. Another one is, I mean, they're walking around in their robes and underwear throughout a lot of the show. And we should say for families, it is a salty play. There is a lot of spicy language in this play. Part of that from the tribalism is that we develop our own rules within the family. But I guess where I was going with the wall is in a way they wall off Billy from creating another tribe. Is that kind of how you see it, Michelle? As we talk to Michelle, I just remind our audio that Natalie Collins is interpreting ASL as Michelle is signing.

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        Yeah. I have a lot of thoughts about the play. So there's a lot of deaf and hard of hearing people, kids and adults [00:25:30] who grow up with hearing parents. So this story will obviously resonate with those people. So Billy's family, similar to my family ... No, not really, but there's a lot of emotion with different kinds of theater, and [00:26:00] there's some empowerment and open-mindedness that comes with understanding that the family that we have is part of everyone's story. So that connects all of us to get other. So I think it helps people to maybe accept one another and respect each other. So that's kind of what I get from Tribes.

David Fischer:              That's great. I think that is one of the big outcomes. It's kind of a long road to get there. As I was saying, the parents have made this choice and I don't know, Louis, do you think they're in some ways making the choice to wall off the family to protect them?

Louis Hobson:             Yes. I think it's worth noting, just as you walk into the theater and you're sitting down for the first time, that the synopsis sort of at the play is that the family has chosen not to let Billy learn sign language. She must learn to communicate with people using her voice and by reading their lips. So she's sort of been walled off from this deaf community because her family feels like she's not going to grow as a human being. She needs to learn how to live in the world, and not this sort of deaf world that is somehow adjacent to their experience and their world. All that sort of changes, the world is sort of turned upside down for her when she meets Sylvia at a deaf function that she meets early on in the play, who is hard of hearing. And we find this out throughout the play that because of a genetic condition, she's losing her hearing and she'll, over the course of the play, she loses the ability to hear.

So they sort of trade ... Well, not even trade places in the sense. Sylvia knows ASL and teaches Billy ASL. And Sylvia's sort of losing her footing because she's lost this thing that she's been so used to, and not quite ready to enter the deaf world. So it's an interesting sort of exploration and I think it's worth noting that we reached out to a lot of people within the deaf community on this to make sure that we got input from the deaf community, because I am not deaf, and I didn't grow up CODA, I'm not hard of hearing. But I wanted to bring that perspective into the room as much as we can. We are bringing in a director of ASL. We have several interpreters that will be on stage, not to the side. At every single performance, we have projections of text. We've really tried to make this as intersectional as possible in bringing in as much of that perspective as possible.

David Fischer:              Let's talk a little bit about the choice of bringing the ASL interpreters into the action of the play, because that's fairly unusual.

Louis Hobson:             Well, if you've been to theater, usually there's one or two performances where you'll see two interpreters way off to the side lit that are signing, that are interpreting what the characters are saying on stage. One of the first things that we sort of asked is like, "Well, if we want this piece to be intersectional and accessible to a deaf audience, then every single performance should have that interpreter or multiple interpreters to make the show accessible to them." Then we went one step further and said, "Well, what if they're on stage and they're part of the play rather than something off to the side as like an accommodation?" Right? There's a difference between making an accommodation and making something intersectional and accessible. So that was one of the first choices that we made.

Then artistically, we started to ask the question of like, "Well, what things should be interpreted through sign? What things should be up on the screen as text?" Obviously when the characters of Billy and Sylvia are signing, the hearing audience who doesn't, and maybe even some of the deaf audience that don't sign, let's say that that's also a possibility, that we wanted that to be visible and understandable to the audience. So we've sort of chosen to use both modalities and also comfortable with uncomfortability. I think Michelle said when hearing people are around people who are signing, they don't know what's going on. They get a little uncomfortable, and that's okay and that's good. So there's a few moments in the play where Billy and Sylvia are signing, and unless you know ASL, you're not going to know what they're saying, and that's okay.

David Fischer:              Right. Again, the audience leaning in, even with confusion or a desire to learn.

Louis Hobson:             Yes, because the deaf audience is sitting in the audience in a much bigger boat that they aren't picking up everything. Our point is not to sign every single word in the play, not to interpret every single word in the play, because there's so much crosstalk. The point in this piece is that there's so much language, that these people like to talk and they like to talk over each other, and they're not actually communicating sometimes. They just like the sound of their own voices. So the task has sort of been to pair down and figure out what stuff is essential for interpreting.

David Fischer:              Making those choices I think is such a great way, as I've been saying, to get the audience to perk up and stay engaged. If everything is spoonfed across the spectrum, it's like, there's no curiosity. There's no engagement and excitement and trying to figure out, as an audience member, what's going on. In this play, with so many characters, and so much history behind all of those characters, there is a lot going on in this thing. So I think it's fantastic.

Louis Hobson:             Well, and I'm just interested in Michelle's perspective too. We talked about this when we sat down in New York before we started rehearsals, because I was curious as to how do you like to consume theater? We talked about Deaf West, which famously does musicals with interpreters behind the actors. You had said something interesting about that you'd rather watch the show with your phone up, because you'll have the text rolling across your phone. Rather than watching the interpreters, because that's another layer of performance. You'd rather watch the actors. Am I remembering that incorrectly?

