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Fresh from NYC, interrracial female homosexuality takes the spotlight in LIANE GRANT'S Half me, half you. INTERVIEW by Lauren Gauge.

What if you were black, gay and a woman in America right now?

Half me, half you confronts the reality of the current global climate and explores the consequences for future generations, while reminding us that we are all simply people searching for love and acceptance.

Following it's opening in New York's Fresh Fruit Festival last week, Liane Grant’s new play Half me, half you transfers across the Atlantic to open in London’s Off West End tonight at Tristan Bates Theatre and continues its run at the Tabard Theatre until 21st July.

Interviewing writer, performer and producer, Liane Grant is a stimulating as it is rousing, given her passion and cause, which chime loudly as shared beliefs. Grant’s remarkable debut play champions an interracial lesbian power couple. When asked why she wanted to write about interracial homosexual relationships, the answer was simple, because we don’t see them enough and referencing Frances McDormand’s Oscar’s speech, it’s great to see the inclusion rider observed and hear of this plays success in New York in lieu of tonight’s opening.

Half me, half you will mark the second production for RoL’n Productions, how did you come to form the company and what’s your company vision?

Roxanne and I met at drama school in New York and became the best of friends. A few years ago, we were both complaining to each other about how difficult it was for us to find decent parts to go in for, the lack of female roles in general and then how impossible it feels at times to get into an audition room at all. So, we thought why not make our own work and put on a play. That grew into a desire to set up a platform on which to build and create more opportunities for women both on and back stage, and RoL’n Productions was born. We envisioned a company that works to create high quality productions that run in both the UK and USA, and that provide great roles for female actors, actors of colour and LGBTQ actors, as well as opportunities for women to direct, produce, design or be part of the technical team.

You are the writer, producer and one of the performers in the cast, what are the most important learning points you can share with other theatre makers heavily involved creatively like this in a project?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to strive to remain humble; let go of your ego because the people you bring on board (if you’ve done your job well, as a producer, in hiring the best people...which I fortunately did!) will have so much to offer through their own ideas and interpretations. Their invaluable input has improved my script, my performance and my efficiency as a producer. That doesn’t mean letting go of your own artistic vision, there are a couple of times where I’ve felt it necessary to stick to my guns about something, such as a line change, but I’ve only been sure about doing so because I took the time to listen to others and weigh everything up. It is, without question, a team effort.

What do you look for in the creative team you build?

Trust. I have worked with people that I didn’t feel complete trust in, and that constant worrying about whether they were doing their job properly, and the knowledge that I’d probably have to fix their mess at some last-minute point, or constantly check-in with what they were doing, just adds so much unnecessary stress. The team for Half me, half you have been incredible. I have never had to worry about anyone doing their job, and that sense of complete faith is so freeing and wonderful. It makes everything so much more enjoyable too! Everyone has had each other’s backs, and that just feeds into everything else – the rehearsal room has been an incredibly focussed place and yet constantly full of fun and laughter.

Why did you decide to write Half me, half you and who was your biggest influencer?

This may sound cheesy, but I honestly feel like I didn’t really ‘choose’ to write it. I was on a long holiday, and this idea just came to me while I was lying in the pool! I had time to spare so just felt like I had to write it down. That first night, I was up until 4am just typing away. Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop! So, it felt like a gift. The biggest influencers for the ideas were some of my closest friends – one struggling to get pregnant, one black, one mixed race – whose stories and experiences I’ve been listening to for much of my lifetime. And in the context of today’s global society of intolerance, those stories have a more marked impact. But the state of the world, in particular the USA, and the UK after Brexit, has also fed so much of my frustration, anger and heartbreak these past couple of years, and I’m sure these underlying feelings were subconsciously pushing this story along.

What do you want to say, do or discover with the play and why is now the time to do it?

I want to say “WAKE UP” to start with. Ignorance and apathy are so dangerous and if we continue down this path we’re on, lives will be ruined, if not lost. I also hope this play reminds people that we are so much more alike than different, and so listening to others with an open heart, rather than judgement, is absolutely necessary.

People have had such varied and very personal responses to this play during its run in New York. One audience member said it scared him because he could see it was based in truth, so I asked what he was going to do about it, because there is always something you can do to help change things. Another said she felt her own life experience had been validated when she’d previously felt it was something to hide because others wouldn’t understand. I don’t want people to feel one thing when they leave the theatre; I hope they take something from it that speaks to them personally, because if I’ve done my job as a writer, what they take from it will elicit empathy, and that is the key to understanding those we perceive as different.

Less the spoilers, can you tell us a bit more about the narrative of Half me, half you?

Jess and Meredith are an interracial, happily married, gay couple living in New York in 2017 – the era of Trump. They’re running late for dinner when an unexpected tragedy leads them down a heart-breaking path that will irrevocably change their relationship. They navigate their way through issues of race, sexuality and womanhood as they attempt to overcome the heartache placed at their feet.

16 years later, it’s 2033 and Meredith’s life looks very different, in an America that has suffered a second civil war, stemming from the racial hatred ignited by Trump’s bigotry. An unexpected guest descends on her life, challenging the new American norm, ripping apart everything she thought she knew and changing her life forever.

RoL’n is listed as ‘transatlantic’, and having yourself trained at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC too, is that the transatlantic connection or do you have plans to perform productions on both sides of the pond?

