Abiding by Law In a Fictional Story, an Interview With Anne Stockton

Interviews, Lead Article

By Pat McAndrew, Editor-in-Chief, All About Solo

Anne Stockton is a NYC based actress, writer and psychiatrist. As an actor, she has performed Off-Off Broadway and in various locations throughout NYC, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. She performed her first solo show “THE SPEED QUEEN” (adapted from the novel “THE SPEED QUEEN” by Stewart O’Nan and directed by Austin Pendleton) at the first United Solo Festival, New Jersey Rep, Midtown International Theatre Festival (winner Outstanding Performance in a Solo Show), Culture Project’s Women Center Stage Festival, and Off the Wall Productions in Carnegie, PA. “I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY” premiered at Off the Wall in the fall of 2017. She performed it at Urban Stages in NYC in early 2018 and was delighted to be able to bring it to this year’s United Solo Festival. The piece is inspired by Anne’s work as an Actor/Trainer with NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation Team and Emergency Service Unit. Anne is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and has done commercials and independent films. As a practicing psychiatrist, her positions have included work with the homeless, mentally ill, and assessment of disability. We caught up with her to learn more about “I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY” and how her experience as a psychiatrist has informed her work.

Pat McAndrew: How did you end up discovering theater and, more specifically, solo performance?
Anne Stockton: When I was eight I started writing my own version of a Nancy Drew mystery novel – when I was nine I performed improvised plays with another fourth grader during class time. Years later, I veered off in another direction – I went to medical school, became a psychiatrist and still work in the field. However, I kept artistic endeavors going every step of the way – studying classical piano through college, taking voice lessons, attending modern dance festivals and even doing a little musical theater during slower times in medical school. I discovered the underlying material for my first solo show “THE SPEED QUEEN” while I was taking a monologue class and discovered a book about a woman on Death Row in Oklahoma. I found the character very compelling and thought it might make an interesting one person play. I showed it to Austin Pendleton, he agreed it had potential, and we began to work on an adaptation. We had some input from Stewart O’Nan who so generously entrusted me with his story. I was heavily guided in the process by Austin’s playwriting skills as well as his vast directorial experience.

It certainly sounds like that would lend itself well to a solo piece… What inspired you to create “I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY”?
The piece was inspired by my work as an actor-trainer for the New York City Police Department. I have done many role plays with their Hostage Negotiation Team and Emergency Service Unit – members of these teams handle extremely difficult situations involving emotionally disturbed individuals who are at immediate risk of harming themselves or someone else. The role plays are improvisations in a classroom setting and are based on scenarios previously encountered by NYPD. The goal is to portray the disorders and the situations as realistically as possible in an effort to assist detectives to hone their negotiation skills. My experience and knowledge as a psychiatrist certainly has informed this task – and interestingly I feel that I am learning things about the disorders at the same time as I am teaching the officers about them. My favorite role play is a woman who is barricaded in her apartment in the throes of a manic episode. As I thought about doing a second solo show; and this time an original piece – I started with the idea of a woman who has an underlying bipolar disorder being interviewed by a detective. It starts on a morning when she’s feeling terrific and everything is going beautifully for her – then complications begin to move in. The piece is entirely fictional – it is not based on any of the role plays nor is it based on any particular patients that I have encountered over the years. This is my second collaboration with director Austin Pendleton. I have also been assisted by Jimmy West as law enforcement consultant. I met Jim when I was a guest at the Hostage Negotiation Team training – he is recently retired but formerly was a Lieutenant and Commanding Officer of the Midtown South Detective Squad.

How is “I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY” important for today’s audience?
I see the piece as an invitation for audience members to be compassionate – compassionate towards both those individuals who have bipolar disorder and towards the family members who are trying to help them.

How does “I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY ” speak to “THE SPEED QUEEN” and other work you have done?
This is only my second solo show so my experience is limited. In looking at “THE SPEED QUEEN” and “I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY,” I see that I am drawn to characters who are in high risk situations and who experience extremes of emotions. In my acting work in general, I relish the challenge of playing someone whose life experiences are far from my own.

What were some challenges that you faced in developing your most recent solo show?
The biggest challenge has been finding a structure to the story that works! There has been a lot of trial and error but I’ve been guided by a director who has written plays and who has repeatedly reassured me that “seven eighths of the battle is finding the structure.” Another challenge has been conveying events (some of which are happening off stage) given that I am the only one talking. Again: trail and error….

It certainly seems like there is a lot to be juggled in the show. What do you hope the audience walks away with after seeing this piece?
I hope that audience members leave feeling that they’ve been in the presence of someone with serious mental illness – and that they’ve gained a little more understanding of the tremendous challenges that people with these disorders face. When it was performed at the Off the Wall theater in Pittsburgh last fall, it received excellent reviews – audiences have invariably found the piece gripping, entertaining, funny, disturbing and revelatory.

What would you say is your favorite part about this show?
The whole roller coaster!

I WON’T BE IN ON MONDAY
Written and Performed by Anne Stockton
Directed by Austin Pendleton
Consultant: Jimmy West
Dramaturg: Dara O’Brien
Graphic Design: Ethan Crenson
Stage Manager: Tyler X. Koontz
United Solo 2018
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City

Author: Pat McAndrew, Editor-in-Chief, All About Solo

Pat McAndrew is a NYC-based actor, writer, and consultant . As an actor, he has performed Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, and in various locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. His one-man show, REEL, was performed in the 2017 United Solo Theatre Festival and featured in the new documentary, Electronic Crack. Using his background as an actor as his foundation, Pat consults with individuals and organizations on how to communicate effectively and build deep, meaningful relationships in the digital age. He is the Founder of The Low Tech Trek, an organization devoted to discovering a better balance between human interaction and how we use technology. He is a member of Village Playback Theatre, Endless River Arts, and Svaha Theatre Collective. Pat holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. Check out patmcandrew.com for more information.

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