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The Closet – 5 Things To Know About The Show Before You Go (2012 Planet Connections Festivity)

by The Happiest Medium on May 27, 2012

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The Closet

Benefiting: WIN [Women in Need]
Produced by LifeDream Productions
Written by Amy Gray Piper
Directed by Melissa Skirboll

“Ruth thought she buried her past, but in a series of conversations with her long-dead mother, she struggles to hold onto her illusions before being forced to remember the truth. We watch as her fragile hold on sanity slips away as she falls into the madness that gripped her mother.”

Show Times:

  • Sat 6/2/12 – 8:00pm
  • Mon 6/4/12 – 9:30pm
  • Thur 6/7/12 – 6:00pm
  • Wed 6/13/12 – 4:00pm
  • Tues 6/19/12 – 6:30pm
  • Sat 6/23/12 – 11:00am

Answers by Melissa Skirboll


Karen Tortora-Lee’s Question
How did you come up with the title for your show?
Melissa: For this question, I defer to Amy Gray Piper, the playwright. She said, “Dark closets, under the bed…these are the spaces from our childhood where the monsters live. The closet in this play is what physically connect the past and present and where Ruth’s fears still live.”

When I approached Amy about submitting this piece to the festival, she thought about changing the title. We batted around a few ideas but never came up with anything better. I think it’s perfect; both succinct and full of meaning. And as a director I love being able to play with the closet as portal into the past, into the subconscious, into memory and madness. By using the closet as the central metaphor, Amy gave the actors and director a huge creative gift.

Diánna Martin’s Question
If you were going to invite 5 people (from the past or present) to see your show – who would you invite … and why?
Melissa: Carl Jung – his break with Freud and his study of the human psyche, archetypes and dream analysis still influence the field of psychology today. To be able to talk about these characters and their breakdowns with him would be illuminating to say the least.

Anna Freud – similarly, her work on child psychology was seminal and it would be interesting to hear her perspective.

(I won’t fill this space up with psychologists from history, but needless to say, having an audience made up of the men and women who basically created modern psychology; Sigmund and Anna Freud, B.F. Skinner, Maslow, Ericksen, et al, and then letting them debate the play and the roots of the psychoses would be a fascinating exercise.)

Carrie Fisher – she has effectively – and publicly – chronicled her battle with bipolar disorder. While this is a very different story, I hope that it too puts a human face on mental illness.

Frances Farmer – a huge talent who pretty much lost her battle against schizophrenia. Her treatment by those in the mental health care industry was notoriously harsh and ineffective. While the facts are debated, she claims to have been brutalized in the mental hospital where she was committed against her will. That she might find solace in the story.

My mother – because I think she’d be proud of the work I’m doing and I know that she would be moved by this story!


Antonio Minino’s Question
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made for your art and was it worth it?
MelissaI’ll answer the second question first; Yes. Absolutely. It was, and is, worth it.

Now as to what exactly have I sacrificed….if you ask my mother, she’d probably say I sacrificed “everything”, or at least the normal, happy life she envisioned for me. I don’t think my sacrifices are particularly noteworthy or special (and I don’t know if I even consider them sacrifices.) Anyone who chooses a career in the arts makes certain trade-offs. But you go into it – hopefully – with your eyes wide open.

My first job out of college was at an investment firm. I could have stayed there and created wealth for myself; investments, retirement fund, vacation homes and cool toys. But I chose to give it up and start acting. I might not have all the things that money can buy – but I do have a wealth of experience that I would never have gotten in a nine-to-five world. I would definitely do it again.

Geoffrey Paddy Johnson’s Question
Was there any unexpected discovery made during the development of this production and can you share it with us?
Melissa: Not yet – but I’ll let you know!

Michelle Augello-Page’s Question
What do you hope the audience receives from the experience of seeing this show?
Melissa: I hope they are moved. That they are able to feel the pains and the joys of these characters, that it reaches them at a visceral level and opens their eyes to the humanity of this situation. I just saw a PSA about mental illness – the one with Meryl Streep and her sister (this one: and if this play helps to “change a mind” about mental illness, I will be happy.



Planet Connections runs from May 30 – June 24 at The Bleecker Street Theater located at 45 Bleecker Street, New York, NY. To purchase tickets to this or any of the shows click here.


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