Featured image from “Reconstruction (Still Working By the Devil Might be Inside)

Rachel Chavkin was the only woman directing a play on Broadway this season and when she won the Tony Award for Best Director for her work on “Hadestown” in June, she took the opportunity to talk about it. 

“There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of color who are ready to go. And we need to see that racial diversity and gender diversity reflected in our critical establishment, too. This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be,” Chavkin said during her acceptance speech. 

Earlier this month The Collaborative spoke to Chavkin about “Reconstruction (Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside),” a dance/theatre piece described as “wrestling with ‘Gone with the Wind’ as a Confederate monument while delving into race, representation, white feminism and capitalism’s role in maintaining the system.” Chavkin, along with The Team–a diverse group of 24 writer/performer collaborators based out of Brooklyn–will be workshopping and performing the piece at The Lumberyard in Catskill in August. 

It’s clear that Chavkin isn’t resting on her laurels waiting for others to take up the call for diversity and works that address the country’s deep racial divide. 

The Collaborative: What attracted you to The Lumberyard? What do you expect to get out of your time there? 

Rachel Chavkin: 

I think any artist knows that being able to leave home, to leave your comfort zone, can be very productive. The Team, as an ensemble, is constantly encountering life’s many distractions but opportunity can be exponential in that it is not only an opportunity to get out of New York City but it is a beautiful place to work. I’m also enormously excited about the fact that The Lumberyard will allow us to focus on incorporating some of design elements mid stage in our production. For a collaborative team to have that opportunity is as invaluable as whatever.

The Collaborative: Have things changed for you at all after this year’s Tony win? Does being at this place in your career allow you to take more risks, or experiment? 

RC: I have been most happy when my professional life reflects my eclectic interests. I find I’m not as interested in doing things if I already know how to. The Team is formed of 24 other collaborators so it is constantly shape shifting and it is very challenging. We constantly ask “What are we interested in? What are we threatened by?”

In my professional career it is rare that I’ve done anything that I’m not passionate about. If I’m not, I’m basically useless and if not useless, I’m damaging and not happy. Having this success does solidify my ability to live financially.

The Collaborative: What should audiences expect from the performance at The Lumberyard?

RC: The title of the piece—which could change—“Reconstruction(Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside)” was inspired by a story by one of our writer/performers Amber Gray. She talks about how after she had her second child, she and her partner were looking at this flat screen TV they bought around the time they had their first child and they determined basically that the television is killing them as a family. She describes how they drag the television to the curb and put a sign on it: “Still working but the devil is inside.” 

The work deals with how we confront our world and white supremacy as a country. We had just finished rehearsals for our last production when there was the rally in North Carolina where all the violence broke out against protesters. So our show is thinking about Confederate monuments and the process of rebuilding ourselves and confronting ourselves, so that these things don’t go forgotten, or totally ignored. 

We are still very early in development so there is quite a lot of movement and dance.

The Collaborative: We spoke about getting out of your comfort zone. And I’ve had conversations with artists as of late who are coming to the area to perform works that deal with race and realize that the conversation isn’t as advanced here as it is in larger metropolitan areas. Do you think that could play into the development of the performance? 

RC: Audience feedback has a huge impact on The Team’s process and our work will be revised and reincarnated many times. It’s great to have the opportunity to put this sort of thing into our brainstorming and performance. The Team is essentially a writing entity and we love developing regionally. We tour our work all over the country. We’ve developed in the south. We’re quite aware there is no hegemony in American Eyes. That conversation is a part of what we thrive on. We honor the validity of many points of view and we never come to one specific dogma. That isn’t interesting for us, creatively. 

The Collaborative: What is the next step for the piece after you finish your stay at The Lumberyard? 

RC:  There will be continued development with a residency in the very deep south, with a capital S, and a few smaller satellite residences for some of our members who deal with the technical aspects of the show. With all of that said we will hopefully be on track for a debut in 2021. 

“RECONSTRUCTION (Still Working but the Devil Might Be Inside)” will be performed at The Lumberyard in Catskill Aug, 17 at 8 PM and Aug. 18 at 3 PM. Tickets start at $30