In Conversation with Rebecca Bradshaw
We recently sat down with The Treasurer director Rebecca Bradshaw to discuss her experience with the production. Find out what various aspects of the show mean to her and how she approached the rehearsal process!
Rebecca Bradshaw on…
Seeing The Treasurer for the first time
I saw it at Playwrights’ Horizons about two years ago. Wow, it was great. I found the story eerily similar to my own dad’s struggle with my grandmother going through dementia — him working overtime then spending evenings visiting with her. Some nights she couldn’t place him exactly – son, husband, neighbor? Meanwhile, it was the recession and my parents were taking on the extra burden of financially putting my grandmother in (and out) of Lutheran homes when she would forget about the kettle being on. He would lean into humor when he could and quietly keep “the bad” to himself and my mom — something that I respect much more now as an adult. So, yes. This play hit a VERY real place for me when I saw it in New York. It haunted me for weeks after. It’s the type of play that makes you want to change how you operate in the world with your loved ones.
Directing this production
I wanted to make sure we saw heart in these people. There are a lot of scars in this family – some remember them vividly, others do not. Hate and spite is a very easy outlet to run to in this play (and in life). The Son has moved (or run) away from what has hurt him and created a life of his own. He has surrounded himself with a new family of kindness and respect. Now, he has to face an estranged relationship which caused him to run in the first place. And his mother is acting as if nothing has changed. Does she not remember the hurt? That struggle is palpable in this play and I wanted to make sure we exposed both masks.
The cast of The Treasurer
Ken Cheeseman was a professor of mine at Emerson. He’s now a dear friend and is such a shape-shifter on stage. He is somebody that I’ve been wanting to work with for years, and I never thought I’d be fortunate enough to work with him in this capacity. Cheryl McMahon is a delight. She has a great sense of humor and lightness, but don’t be fooled, she has a frankness and boldness to her that feels “so Ida”. I wanted these two characters to be equal contenders onstage and I couldn’t be happier. Rob Najarian, who has been in our community for a while, and I had yet to find a project to work with each other on! I directed Shanaé Burch in her first production post-college before she went off to get a Master’s AND a PhD! Rob and Shanaé have a juggling act between surreal comedians and hyper-naturalism. It’s a lot to embody, but they are handling it wonderfully.
What she hopes audiences will take away from The Treasurer
My goal is that in a week from seeing the production, audiences are still thinking about it. That’s success for me. And I mean, the uber-success is that people reach out to family, connect with an elder in line at the grocery store, or talk to their peers about the logistics of end of life. It’s a reality Americans do not talk about outside of the walls of their own homes. We don’t have to be so siloed in this world. Ultimately, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to help our elders in their late stages. Why does society forget about that? Why do new parents get a societal “pass”, but a son taking care of his dying mother, does not? And why do we handle it alone?
The “restaurant scene”
This is the first scene the Son sees his mom. Before this they have been communicating thousands of miles away on the phone or secondhand, through his brothers, on the phone. Ida is post-stroke and at her most fragile. He has so much to say but also cannot say anything. He does not play along with her fantasies of her riding a bike in the morning. He responds frankly and coldly. Does being “The Treasurer” even matter any more? Why can he not forgive her? Is it too late? Every conversation may be his last with her, and he just cannot get out of his way and open up. This feels the most real to me. Reality is mundane, scary, and awkward. This scene is the most uncomfortable to watch because it is the most uncomfortable to live.
The script of The Treasurer
The script is written like a poem. One of Max Posner’s influences was Allen Ginsberg. I read a lot of Ginsberg in my prep for this project. Posner, like Ginsberg, is able to thread thoughts together that don’t really land until you finish the poem. I also love his use of humor. I love seeing young people connect with octogenarians on stage. I am part of a generation of people who dismiss anyone who cannot use an iPhone – why?! It baffles me.
Telling the story of The Treasurer
I felt very alone during my prep for this project. I did not want to have to bring my own family’s baggage to the table. However, this process has been a gift. Our rehearsal room was a three-week long “storytime” about life, family, and loss. I am extremely grateful for this experience and I hope the public can walk away with a new perspective as well.
Photo by Nile Scott Studios