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Playwright Meridith Friedman Returns to Ashland with I Can Go

I Can Go’s vivid characters bring difficult realities to light with warmth and wit

Ashland New Plays Festival is pleased to present a dramatic reading of I Can Go by Meridith Friedman,

the final play in her powerful and touching trilogy about the Hoffman family. Directed by Kyle Haden, this special, one-night-only event is on Sunday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Southern Oregon University’s Main Stage Theatre.

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ANPF is the first organization to present the final two plays of Freidman’s series back to back in the same season. In March, our audiences welcomed the return of Friedman’s memorable and moving family drama with Your Best One. For I Can Go, Friedman will be coming to Ashland the week before the performance for an intense workshop with the director, cast, and a dramaturg.

ANPF’s dramatic reading will star returning cast members Kate Berry, Cameron Davis, Paul Michael Garcia, Aurelia Grierson, and Rex Young. Two new cast members are Román Zaragosa and Eileen DeSandre.

In the play, Richard and David are on the eve of their wedding weekend, fretting over succulent plant arrangements and seating lists. As their families descend to witness the impending nuptials, a secret hangs over the festivities that will drastically alter the trajectory of the couple’s future. The story is a tender look at how we find the good in goodbye.

Friedman, an award-winning playwright who currently lives in Los Angeles and writes for the NBC television show Chicago Med, is excited about her return to southern Oregon. She looks forward to the audience’s thoughts about her work during the post-performance talkback.
ANPF 2015 Winning Playwright Meridith Friedman Returns to Ashland with New Play
“I love, love, love Ashland,” she said, “I am beyond excited. ANPF has terrific, smart, insightful patrons, and I’m most looking forward to hearing their feedback on the play.”

Tickets are $20 and are available online or at the door, subject to availability. Parking is free the night of the performance in the Mountain Avenue lot across from the SOU Music Building. For more information, visit ANPF’s website at www.ashlandnewplays.org.

Continue reading below for a bonus Q&A conversation with the playwright.

In October 2015 at Ashland New Plays Festival’s flagship fall event, playwright Meridith Friedman heard her words come to life.

“ANPF marked the first public reading of my new play, The Luckiest People,” Friedman said, “I couldn’t imagine a better setting for putting a new work out into the world – with a first-rate cast of actors who are truly committed to serving the play and an audience that responds with extremely smart, thoughtful, and constructive feedback.”

This play launched the start of a trilogy, commissioned by Curious Theatre Company in Denver. ANPF presented dramatic readings of the sequel Your Best One in March and reignited our local audience’s appreciation and interest in Friedman’s humorous and bittersweet storytelling.

ANPF will next present a dramatic reading of the final installment of the trilogy, I Can Go, for one night only on Sunday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Southern Oregon University’s Main Stage Theatre.

We connected with the playwright to discover more about her thoughts on the trilogy, the lives of her characters, and what resonates for her as well as the audience.

ANPF: Are there any lessons you learned from writing the first two plays that are helping you write ICG?

MF: Some of it is production stuff, having seen the production challenges in the first two. Even silly stuff like quick changes. In I Can Go that problem has been eliminated. The big question for me though is how to write so an audience member can come in who hasn’t seen the first two, while also writing for those who have seen the first two. I don’t want to have scene after scene of exposition. Also, I’m thinking about the ending. For someone who’s been there for the whole trilogy, I want to create a satisfying conclusion.

ANPF: Do you find that each play has its own unique lesson or is there a broader moral that the trilogy tells as a whole?

MF: It’s funny, I find as a writer you have to have a healthy dose of self-awareness and a healthy dose of lack of awareness. I don’t want to have too tight a grip on what I’m doing. Actors do a lot of text work: they examine their objectives, practice a lot, and then when they act they trust they’ve done the work and it’ll show through. I’m the opposite. When I write a scene, I let go and see what comes out on impulse. Then I go back and read it to see what I might be trying to say. At the end I look and see what I’ve created and see what lesson and moral emerge.

I feel like in the simplest terms, the trilogy is Richard’s 10-year journey to parenthood. I think a lot of these characters are coming of age late in life. In the Hoffman family, they’re so dependent on others, and through the story, they’re inching closer and closer to becoming people others can depend on. In the final play, Richard becomes a full human in that respect. He can truly be the person David needs to take care of him and what he needs.

ANPF: The only female character in the first two plays, Laura, was a topic of conversation at the ANPF talkback following Your Best One. Is there a Laura in your life and is she in the story for a greater message about modern womanhood?

MF: I hope that with all of these characters they are each vivid and could have their own trilogy. There are some basic similarities between my family and the Hoffmans. My dad has a sister, but Laura isn’t based on who she is. One of my best friends is Laura Hoffman, but that’s also just an ode.

Laura came out of nowhere, not from someone I knew. In the original version of The Luckiest People it was just Richard and his dad Oscar over one night after the funeral. Then I started developing it with other characters. At the time, I was thinking about China a lot and the culture of taking care of your parents and the elderly. The law that’s joked about in Your Best One about going to jail if you don’t spend enough time with your aged parents is real, and that’s why Laura is from there in the story. I liked thinking about Richard and his sister as a way to see how they’d be similar as people who grew up with the same parents and then to see how they would be as parents themselves. Would they be different or similar?

I write women characters who tend to be atypical, and sometimes audiences find them offensive somehow. I think we give male characters a lot more space to be atypical, but if we see a female character who isn’t inherently good and kind and selfless, we react to her negatively in some way. We have such unreasonable expectations of women that we don’t have of men. So, when I write women I react to that and create representations that are different.

I Can Go is the poignant conclusion of Friedman’s witty, relatable trilogy as well as being an important part of what ANPF does to support playwrights in the development of new work, including celebrating the continued success of past festival winners.

For more information visit www.ashlandnewplays.org.

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