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We Are Mysteries To Ourselves:

by Tracy Letts and Jonathan Berry

Jonathan Berry: Are you still in LA? Tracy Letts: I am in LA right now, yeah. JB: Great, you just got a lot of sympathy from the room starting out. TL: Yeah I’m driving in the UCLA area right now, it’s about 65 degrees. TL: The play came from a consideration of my life as I’ve lived it. If you’re a person who’s working at all on your life, on yourself, and I think most of us are (I hope most of us are), you think about where you’ve come from and where you’re going. As I do that I realize I’ve often felt like different people at different times in my life. I look back at my seventeen-year-old self say, and some of that person feels very recognizable to me and some of that person feels very far away from me, feels like a different person entirely. And really that’s the jumping o point for the play: the idea that we are actually different people at different times in our lives. JB: That’s a very personal premise. TL: Yes but hopefully the play ends up being about whatever you think it’s about as it unfolds for you. I hope it has some universality and you can start to apply some of the play to yourself. JB: Did you know from the beginning that you wanted a number of actors to play Mary Page? And that you would be using non-linear chronology to look at Mary Page at different moments in her life? Or are these things that came through the writing process? TL: Yes, I always, from the earliest thinking about the play, I always envisioned both of these things. JB: In talking about the design and direction of the piece, Anna has talked about her desire to capture the feeling that you are flipping through a series of photographs from one woman’s life, and through that exercise your sense of the woman slowly emerges. TL: I think the impression of flipping through photos is true. However, I think it’s also true that there is a person at the center of this and the question that hovers above all this is about identity. What is it that makes us who we are? This is a story of a person unstuck in time and for me that’s kind of the crux of the biscuit here with Mary Page. She’s the one going through those photos; she’s the one who’s flipping through her life asking, “Who am I?” “What makes me this way?” Another way of talking about the play is that Mary Page is, in a sense, looking at a mirror and seeing these different versions of herself. JB: We have talked about the play as a series of moments both mundane and pivotal in her life, and those everyday moments, interestingly, pique our curiosity about Mary Page by what they don’t reveal. They add to a sense of mystery. How did you find that balance between the mundane and pivotal? TL: My original conception was that the play would always be pretty spare but as always, you over write a little bit and then pull back to find that balance. The sense of mystery is important. There’s always a question mark never far away from her. While Mary Page is a mystery to us she is also somewhat of a mystery to herself... as we are mysteries to ourselves.