An Interview with Director Marianna Bassham

An Interview with Director Marianna Bassham

July 13, 2022

What is Heroes of the Fourth Turning all about?
Heroes of The Fourth Turning tracks one late evening in the lives of four young people who have gathered for an event at “The Transfiguration College of Wyoming (TCW),” one week after the Charlottesville Riots, and 2 nights before a solar eclipse, where the college is situated in the “path of totality.” 

Tell us about the playwright Will Arbery.
Will Arbery is one of the hottest playwrights in the country right now, with a new play, Corsicana (running at Playwrights Horizons through July 17 and featuring this year’s Tony winner Deirdre O’Connell). Arbery’s parents teach at a real college on which the college in the play – TCW – is based (his father is president). These characters are drawn from real people in Will’s life. 

Why did you want to direct this piece?
This play challenges me—as an artist, and as a liberal woman in America. While these characters might represent certain Christian archetypes, they are also human, complex, messy people that I love in spite of myself. . The play snuck up on me emotionally; I was gutted. 

Did you have any reservations about taking on this project? 
In talking with people about this play, I hear the view that Heroes is an indictment of the religious right, AND the view that the play is a platform for them. So, should we hate these people? Fear them? Empathize with them? Enjoy them? I’m always looking for the duality, the complexity. It’s harder with some of these characters than others. 

What story are you hoping to tell?   
For me this is a piece about people who are bracing for, in some cases inviting, and even causing, some kind of war, when really what they long for is connection and love. 

What are the challenges of mounting this show?  
I am writing this on the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned, and the day after gun rights were expanded. The political climate is different than it was when Will Arbery wrote this, and different than it was literally yesterday. Many of us are grieving and outraged. The play feels even more urgent, and it’s a hot environment to work in. 

Who do you think is the audience for this show? 
Viewers who are energized by intense political/philosophical issues and debate, and people who are thrilled by deep dives into dark nights of the soul will be captivated by this piece. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing this show? 
Our audiences will likely have strong reactions to this play. I don’t spend a lot of time with Catholic Republicans, and the ones I do know and love… we do not argue about religion or politics, we barely touch it. With this play I relish the time and space (with the slight safety of theatre) to be immersed in this alternate (yet very real) universe.  

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