Following the “Breadcrumbs”: A Conversation with Matt Morrow, Annie Hinton, Tiffany Tang

Intrepid_Widget_Breadcrumbs“Jen Haley is hands down the most thrilling playwright working in American theatre.”

Matt Morrow is unrestrained in his enthusiasm for Breadcrumbs, a 2010 play by white-hot Los Angeles-based playwright Jennifer Haley, which will be read on Monday evening as part of Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library.

Director Matt Morrow

Director Matt Morrow

“I’m excited to delve into Breadcrumbs because of Jen’s unmistakable ability to capture the psychological complexities of contemporary relationships,” says Matt, executive artistic director of Diversionary Theatre who will also be directing Monday’s staged reading. “She does not blink at the darkest emotional and intellectual corners of the human heart and mind.”

And from the first line of the play, the audience knows that this particular trail of breadcrumbs might take some dark and twisty turns: “The only way out, is the only way in. The only way forward. Is to the light. Of the witch’s house.” But it is also clear that we are safe in the hands of this award-winning playwright.

jenniferhaley

Playwright Jennifer Haley

“There is kind of a fairy tale quality and it is in kind of a suspended world,” says Jennifer, in an interview with Samuel French about Breadcrumbs. “The characters are both lonely women who really haven’t found themselves, who have a great yearning to reach out to people, but they do it in very different ways.”

These two characters are Alida and Beth. Alida is a reclusive writer who is diagnosed with dementia, living in a world teetering on the edge of fairy tale and the edge of reality. Beth is a nurse’s assistant who offers to help Alida create the stories of her life before they slip away from her. Together, they unravel for us the mystery of Alida’s consciousness – and her past.

Annie Hinton plays Alida

Annie Hinton plays Alida

“Alida is a hard-charging, no-nonsense, self-sufficient writer who has journeyed alone for most of her life,” says Annie Hinton, who will be portraying the writer in Monday’s reading. “Dementia is now causing her to lose the ability to organize the words she loves so much in her writing; she is being robbed of her ability to create. I had never really thought about losing your ability to create before reading this play.”

As Alida struggles to keep on task, the world of the play shifts back and forth from past to present, from memory to fairy tale. Navigating these shifts alongside Annie will be Tiffany Tang, playing the role of Beth.

Tiffany Tang as Beth

Tiffany Tang as Beth

“Jen has written such a beautiful piece with Breadcrumbs,” says Tiffany, whose own grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia late in life and can identify with the wavering connections with the present written into the play. “The imaginative elements in the storytelling help the tale to unfold in such a beautiful and surprising way. I think sometimes fairy tales can be more accurate than reality when conveying the truth of some things.”

These imaginative shifts that move through the storytelling also require shifts in character, and Annie and Tiffany will both portray other characters in the story – a younger version of Alida as well as Alida’s mother.

Moving from character to character is no easy feat on the part of the actors, as Jennifer acknowledges.

“For this play, I delved into the fairy tale nature of the story and went so much farther in terms of what the actresses were going to be doing,” explains Jennifer. “It requires a great virtuosity.”

For Matt, working on a play by Jen Haley is like coming home, as the two have been friends and colleagues for many years, most recently workshopping her play, Froggy, for The Banff Centre, which Matt has been developing with Jennifer and directing since its inception. What seems to impress Matt most is the timeliness and relevance of her plays, and Breadcrumbs is no exception.

“Jen is an uncompromising author,” says Matt, “with the ability to write precise, gripping and complex characters and stories that resonant with what is happening in the world around us today.”

Breadcrumbs, a staged reading. By Jennifer Haley. Directed by Matt M. Morrow. Featuring Annie Hinton, Tiffany Tang and Erin Petersen. Monday June 27, 2016. 630 pm wine and appetizer reception. 7 pm reading. $15. RSVP boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org or purchase tickets online.

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Encinitas Library