David Fischer:              As we talk to Michelle, I just remind our audience that Natalie Collins is interpreting ASL as Michelle is signing.

Michelle Mary Schaefer       No, that's correct. You're right. So for me, I personally would rather watch the actors with text captions so that I understand what the line is and then I can watch what the actor is doing. So often with like Deaf West, I mean, it's very cool that they have the shadowing, but then you miss some stuff. With an interpreter off to the side, that's problematic because why even go to the theater? Because then you're just looking over at the interpreter and not the actors. So deaf and hard of hearing people don't necessarily like to go to the theater because they miss out on the actors and what's happening on stage, because they're watching the interpreter.

So interpreters on stage, I like that idea. You're able to see both the interpreter and the actor. I mean, I want people to see me. That's just me. That's how I like to watch theater. Like I said, I'm very focused on watching the action on stage, because I want to see how the actor becomes that character, and it helps me become a better actor.

David Fischer:              I think the hearing audience can connect with these ideas a little bit for those who have attended opera with subtitles or supertitles, how difficult and frustrating that is to be looking up, trying to get the interpretation of the line, not miss the emotions coming at you, and being torn at that all the time. That's the experience you have all the time with signing, right? So I get that. You want the details of the content and the emotions of the content at the same time.

Michelle Mary Schaefer...       Yes. Yeah, and it's very challenging [00:35:30] to please everyone. So, that is an issue.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah. You can't please everyone. But we're going to try.

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        Absolutely.

Louis Hobson:             The other interesting thing that we worked on in this, and this was sort of a discovery in the rehearsal process when we were talking to our interpreters, and one of them was CODA, child of a deaf adult, and they grew up hearing, but in a deaf family. One of the things that they were really interested in working on was interpreting music. There is a lot of music, the playwright uses classical music specifically for most part as transitional things, as ... There's this idea of like orchestral music, where all these instruments are playing on top of each other that I think she's using as a bit of a metaphor for this family, where everybody's sort of the music of this family, and listening to them speak is like listening to a orchestra play.

So we were really interested in exploring the idea of can we make that music accessible for a deaf audience, and having these interpreters find a way to do that. I'm completely ignorant to the different art forms of that. But in talking to people and doing a little bit of research, we want to see if we can accomplish that as well in this piece.

David Fischer:              Fantastic. So identity shows up beyond the deaf and the hearing in some of the choices that the company has made. Again, Billy was written as a male role. We have the blessing of having Michelle in the role, and then that created a question about who the love interest would be for Billy. So, talk about that, because there's another whole set of identity questions and intersectionality around some of the other choices that are going on.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah. It was something that we took very seriously, and we looked at the family and looked at can we think about this family in a different intersection or culture. But we looked at identity perspectives. So that's what we did with Michelle. It was when we started to work on ... I talked to Margaret Layne in Seattle, a casting director up there, and she suggested Michelle and other people at, because she had played the role many times. Actually, it's really funny, how many times have you played the role, Michelle?

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        This is going to be my fifth time playing Billy. And my final one as well.

Louis Hobson:             Great. I get your final performance. This is very exciting. I'm very excited about this. But you've actually played Billy as a male identifying character.

Michelle Mary Schaefer       Yes.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah. So that's interesting to me.

Michelle Mary Schaefer...       Yep. I cut my hair and I wore a binder, and I had to learn how to stand and walk and sit like a man, and sign that way. So, that was an interesting experience. But now, as a woman, I'm excited to play this way.

Louis Hobson:             Wait. So, I'm really curious about what you just said, because we've never talked about this before. What's the difference between signing as a woman and signing as a man?

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        So, I personally, with my wrists, they're a little looser. So I made them a little tighter and put my shoulders back a little more when I signed, just to be a little more aggressive, rather than like, "Hey," with the ... I don't know. You can see the difference. It's hard to explain it.

Louis Hobson:             No, I've never thought about it before.

David Fischer:              Yeah. That's funny.

Michelle Mary Schaefer       Yeah. And so standing-

Louis Hobson:             She's standing up right now showing us.

Michelle Mary Schaefer       ... standing with my legs apart and my shoulders back is how I would do it as a male identifying. So my hip placement. But as a woman, I would tend to be a little ... Had my hip off to one side.

Louis Hobson:             Now she's bevelling. She's giving us a bevel.

David Fischer:              Got it.

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        Whereas a man would never stand like that. It would be like that hip never be out. At the beginning, I was like, "I don't understand what I'm doing wrong."

Louis Hobson:             Interesting.

David Fischer:              Cool.

Louis Hobson:             No, we'd never talked about that, and I was just entirely curious about what you meant by having to sign like a guy.

David Fischer:              That's fantastic. So you've done this, this is your fifth time, each time learning, changing, doing things differently and like-

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        Yes.

David Fischer:              In the process, I know for me, because I've done a few roles multiple times, the second time around I go, "How did I miss that the first time?"

Michelle Mary Schaefer       Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I've had that experience.

