Jo Bonney, Direct
Cusi Cram speaks with Jo Bonney about directing Bogosian and giving new work direction.
Bonney has already been at the helm of two productions this season, a revival of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger at the Classic Stage Company and Anna Deavere Smith's House Arrest at The Public. Her third effort is Eric Bogosian's upcoming one-man show, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, at the Jane Street Theater. But Bonney is more than familiar with Bogosian's fast paced, scathing, one-man rants; she has already done three shows with him, and is also his wife of 18 years.
As per usual, Bogosian's latest effort will look at the broad landscape of American culture, through his very unique lens. Pop culture, the media, our fears and desires will all be examined through a variety of characters and the delectably angry "character" of Bogosian himself. For the uninitiated to his work, there is simply nothing quite like it. In some ways, Bogosian is the creator of the modern rant. His energy and intelligence are unparalleled in the world of solo performance. And he has picked up several Obies for his shows, including, Pounding Nails into the Floor With My Forehead; Sex, Drugs, & Rock and Roll; and Drinking in America.
"This show is a little different from the others," says Bonney. "It is more stream of consciousness. The characters are more free flowing, more energetic, and there are lots of opportunities for improvisation." The audience will get to "enter into Eric's head and sort of see how he thinks," adds Bonney with a smile. Her smile is a little wicked, a little knowing, and is perhaps the best advertisement for Bogosian's show yet.
Bonney is perhaps best known for directing solo performance. In addition to Bogosian's work, she has directed two critically acclaimed shows for Danny Hoch, and just finished up Anna Deveare Smith's latest. Bonney is particularly, although not exclusively, drawn to this form because she is "interested in the development of ideas and in creating stories, which you do very intensely with solo work." In discussing the development of new work, Bonney's face lights up. She is obviously a director who likes working with living, breathing writers. In an earlier foray this season where she tackled a modern classic, John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, she at times felt frustrated that she couldn't turn to the playwright and ask, "What do you mean here, exactly?"
Bonney is asking that very question to several other writers at the moment. She is continuing to develop with several young writers a poetry piece called Universes that incorporates spoken word poetry, rap, rhythm, and music (which had a brief run at P.S. 122 in the fall). She is also directing an upcoming workshop of a new play by José Rivera in Minneapolis called References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, which she first worked on in the Public Theater's New Work Now! festival.