Interview with Director of Jobsite Theater’s And Baby Makes Seven, Karla Hartley

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CL: You are an actor, director and lighting designer.  Which do you prefer?


KH: Certainly directing. I confess to having a little bit of a control issue. I really enjoy having the opportunity to dig into a play and help actors transform the play into what I think it can be. It’s certainly my first love.


CL: Was there anything about And Baby Makes Seven that particularly attracted you to directing it?


KH: I was attracted to the lesbian motherhood event. My partner and I have a 10-year-old daughter, so that storyline in itself made me think, wow, this might be an interesting thing to do. Also, there’s a great depth, and anything that Paula Vogel does is sort of crazy and off the beaten track, but once you start scratching the surface, there’s a lot of depth in her work. I’m a real geek for tech analysis. I love to really dig into a play below the surface and figure out what it’s about. This play is about release, acceptance and about becoming what you can be, not what people expect you to be. I’m going through a lot of personal changes in my life so I think that rebirth aspect of the play affected me quite a bit as well.


CL: Do you think the play has some positive messages about same-sex parenthood?


KH: I think the ultimate meaning of the play is to embrace your inner child and allow that to guide you through the parenthood and be the parent that you can be, which can be a very fun experience. But there are also a lot of serious things about the play and about parenthood that are revealed, such as overcoming your own rhetoric and how you can be the parent and person that you want to be.


If you look at the play on the surface of it and don’t really dig into the subtext of what’s going on, there could be an argument made that the gay and lesbian parenting aspect is not as clear as it could be. The direction we’re moving with the play is that, not just gay and lesbian parents, but any parents can embrace the play aspect of parenting. This can only be a good thing.


CL: How did you handle the alter egos in the play?


KH: There are no costume changes.  It’s all in a physical and vocal shift for the actors themselves. Jessica, who plays Ruth/Henri/orphan, has the hardest road to hoe because she has to flip between those three very readily in the first act. There’s no gimmick about it; it’s all about the actor.


CL: Was there anything about the play that was difficult to pull off or anything that surprised you?


KH: The real trick of the play is that there are moments of intense serious realism and there are moments of completely wacky melodrama, so that the trick is to meld those two together and make it not seem as though there are two different plays going on at the same time. It’s a play that “lizzardises” the transitions to those moments. That was the hardest thing, trying to find the very delicate balance between fantasy and reality of the play.


CL: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the show?


KH: The show is great fun. Paula Vogel hasn’t been done anything in the area in a while. It’s great to bring a play to the people, a lesbian playwright in particular who has such a stellar reputation and giving attitude. I took a workshop with Paula Vogel recently in Denver and she was just really giving. It was meant to be an hour and a half, and we ended up staying with her for three hours. She’s very excited about the work, not only what she does but also other writers, so it’s great to bring this piece to Tampa. And it’s great to do a fun play with a deepen meaning that has been a joy to work on.


We say, don’t miss Jobsite Theater’s production of And Baby Makes Seven.



And Baby Makes Seven runs Sept. 24-Oct. 11, 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 4 p.m. Sun., Shimberg Playhouse, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa, $24.50, jobsitetheater.org.


To read more by Sally Bosco, visit Tampa Bay Arts Net.

Actor, director and lighting designer, Karla Hartley has got to be one of the most versatile theater people in the Tampa Bay Area.  She has directed such widely divergent plays as The Crucible and Psycho Beach Party, and she has designed and stage managed shows from such far-reaching locations as the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is currently the Producing and Educational Programming Manager at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, and I last saw her when she played Dr. Scott and Eddie in TBPAC’s wonderful production of The Rocky Horror Show.  (As if that isn’t enough, she also co-directed the show.) We are indeed fortunate to have her.

Her latest venture is directing Jobsite Theater’s production of And Baby Makes Seven. Here’s the unlikely plot: Anna, Ruth and Peter await the arrival of their newborn child, but first they must rid the crowded apartment of their three imaginary children. Playwright Paula Vogel redefines the meaning of family and completely blurs the lines between illusion and reality, power and subjection, friendship and love, female and male. I had the pleasure of interviewing Karla the week before the show’s opening.

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