Yes, I studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where I met Roxanne Lamendola, an American, from Florida, and we became best friends. She is now my sister-in-law... people often enjoy that snippet of information! Cut to 10 years later, and we've both had a fair share of struggles to get in audition rooms, let alone bag parts, and are both becoming acutely aware of the lack of opportunities for women, and when there are parts to be had they're often secondary to the male leads. We were tired of it. So, we decided that we should find a way to put on our own work. With my being British and her being American, we realised this was a slightly different angle than a lot of companies.

We didn't have the budget to perform in both countries for the first production, but this time around, we did, and we've started out in New York! In the past year or two, with everything going on in the USA and UK socially and politically, we have also both discussed how there are many similar issues that are problematic in both countries. I think both nations are very tuned in to what is happening in the other right now. So, we are living in a time when it is perhaps even more appropriate to create work that speaks to both countries and perform it in both. From this point forward, I hope that every future show will run in both countries, too.

What do you think are currently the most important issues to consider when making theatre for a global audience?

Representation. Equal, fair, realistic representation. 50% of the population is comprised of people who identify as female, so why aren’t 50% of the stories or characters we see? It’s not even anywhere close. There’s a reason why Barber Shop Chronicles and Nine Night have had sold out runs recently; stories about people of colour are just as interesting and important.

I am so proud that this show debuted at the Fresh Fruit Festival in New York, which is a theatre festival that centres itself specifically on LGBTQ stories, and these too, should be more mainstream than they are currently. Frances McDormand talked about it in her Oscars speech; inclusion riders. To make theatre for a global audience, theatre needs to look like the world, and the world is not a white male.

‘What if you were black, gay and a woman in America right now?’ is a question in your marketing. Being empathetic might be the only way we can open our hearts to others’ plights and to moving forward as a global collective. What made you want to look at interracial female homosexuality?

A couple of reasons. Firstly, we don’t see it enough. Secondly, I am fascinated by the complexities inherent in an interracial relationship, which must surely be fundamentally based on the idea that there is no difference between people of different races, and yet must also only be maintainable as a result of a hyper awareness of the differences between them, and an acceptance and understanding of these that transcends the norm. Jess and Meredith exist in that space in the play. Their love for each other has nothing to do with their skin colours, but their relationship functions so well in part because they are aware that race is an issue. Lastly, the American government is gunning for so many groups of people right now – Muslims, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, women, sick people, poor people...most people do not belong to only one of these groups. That is not reality. So the point at which more than one of these groups converge, that’s what’s real right now.

For those looking to work with companies such as yourselves and maximise the opportunities and transatlantic platforms you’re creating what’s the best way for them to introduce themselves?

Check out our website: www.lianegrant.com/rolnproductions All of our contact info is on there and links to our social media. We always love hearing from people – actors and creatives – and we know there are so many talented artists out there with a lot to offer so introduce yourselves, pitch us ideas, or best of all, come see our work and meet us in person! You never know where a ‘Hello’ might lead!

Finally, what are your goals for this production of Half me, Half you in London and aspirations for the future?

I hope we’ll get some cracking audiences at the London run and that people will be moved by the play in some way. I’m obviously a little biased, but I believe (largely because of the incredible work from my entire team) that this play has legs, and I’d love to take it to a bigger London venue at some point and perform again in the USA – certainly New York again, and possibly further afield.

Watch this space... better yet, watch this play, tonight at Tristan Bates Theatre, 7pm.

Half me, half you
A new play by Liane Grant
Tristan Bates Theatre, London 16th July, 2018 at 7:30 pm
The Tabard Theatre, London 17th – 21st July, 2018 at 7:30 pm






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Andrew Olay talks about inspiration, character amd Tom Courtney

Ellie Turner performs with LOVE&MADNESS

Sondheim's Saturday Night with Helena Blackman

Alistair Green directs The Thingumywotsit at The Hen & Chickens

Racky Plews directs Into The Woods

Robert Lloyd Parry is at Baron's Court

Interview with The Umbilical Brothers at The Leicester Square Theatre

Interview with Iain Pears at The Riverside Studios

Interview with Tim Roseman directing Overspill

Interview with Melanie Wilson

Interview with Gillian Plowman, author of Yours Abundantly, From Zimbabwe

Interview with Alex Helfrecht

Interview with Michael Gieleta

Interview with director Rhys Thomas

Interview with writer James Graham

Theatre Student Patricia Low posts her Malaysia Blog

Sabina Arthur performs in Under The Veil

Fin Kennedy talks about UNSTATED

Interview with Andrew Keatley

Interview with Ben Hales

Interview with Ali Taylor

Interview with Matt Ball

Interview with Tim Fountain

Interview with Glyn Maxwell

Interview with writer Coda Quashie

Interview with Sarah Mann

Interview with Yolanda Mpele

Interview with Howard Barker

Interview with Brian Timoney

Interview with Laura Stevens

Interview with John Sandy

Interview with Philly Greenwood

Interview with Dean Stalham

Interview with Jack McNamara

Interview with Caroline Partridge

Meet People Show artist Gareth Brierley

Interview with George Mann

Meet Phillip Brook, star of Uncle Barry at the Blue Elephant

Interview with Fin Kennedy

Interview with James Graham

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown V

Interview with Cath Whitefield, now appearing at The Gate

Interview with Lavern Archer

Royal Court Announces Autumn Season

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown IV

Marketing Managers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown III

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown II

Marketers On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

Arcola to Create World's First Carbon Neutral Theatre

Interview with Nell Leyshon, Writer of Glass Eels at the Hampstead Theatre

A New Start for the Southwark Playhouse

The Mark Shenton Show

Theatre has moved on - whatever we critics think

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