You on the Moors Now:

An Interview with Dramaturg, Sydney Haas and Stage Manager, Jasmine Ritter

Posted by Jessica Taylor on January 31, 2019 at 2:01 PM PST

You on the Moors Now revolved around main characters from 19th-century novels, like Weathering Heights, Pride & Prejudice, and Little Women. Does the audience member need to read, or know of, these books in order to go see the play?

Sydney Haas:  If you haven't read them, you can still definitely get something from the play and enjoy it. We're also offering some educational packages that will have plot summaries and an outline of themes and authors. We don't want to expect anyone to have to read those to come to the play and it’s definitely super enjoyable either way.

Jasmine Ritter: I went into it, having not read any of the books, and I still found it funny. And also, we're really trying hard to have our main themes of women empowerment and the comedy of the play come out, even if you haven't read the books.

Could you all give me a brief synopsis of the play?

JR: What if...the main female character, from all four of those books, said no to the men, which then ensued in a satirical comedy, gender war between the angry men of the books and the now empowered women.

SH: Also, in a lot of the books, the women actually say no, but [the play] is like the contemporary version of them saying no, and I think they learn something different about themselves that they don’t necessarily learn in the book by coming together.

Why do you think these stories are still relevant and important to learn from, despite its initial sexist behavior?

SH: I remember reading something about Jane Ayre and it was saying, ‘why now, why would we read this now? Why is it relevant now?” The values that are placed on women and the fact that they were constrained to very specific gender norms are still very present. It’s a system that’s been in place for hundreds of years so it’s just helpful to understand the historical context and also helpful to see where things haven’t changed but also progressed.

JR: In the rehearsal process, we talk a lot about women empowerment and [the definition] of consent. [For example], the men in the play not understanding when the women say no, they don’t want this, and you can’t be upset about that.

SH: Also, our director has been talking a lot about contemporary love versus the love that we see in the novels.  That’s a big thing she’s been thinking about going through the scenes with all the different pairs of lovers. The way that we love, and think about relationships, has changed. [This play demonstrates] what the difference is between contemporary love and 19th-century love by putting them in conversation with one another.

What does it mean for you, as an artist and a woman, to be able to put on a play like this at your University?

JR: For me, it’s very important for my stage management team - it’s all women. The production team is primarily women too, and it’s just really important for me to see. Theatre has gotten better, but it’s still a very men-driven field. Working on this play has been a way for women to really come together, to find out what our own female take on theater,

[For example], for women in stage management, it’a leadership role [and] people don’t always see women as an authority figure. For me being a sophomore and a woman in this authority role, it’s been very interesting. My two assistant stage managers are women and freshman, so the three of us coming together to experience that with each other has been very important to me lately.

JR: Our cast is also very diverse. Which is great, because these novels are primarily white, and so to see these characters played by different races, is amazing. We also have multiple non-binary people also working on the show. It's just been great to get all of these voices all together to work on something that we all find a very contemporary issue that is still prevalent today

SH: The playwright, Jaclyn Backhaus, is Punjabi-American, and it's good to see voices that are often overlooked in the arts highlighted, both for artists and for audience members. When the department chose the season for this year, they chose a season of female playwrights, and it's exciting to be a part of bringing those works to life with a group of artists that come from many different backgrounds.

What are some challenges you’ve come across so far in production?

JR: I know that others, specifically women in the cast, [have talked about] the issue of the idea of not saying sorry. This is something heavily talked about in the rehearsal process and also in the show - women not having to apologize for having their own independent thoughts or making their own choices.

On the first day, our director came in and said, ‘I don’t want to hear women saying sorry [for little things]. [For example], if they forget a line, it’s not just “Line.” but “I’m sorry, line” when it’s something you don't need to be apologizing for. That’s a challenge that people have been trying to overcome.

Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?

JR: My favorite is actually a stage direction which is, "Jane parkours away from them."

SH: My favorite is a stage direction as well, "Grasses blow in the wind. Sideways rain. Snow. Snain."

JR: Working with a contemporary playwright is very interesting. The script is written as if someone texted it out...there’s poetry...constant typos!

What’s going to surprise people about You on the Moors Now?

JR: The use of contemporary music. It’s a very music-heavy show. Without giving anything away, there is a monologue with the song Wake Me Up Inside playing softly in the background.

SH: Also, I think if people that are super familiar with the novels come and watch it, they'll be surprised with the contemporary language because it is very jarring to hear the characters shout references to Game of Thrones and Star Wars.  

JR: It’s also one of the biggest casts we’ve had at Seattle University in a while. So, a lot of costumes!

Poster of a woman in a Victorian dress running through the moor. Learn more about the production

You on the Moors Now

By Jaclyn BackhausDirected by Erin Murray

February 21 - 24 & 27 - March 3, 2019

Lee Center for the Arts
-$6 students; $10 faculty/staff/alumni; $12 general admission