Jo’s junior year of high school in suburban LaGrange, IL started off just fine—not that it’s ever easy being queer at 16. Thankfully, a new English teacher assigns Carson McCullers’ famed novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Jo discovers an unshakable kinship to McCullers’ central character John Singer. Like Singer, Jo is forever the listener, definitively the outsider, perpetually misunderstood and filled with unrequited love. Yet when she is a victim of a gay-bashing incident, her world is turned upside down and she must decide whether to seek revenge or redemption. A story about isolation, fitting in and finding oneself, fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life is a play about surviving high school and how literature still has the power to transform how we see the world.
As Steppenwolf gears up for the start of fml; or how Carson McCullers saved my life rehearsals, we checked in with playwright Sarah Gubbins–whose lead character Jo is heavily inspired by the graphic novel–to find out what graphic novels influenced her own work. Then we pulled pictures of those books to share with you, dear reader.
Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. (first published 1986-87 by DC Comics)
Last month was a big month of play development at Steppenwolf, and this is a big month for tech and production. Today, load-in begins for the Garage Rep shows, as they move their sets and props into the Garage space. On the 19th, tech for those shows begins with LiveWire’s Oohrah! Meanwhile, work continues on FML. Based largely on the December workshops, Sarah Gubbins will continue to hone her script with input from director Joanie Schultz, literary manager Aaron Carter, and others. Full-time rehearsals with the cast begin on January 31. Make sure to check in here for information on the process behind the Garage Rep shows, plus updates on the ongoing work taking place with Head of Passesand Cherokee.
And now, a look at another theater’s load-in. “A giant chandelier. Massive set pieces. Nearly two dozen trucks and numerous stagehands.” It’s like Garage Rep load-in, only also different.
RECENTLY SOME PEOPLE HAVE ASKED US HOW WE WORK. WELL. HERE’S HOW WE DO IT. USUALLY TWO OR THREE PEOPLE ARRIVE AROUND ELEVEN THIRTY. THOSE. USUALLY. WHOSE KEYS DON’T WORK IN THE STUDIO LOCK. OR IF THEY WORK IN THE STUDIO LOCK THEY DON’T WORK IN THE FRONT DOOR. THESE ARE BAD DUPLICATE PEOPLE AND THEY GET PISSED OFF AND GO HAVE COFFEE AT THE BINI BON.
THE WORK HAS BEGUN. (–from “HOW WE WORK,” 1976)
We asked members of the FML cast for a response:
At home I memorize Sarah’s new pages for the script and I unearth the life of Jo, the brilliant 16-year-old girl she has penned. At school in the parking lot, I try not to hit my teacher’s cars as I practice basketball, especially any new moves Sarah has taught me during a rehearsal break. At lunch I read The Heart is A Lonely Hunter and I ask to borrow my friends graphic novels. I get excited when I think of Zoe and I ‘s ‘FML field- trip’ we are planning to all the places mentioned in the script. In the afternoon, I run past Sarah and Brad who are outside having a cigarette and up the three flights of stairs where, If luck is on my side, it only takes me two tries to remember the door code to the rehearsal room. The thought that this time I may actually be late for rehearsal plagues my mind. My work has begun.
Sarah Gubbin’s fml: how Carson McCullers saved my lifeis currently in workshop rehearsals before its February premiere at Steppenwolf. We caught up with one cast member to get a sense of the atmosphere of the room, what youtube videos are on the brain, and other relevant questions.
Adelina Treviño Bradshaw is the Literary Apprentice/ Fellow at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
This year, Steppenwolf for Young Adults is touting their two shows as “two plays in conversation.” When we entered the theatre to listen to the reading of the newest draft of Sarah Gubbins’ FML: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life(part of the First Look series), there were music stands set up on the set of its’ sister show The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (which just closed as part of the Steppenwolf for Young Adults season).
We caught up with the playwrights to see what they listen for when they see a reading of their own work. Click the hyperlink to hear what Dawkins, Gubbins, and Wegrzyn had to say.
(Interested in the goals of readings? Check out Eric Ziegenhagen’s post on the Steppenwolf blog from last year’s First Look, where he explains his belief that readings can sometimes be the rawest form of theater around.)