Published on November 20th, 2014 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Jennifer Copping of Good People
In South Boston, this month’s paycheck covers last month’s bills, bingo is a night on the town, and sharp-tongued single-mom Margie Walsh has just been let go from yet another crappy job. Scrambling to make ends meet for herself and her special-needs daughter, she looks up an old flame, hoping he’ll help her make a fresh start in this humour-filled drama from Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire about how our choices coupled with twists of fate determine our path.
This is the story of Good People, which has arrived at Vancouver’s Studio 1398. It’s now playing with a cast that includes Nancy Sivak, Rondel Reynoldson, Rukiya Bernard, Kurt Max Runte, Adam Lolacher, Paul Herbert, and Linda Darlow.
We spoke to director Jennifer Copping about the experience of staging this story for a Vancouver audience.
What inspired you to take on this production?
A few years ago my husband and I were on a trip to New York for my birthday. It was the weekend of the Tonys which I never miss and we happened to be staying at the Plaza. We got a deal people!!!
Anyways, as the cab pulled up to the hotel I noticed all kinds of security and roping off of entrances. We went up to our room and turned on the show to watch.
One of the highlights was seeing Frances McDormand win the Tony for Best Actress for a play called Good People. It’s an understatement for me to say that I love her. So I immediately knew I had to read that play. If she loved it I would love it.
There’s a whole other story of that night as I realized that the craziness downstairs was because the Tony after party was happening there,but I’ll save that for another time.
I went to the theatre bookstore the next day and bought the play. Laughing and crying reading it on the plane home, I knew I had to direct it. It took three years to get the rights but tenacious is my middle name.
Can you briefly walk us through your creative process for this production, from the early stages all the way to opening?
First off was casting. The role of Margie is so complicated. I really only had one actress in mind. Someone I had always wanted to see do a role like this. Someone who every time I see them act I am left wanting more. I asked her to do a read of it for me and she said yes. That actress was Nancy Sivak. The other roles all fell into place so beautifully. It truly is magic when the casting is so perfect!
I had a lot of years to sit with the play until we have finally been able to produce it. I knew I wanted to keep it simple and I knew I wanted it to be a visceral experience. I think we’ve accomplished both.
Are there any books or specific authors that have been influential to you so far in your creative journey?
All Souls by Michael Patrick Macdonald. A director I worked with on Fargo named Matt Shakman told me to read it as research. We were talking about our love of theatre ( he also directed theatre) and I mentioned I was dying to work on this piece. It turned out he had directed it at the Geffen in LA and loved it as much as I did!
What were the biggest challenges for you as a director in developing this production and how did you deal with them?
For me, it’s always time. Not enough of it. I never really care about elaborate sets or costumes. I just wish we had enough money for all of us to take three weeks off from our real lives and jobs and just dive into this world completely. But… the miracle is always that somehow it all comes together if you trust the writing and you trust the work. With however much time you have.
What can you share about any future projects that are in development?
I have a couple of incredible shows that I get to be a part of next year onstage myself. One that I can announce is Godspell for the Arts Club. Exciting!! The other is a play that I am thrilled to be a part of, but I better wait until they announce it.
You can see Good People at Studio 1398 (3rd Floor, 1398 Cartwright Street) until November 29th, 2014, where it runs Tuesday to Saturday at 8PM with a 2PM matinee on Saturday, November 22nd.
Tickets are $25 each ($15 for the matinee) and available at the door and on BrownPaperTickets.com