by Lorie Lewis Ham
The play 4000 Miles opens at Fresno State this Friday presented by University Theatre. We took a moment this week to chat with the show’s director Kathleen McKinley to learn a bit more about the show.
KRL: Why did Fresno State choose this particular play?
Kathleen: This is a terrific play by an award-winning contemporary playwright, Amy Herzog. 4,000 Miles won the Obie award for Best New American Play when is premiered at Lincoln Center in 2012. A revival was about to open in the West End when Covid hit and shut down London Theaters in 2020.
I directed one of Herzog’s later plays, The Great God Pan, and I am a huge admirer of the complex characters and facing very contemporary issues with both serious and lots of laughs. Her characters are very human!
KRL: What is the play about?
Kathleen: With the isolation of so many and the painful separation of families during these difficult pandemic years, I was moved to direct a play that depicts the reconnection of a 21-year-old young man with his 91-year-old widowed grandmother living alone in her New York apartment.
The play is actor-focused with 3 college-aged characters, so my student actors, Tyler Murphy, Hayley McNeely, and Molly Heng recognize these young people and can relate to their lives. For the role of the grandmother, we are thrilled to welcome back a Theatre Major Grad, Kelsey Deroian, who has recently completed her MFA in acting at UC Irvine.
During a 4,000 mile coast to coast bike trip, young Leo suffers a terrible loss and winds up unexpectedly knocking on the door of his grandmother, Vera at 3:00 AM! Over the course of a month, these two unlikely roommates grapple with all the generational miscommunications and misperceptions that arise when a young Mid-western new age hippie moves in with his 91-year-old, “lefty” grandmother battling the indignities of aging. Together, they stumble through a journey of connection, solace, pain, and lots of laughs!
KRL: Any special challenges to directing this play?
Kathleen: Covid has not disappeared, so we still follow careful protocols to keep our actors and crew healthy including regular testing. The possibility of a positive test result from the cast or crew, though less of a threat than before, still looms in the back of one’s mind as one uncontrollable factor that can stop a rehearsal or performance!
In terms of acting, the performer playing Vera is much younger than the real character so the process of capturing the heart and spirit of this very specific feisty 91-year-old is as equally important as building the “physicalisation” and appearance that will create the transformation. I think Kelsey is doing marvelous work!
KRL: What have you enjoyed the most about directing it?
Kathleen: I love the excitement of working with giant casts, but it is luxurious to have the occasional chance for intimate rehearsals with just three or four actors as with this show.
I join all local theatre groups in celebrating that this fall truly feels as if we are much closer to being fully back for our fellow artists and for our devoted audiences!
4000 Miles runs September 30 – October 8, 2022
At: Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre | Speech Arts Building | Fresno State
$17 – General Admission
$15 – Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Senior, Military
$10 – All Students
Masks are not required, but STRONGLY encouraged. Doors open 30 minutes before curtain. Latecomers will not be permitted, and there are no refunds or exchanges.
Parking is free for shows on Friday through Sunday night. For shows on Tuesday through Thursday night, parking permits are required and can be purchased at dispensers in parking lots on campus. For more information, contact the box office at 559.278.2216 or email@example.com.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. And don’t miss out on Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast where we feature mystery stories read by local actors!