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Confronting Our Eco-Legacy: A Conversation with Director Tim Bond

The Children Director Tim Bond discusses his artistic vision, social activism in theater, and the timeliness of Lucy Kirkwood's work.

Tim Bond Alan Alabastro1x1

Photo by Alan Alabastro.

Seattle Rep: What drew you to directing The Children?

Tim Bond: Lucy Kirkwood’s astonishing play poses profound questions about our individual and collective agency in responding to the human-made environmental crisis we face on our planet. She has done so through a very tight-knit play that is often humorous, full of mystery, and asks profound questions about the eco-legacy our older generation will leave to our children. When Braden reached out to me about directing The Children I jumped at the opportunity.

SR: What excites you most about working with this cast?

TB: What a joy to work with three actors whose body of work I have admired for many years and who bring such mastery of their craft to this project. I feel like one of the luckiest directors in the world every day I step into the rehearsal hall to be working with this threesome—it’s been a love fest! As artists who all share a similar number of decades on this planet, we have had many meaningful conversations about these characters who are all over the age of 60. It’s been a thrill to watch them crack the mysteries imbedded in this piece and to have deep discussions about the ecological challenges we all care so much about.

SR: Without giving too much away, The Children’s plot is a bit of a slow burn. How have you approached directing this story?

TB: It’s been a bit like working on a mystery or a thriller where certain bits of information or backstory of the characters are dropped like breadcrumbs for the audience to follow. The fantastic thing about this play is that the characters are so delightful and the dialogue is so funny. The play actually moves at lightning speed much of the time due to the underlying circumstances the characters find themselves in. So I have been alternately letting the scenes hurdle along at breakneck speed so we get a sense of the tempo and timing of the dialogue, and then go back and try to slow it way down so we can detail inside of the emotional arcs and clarify the arguments the characters make with each other. We have a loose rehearsal schedule that we try to keep to and keep finding ourselves exceeding the amount of work we planned to do. It’s a very compelling piece of writing; we all seem to have a hard time stopping to get to the next clue.

SR: What do you see as the most relevant elements of The Children to today’s world?

TB: I think Kirkwood has given us several elements to wrestle with as we experience this play. I am very moved by the question of what would a group of scientists do when faced with an environmental disaster like the earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. What is our responsibility as the older generation who invented many of the systems and contraptions that are causing global warming? There is a very potent image of the town of Dunwich, England (the area near where the play takes place) eroding and falling into the ocean. It is mentioned that there is a legend that you can hear the bells from one of the churches that fell into the sea back in medieval times ringing under the water in the evening. In the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by John Donne, he speaks of how all humans have a connection to one another. This sense of collective responsibility feels very relevant to me as we face our looming climate crisis. There is also the exploration of aging and how one continues to grow through the end of one’s life that all of us will face some day.

SR: Could you speak to your thoughts on theater as a platform for social activism?

TB: Live theater can have a very immediate impact on how we see our self and others in the world. The empathetic response it evokes opens the human heart and our minds to feelings and thoughts that can be transformative and call us to action. I believe it is essential that our modern theater embrace the diversity of our nation and the world, and is inclusive of people from all of the various cultures, gender identities, abilities, and sexual orientations that make up our beautifully complex world. Hearing stories from diverse perspectives brings us all closer together in the human experience. The social issues we face across the globe can be brought home and we can motivate individuals to take action through theater that has opened our hearts.

SR: Who or what are your artistic inspirations?

TB: Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson,Teatro Campesino, the anti-Apartheid theater movement, the Black Arts Movement, Jazz, The Expressionists, and Surrealists, just to name a few.

SR: You yourself have a history of professionally nurturing and supporting the next generation in your work with the University of Washington and elsewhere. What is one piece of advice you would like to leave with young people in the audience today?

TB: Bring your entire self, cultural legacy, beliefs, identity, to whatever it is you are collaborating on with the open heartedness of a lover, the fierceness of a warrior, and with the whimsy of the absurd. Embrace generosity and remain curious.

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