Interview with actress and director of DETROIT at the San Diego Rep Theatre

san-diego-rep-detroit-credit-daren-scottBen and Mary are a couple comfortably settled into their suburban American lifestyle. One day the free spirits Sharon and Kenny suddenly move into the long–empty house next door. Ben and Mary break out the booze and fire up the backyard barbeque to welcome their new neighbors.  Soon their friendly barbeque veers out of control.  Playwright, Lisa D’Amour, challenges American cultural assumptions about status, comfort, ambition, and community.  Actress Lisel Gotell Getz and Director Sam Woodhouse are currently working on the piece at San Diego Rep Theatre.

The Playbill Collector (TPC): What is your background in terms of theater?

Lisel Gorell-Getz (LGG): I went to Ithaca College and received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting.  After I graduated, I spent four years in Chicago doing theater there.  In 1999, I moved to San Diego.  My intention was to move to LA and do TV and film but life happens.  I met my future husband and discovered that San Diego had a great theater scene.  I’m happy that this is where I landed.  The community is great.

Sam Woodhouse (SW): I have a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California Santa Barbara in Theatre and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Directing from California Institute of the Arts. When I was 26 years old, I Co-Founded San Diego REP with D.W. Jacobs and Willa Mann. Since then I have served as the Producing or Artistic Director of the company. This is my 38th Season, which represents 265 productions I have worked on.

TPC: Outside of being on stage, what do you do?

LGG: I’m a teaching artist at The Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse.  Also, I am the Director of Education at MOXIE Theatre.


TPC: Describe your character in DETROIT.

LGG: My character, is trying her hardest to be everything she dreamed she could be.  She wants a nice house, good job, great car and everything else that comes along with success.  However, the struggle to achieve that is difficult.  Everyone has secrets in the show and she and her husband have lots of things they are hiding from each other.


TPC: Describe your directing approach to this piece.

SW: The playwright says that DETROIT can be seen as a surrealistic fable. My goal is to find the many layers of authenticity in this fable. There is a great deal of comedy and an equal amount of very vulnerable revealing of hidden truths. What is the proper mix of the  ecstatic, the dangerous, the painful and the absurd?


TPC: How large is the cast?

LGG: It’s a five person cast.  There is my husband and me, a couple who lives next door and a fifth mysterious character who comes in at the end.

TPC: What is your biggest challenge with the show?

LGG: When you read the script you think “that is so cool, I don’t know how they are going to do that.”  I understand how to make a character come to life on the stage, but there are also many technical and scenic elements that contribute to the surrealism of this story.

SW: The characters each bring to the confrontation a huge inner life, that informs their behavior in ways that range from the overtly wild to the subtly suggestive. An ongoing challenge for me is the quest to find what amount of
subtext and inner life should be revealed in any given moment. And then of course the giant challenge with this play is ” how do you burn down Ben and Mary’s suburban home right in front of the audience? “

TPC: How is this show different from other pieces you have worked on?

LGG: I love that San Diego Rep does a great job of producing shows that make people see it and want to talk about it after.  There are some big issues in this show which will resonate with the audience.

SW: DETROIT has a unique mix of extreme physical comedy, dark episodes of pain and violence and characters who are wearing metaphorical masks that get stripped off in the course of the action. This combination is a wonderful fusion.

TPC: What’s a recent experience in San Diego that you have been excited about performing in?

LGG: The WOW festival (With Out Walls).  It was site specific theater and I did a play in an elevator.  The piece was co-produced by MOXIE Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse.  My character was an old-fashioned elevator hostess so I performed in the elevator. We could only fit five audience members in the elevator at a time which was an exciting performance experience.

For more information on DETROIT, check out:

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