news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Monday, 20 March 2017

Assistant director, Michela Sisti chats with the writer of Infinity, Hannah Moscovitch

Our lovely assistant director, Michela Sisti sat down to talk with the woman behind the words of Infinity, Hannah Moscovitch.

Infinity, like a number of your other plays, has asked you to do a lot of research outside of your existing sphere of knowledge.  How did you make the step from Lee Smolin’s book, Time Reborn, to the story we see on stage?  When, as a writer, do you know it’s time to stop researching and start forging your own path?

HM: I don’t have a system for how to write, such as how to work with research when writing a research-heavy play, etc. I can speak about projects after they’ve been produced, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t articulate (and don’t know) what I m doing during the process. Or I know the shape of what I’m doing, but I don’t know the particulars. I don’t write from outlines. I don’t know how the play will end when I start drafting it. I only have a jumbled set of images in my head when I start. I know in the case of Infinity I sat there and flipped back and forwards from the research to the play, and that went on for months. 

How has Infinity – and your relationship to its characters and ideas – evolved from it’s earliest, pre-rehearsal room drafts to the version that has been extended at Tarragon this spring?

HM: At first our source material was a New Yorker article [Clash of the Time Lords] that Ross Manson sent me that compared astronomical to atomic. None of that work survives in the current project. Our first workshop was in studio doing dance improvisation. At that point, I was dancing in the show. So you see there were a number of iterations before we arrived at the current one.   

I recently came across something that the poet Glyn Maxwell wrote: “Whoever masters form masters time.”  That made me wonder, how did the structure you've chosen for Infinity help you to coax out the thematic material of your piece? 

HM: I like that quote because I don’t understand it. I wanted time to move both incredibly quickly and slowly in the piece. In Elliott and Carmen’s timeline, between one and eight years pass between each scene I show you, until we near the end. So that you get a sense of the totality of a romantic relationship between two people. But in Sarah Jean’s timeline, we are in real time, because she’s in the middle of an epiphany, and so time is 1:1 - you see her whole time line.  Because Lee Smolin’s theory is that time is real – and that past/present/future are separate (this is revolutionary in physics and refutes Einstein), I wanted the audience to experience the reality of time in two ways. That it passes quickly and life ends. And via a real time relationship to a character. 

In order to get to the bottom of her question of whether love is real, Infinty’s Sarah Jean has to search through a tangle of past sexual encounters that are rooted in her memory.  Has there been continuity between writing the character of Sarah Jean and writing the protagonist of your 2016 play, Bunny, by any chance?

HM: This question made me laugh. Yes. I’m writing a series of increasingly personal projects. Both Bunny/Sorre in Bunny and SJ in Infinity are versions of myself. I have a new project I’m developing with Theatre Centre in collaboration with the performer Maev Beaty and director Ann-Marie Kerr called Secret Life of a Mother. In it, Maev Beaty plays a person called “Hannah Moscovitch”, so I am now developing work that's no question confessional.  I’ve always adored confessional writing – Sheila Heti, Sylvia Plath – but never written it myself until now.  

What was the most valuable thing you learned through the process of writing Infinity?

HM: I learned how much I like working collaboratively over a long development period and with a stable set of creators – Ross Manson, Kate Alton, Njo Kong Kie, Lee Smolin, Andréa Tyniec, Paul Braunstein, Amy Rutherford, and Haley McGee developed the show with me over the course of a number of years. Infinity wouldn’t be the same project if the collaborators had been different people. And I learned how much I like collaborating with theoretical physicists.   

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