TheaterMania: How have audiences reacted to Defying Gravity?
David Zoffoli: The audiences have been stunned--appropriately stunned by it. The first half of the piece is leading up to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, and the second act is how the characters--and particularly the character of the daughter, Elizabeth--respond to the tragedy. And we see how that tragedy somehow created the opportunity for growth, and that's what people are experiencing in the audience: that indeed it was tragic, that we felt grief at the time. In the play, we are reminded of that grief, but then we move beyond grief to understand how this tragic event was indeed an extraordinary source of inspiration.
TM: I remember watching the Challenger on TV.
Zoffoli: We were all glued to our TV sets and we remember. We remember this kind of tragedy because of the media's ability to bring it to us in our living room, not unlike the JFK assassination. We were all glued to our TV set because the Reagan administration said this was the best thing, the most patriotic thing that would be in our lifetime--the teacher in space, the dreams of discovery. So, because we were glued, it became that much more devastating. Because our hopes were so great. We were watching and our hopes were dashed--all in less than a minute and half.
TM: Christa McAuliffe taught in Concord, New Hampshire.
Zoffoli: We thought this play was appropriate for our audiences for that reason as well. We're doing the New England premiere of this play about a woman who is from the area. She lived in Concord, NH. She went to school at Framingham State. She grew up in Framingham, which is just about 20 minutes from here.
TM: Will there be people in the audience who knew her?
Zoffoli: Certainly. In fact, her mother is coming to this production. Many people here knew her; many people went to school with her. A lot of people felt uniquely tied to the teachers in space program and Christa McAuliffe. And everyone felt uniquely tied, I suppose, to Christa McAuliffe during that massive Reagan p.r. venue.
TM: We felt connected through television, and this play has a strong cinematic feel. In fact, I can see several TV monitors on stage.
Zoffoli: This is a multimedia production. We have video, we have significant soundscape, and we have a variety of front projections as suggested in the script. Although Jane [Anderson] doesn't suggest the use of video, I decided to use the actual footage of the launch and subsequent explosion, which was 73 seconds long.
Zoffoli: Because of the impact. Because it's at the heart of our memory. And, this is a memory play, not unlike The Glass Menagerie is a memory play. Defying Gravity takes place in the year 2006, and most of it is memory told from Elizabeth's point of view while she is in the here and now--and that's why it's a good play.