Joanna Bowman is very involved in St Andrews theatre. She’s already directed one production this semester, a highly successful reading of The Wasteland, besides being sitting Mermaids President. But she’s got one more show this semester. This Sunday’s performance of Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche promises to be interesting, if by name alone. I sat down with her, to see if I could learn a little more.
Owl Eyes: What is Five Lesbians eating a Quiche?
Joanna Bowman: We join five members of the Susan B. Anthony society for the appreciation of Gertrude Stein in their annual quiche breakfast in 1956. Which is about as ridiculous as it sounds. So essentially it’s five women who love quiche more than anything else in the world chatting about their lives, and then the communists attack them with a nuclear bomb, and they’re the only five people remaining in this bunker. Hilarity ensues, and dot dot dot. The plot is ridiculous, and convoluted, and incredibly exciting.
OE: I hear good things! I hear a lot about innuendo…
JB: There’s absolutely no subtlety in the play. Every single line can read either as a perfectly innocent comment about one’s love of quiche, or about a perfectly un-innocent, debased love of something else entirely, which is incredibly exciting. And, I think, particularly in the way we’re staging it, it’s all very innocent, and the way it’s said, and it’s all in the audience to conjecture their own innuendo from that.
OE: And this will be one show only, correct?
JB: That’s right, we’re just doing the one show. We’re doing it in the Union rehearsal room, which is a relatively big space. We wanted to have a relatively jubilant atmosphere. It’s important that we have a large audience because there’s so much audience interaction in it. So we wanted to fill the rehearsal room. And we decided that the best way to do that would be a one-night thing.
OE: Audience interaction? Tell me more about that.
JB: A lot of the play is riffing off the audience reaction to these ridiculous innuendo [based] phrases. There’ll be chances for audience to shout out their appreciation of lines, [and] we’re hoping to get quiches for the audience. Everyone in the audience comes as a member of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the appreciation of Gertrude Stein, so there’s very much this sense that the audience is part of the action, and we hope to reflect that in the staging, by having the actors throughout the audience, throughout the play.
OE: How do you direct that? How do you rehearse for working with people?
JB: It’s really difficult, considering we only have one night, so they’re only going to get one chance to do this audience interaction stuff. Essentially what we’ve done is, we have quite a big production team, so they’re helpful in sitting around the room, and trying to give some semblance [of an audience]. But it’s as much as a surprise to us as it is to the audience as to how the audience interaction is actually going to go. Which is terrifying but also mostly exciting.
OE: This is being funded through the LGBT+ Society. Would you tell me about what their interaction has been like?
JB: We’re lucky that LGBT have funded this play, first of all. It’s a very light-hearted piece of theatre. It doesn’t engage with gay issues in any real sense of the word. There’s a passing reference to gay marriage but past that, it’s pretty much just ridiculous. So it’s not a heavy, politically-weighted piece of theatre. Our relationship to the LGBT Society is, well, Sigrid [Jorgensen], President of the LGBT Society, queen of the queers, if you will, is our stage manager, so we have a really great relationship there. They’re really keen to help us, to facilitate what we need. So working with LGBT has been absolutely [fantastic].
OE: You’re working with Laura Antone for the umpteenth time. What is your relationship like, and why do you keep choosing her as your producer?
JB: We’re absolutely friends now. But our relationship started – I use the word “professionally” (but is anything really professional in student theatre?) when she was my producer for my second play in St Andrews. And we worked really well together. I think we have a lot of trust in each other, which makes it very easy to say, “I need this doing,” and to know it will be done. Which is what I need in a producer: someone to do the things that I am incompetent to do. It comes from a place of absolute trust.
OE: Tell me more about the staging, since you keep bringing it up. The rehearsal room is tricky.
JB: The rehearsal room is an unconventional space, and we’re learning about its quirks, as we go through the process. As the play is set in a town hall, we want that kind of vibe, which is why we’ve gone for the rehearsal room. It’s a place that feels utterly clinical, bland, which means we can put up our communist warning posters and it feels like an underground bunker. But it’s a case of using the space as much as we can, and because so much is made of the audience being members of a society, using the space in a way that makes the audience feels included and crucial to the plot of the play.
OE: Why should people come see Five Lesbians eating a Quiche?
JB: I think if you want to spend an evening in the theatre which is entirely ridiculous, and isn’t attempting to be or do anything other than entertain people. There’s no sense that this place is going to ignite a fire for political revolution, as some other plays do, but it’s just an entertaining piece of theatre. The cast are incredibly talented comedic actors: members of Blind Mirth, people who have done a lot of theatre, and members of Comedy Society, which is really nice as well. So if you want to come and have a giggle with us for an hour, then it’s worth coming along. Also the title’s just funny to say to people.
It sounds like the play will manage to be even funnier than the title. See it this Sunday at 7:30, in the Union’s large rehearsal room.