David Fischer:              Well, I don't want to give too much of the play away though, have you had that experience though?

Michelle Mary Schaefer       Yes. Yes, I have. Sometimes I'll overlook something the first time and the second time be like, "I cannot believe that." Or maybe it depends on who I'm working with, who my Sylvia is. If we connect really strongly or with the brother character. So there's different layers. So it depends on who I'm acting with and how those change. So it changes how I approach Billy. So everything, each time I do it, it's new, and it adds a little something to it. So it makes it fun, and having a good director, huh?

Louis Hobson:             Thank you.

David Fischer:              And still having fun with it.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah. And we looked through the script and there's like maybe one or two lines that are, like the way that the father talks to the male version of the Billy, that line makes sense, but maybe not to the female version of Billy. We also had the conversation of like, "Is she male-identifying?" And Michelle was like, "No, no, no. I think that I want to play her as a girl who is female-identifying." Then we looked at Sylvia and said, "Well, should we switch the gender there?" And looking at that, it didn't make quite as much sense. It made more sense to keep them together in that way and in that sort of relationship.

David Fischer:              Same sex.

Louis Hobson:             And it's okay that Sylvia says that she has a boyfriend at the beginning, because sexuality is fluid, and I don't think we need to necessarily lock that down. I think that we can just let this relationship be what it is.

David Fischer:              So as the play progresses, there is a essential plot point moment where Billy has breached trust. I don't want to get into too much of the detail-

Louis Hobson:             Spoilers, yeah.

David Fischer:              ... around that, but I think it is such an interesting choice for the playwright, for instance. But I'm wondering what you think is going on about that in terms of this idea of communication, this idea of tribe, the idea of family circle, and what that breach of trust represents?

Louis Hobson:             I'd love to throw this to Michelle mostly. But what I'll say is that, because we've had conversations about it, and it's kind of a controversial thing a bit. Because you have this deaf character who we're rooting for, and then you sort of make them imperfect. If it were any other character that wasn't deaf, you'd accept it because we're all imperfect. And I want to get away from this notion that we have to represent people who have a disability or people that are marginalized as being perfect, because everyone's imperfect. And Michelle said at the beginning, like you're a person. You are deaf, but you're a person first, and every person is imperfect. Every person has their hopes and dreams, and maybe don't quite reach them or take a wrong turn, but I think that this person is a beautiful person that has imperfections, and I accept that. So that's my perspective. Michelle, go ahead.

David Fischer:              Do you have thoughts about that?

Michelle Mary Schaefer:        No. I agree with everything that Louis just said. Yeah. So trust, so there's a lot of meaning with that. So there's a lot of different levels to different kinds of trust and breaking trust within your family, breaking trust in the community, whether it's deaf or hearing. There are a lot of layers to that, and it creates a lot of emotion. So I can't really quite answer what you're saying right now, but yeah, it's something that people need to see when they come see Tribes.

David Fischer:              I agree. I love it. I love that twist in the play. For me, it is a moment where Billy is in a way exercising her power in new ways. It just happens to be a kind of messed up expression. But like you say, we're not perfect and we have to learn and we have to grow, and this is a moment where that powerful expression is made. And it's like, "I crossed the line." I think there's a lot of power in that, and the humanity of this play is remarkable.

Louis Hobson:             Yeah, and some fantastic actors. I mean, this group of actors is one of my favorite groups of actors I've ever worked with on any project, and that's saying a lot, because I've worked on some cool projects.

David Fischer:              Amazing.

Louis Hobson:             But unfortunately we didn't get one of our cast members back, but we have another actress coming in to play the mother, and she's one of my favorite of all time local actress, Mari Nelson, and Jonathan, Isabel, and Anders, and Madison, and Michelle.

David Fischer:              It's a great group.

Louis Hobson:             It's a fantastic, top-notch, professional, quality cast. I think people are going to be blown away.

David Fischer:              Great. Well, I think we're going to wrap there. Michelle, thank you so much for coming back to Tacoma and jumping into this role again, for the last time. Louis, thank you for your incredible leadership and talent and bringing this group together.

Louis Hobson:             Thank you, David. And you have like the best podcast voice. I could just listen to you do a podcast all day long.

David Fischer:              Well, that's not going to happen, but thank you very much. Natalie Collins, thank you for-

Natalie Collins:            Michelle says she agrees.

David Fischer:              ... speaking. Thanks so much. Natalie, thank you for-

Louis Hobson:             Thank you, Natalie.

David Fischer:              ... voicing Michelle for us today. So come and join us at Theater on the Square, November 4th through 21. This play is phenomenal, filled with comic twists. So while it's charged with emotions too, it is the whole package. You will come, you will laugh, and have a great time. So, come and join us. It's a play that has won all sorts of awards. You won't be disappointed. We'd like to thank our sponsor, Columbia Bank, for this series, for their support. We really appreciate Columbia Bank and all they do in our community. They're a generous sponsor of nonprofits. Thanks again for joining Tacoma Arts Live for our podcast on theater production. We'll be back again for another version of this when we are advancing the show Grounded, which will be coming up in early winter. Thanks again.