Roxanna Duncan from Khalida interviews Indrit Kasapi from:
The Red Devil
by Indrit Kasapi
Directed by Jonathan Seinen
Presented by lemonTree Theatre Creations
Featuring Cynthia Ashperger, Michele George, Indrit Kasapi, Ari Millen
Albania, March 1997. The country has gone into complete chaos. A mother, a son and a friend attempt to illegally leave the country, leaving behind the old grandmother. Their struggle for survival, based on real historical facts, leads them into an unlawful journey around Europe.
1. What challenges do you face as a playwright performing in his own work?
It is sometimes difficult to know when you should let the actors find their own answers and when an explanation would help them, especially since we are rehearsing only for two weeks and time can become of the essence.
2. Where did the inspiration for The Red Devil come from?
From the stories I heard. They shocked me because they were so different from my experience. I thought immigrating was a difficult process, but the stories I heard simply scared me. I realized I needed to enter into those worlds to try and understand the pain and fear these people went through. This way I could feel like one of them, because they are my people.
3. Tell us about the cast and the process for casting this show.
The cast is fantastic. I have had the amazing opportunity to have various talented actors involved in the process of developing the play.
Casting has been a strange process for me. I didn’t think it would have been as easy as it ended up being. It is amazing how many established actors are interested in new works, especially if they premiere at the Summerworks.
Elva Mai Hoover is playing the role of NENA. She graduated National Theatre School in 1965 and it is such an honour to be in the rehearsal room with a fellow alumni. Tara Nicodemo is playing MIRELA KASTRIOTI. Her energy and passion have captivated us. Ari Millen is playing JUSTIN KAFKA. His dedication and talent have been indispensible to the project.
And myself as GJERGJ KASTRIOTI.
4. Are you a playwright who acts or an actor who writes plays? In what way does each role fulfill you?
Definitely an actor who writes plays.
Acting is my passion. Writing is the psychologist I do not pay. In other words, writing occurs to me more as an examination of my psychological and spiritual life. Acting is the opposite, mostly, because it allows me to strip myself naked of that. I enjoy the latter most, to tell you the truth. Also, I prefer not to share my writing in most cases, but when it comes to acting sharing it with an audience is the most rewarding experience.
5. There are several plays at this year’s festival that deal with war and its effects on the individual. How does your play fit into this? Do you want to take a stab at addressing why this theme is so prevalent?
My play deals with war indirectly, I think. Also, the word “war” is somewhat misused when it comes to the situation Albania was in during March of 1997. However, I think, THE RED DEVIL deals with the sudden decisions an individual makes when in a dangerous situation so that he/she can get to a safer life.
My assumption is that the theme of war is prevalent due to its complexity. Wars have caused so much pain to humanity and continue to do so, and yet there is very little we can do. Or is there?
Wars have drastically changed humanity and its surroundings and we are so scared of them. Maybe, in some sort of strange way, that’s why it continues to fascinate us?
6. How, if at all, can theatre effect change?
Theatre that takes huge risks can absolutely effect change.
It will at least make people mad!
7. Are there plans for The Red Devil post SummerWorks?
Not as of right now. I feel the piece is getting a big workout right now and I am excited for its run, but I feel it will need a bit of rest. This way its muscles can relax and recover and hopefully become stronger, ready for another Marathon!
Inspirations for the second act have engorged me, but I feel I will only be ready to write it 10 years from now. And who knows, it might premiere at the Summerworks again!
8. The play is “based on real, historical facts”, can you elaborate? What was the research process like to create this play?
The play is based on stories I have been told of Albanians who did in fact illegally immigrate and try to arrive in Canada or United States.
The research process was the source of inspiration. I happened to occasionally listen to these stories as I was on vacation with my parents and their friends. I never intended to write a play about it. However, months later the characters occurred to me and instinctively I started writing the first draft. I set it in 1997 because it was an era I knew very well as I was still living in Albania during those years. Two years later, it is premiering at the Summerworks.
9. Can we expect surprises in the staging of this piece?
Yes. You can definitely expect magic.
10. If you could make sure that the audience takes away one thing from this show, what would it be?
Next time they hear the word Albania, they don’t confuse it with Armenia or think it is Albany in New York.