Joe Canuso on Lost Girls

Fri, 01/27/2017
External Relations Director, Brianne Shaw, Interviews Lost Girls Director Joe Canuso
BS: What appealed to you about Lost Girls?
JC: There is something about the survival mechanism of these characters that appealed to me. They are not necessarily the most articulate or politically correct in their ability to communicate but their unfiltered humanity is refreshing and inspiring. In so many ways this play captured some of the same energy of Killer Joe by Tracy Letts but with a more female drive to it.
BS: Part of Theatre Exile’s artistic mission is to challenge our local artists, what challenges do these characters present?
JC: For our designers, the challenge is to present a play with multiple locations in our studio space. Colin McIlvaine has designed a revolving stage which is a first for us at Studio X.
As far as the actor's challenge, we have always demanded a certain level of raw emotional honesty. In that intimate space there is no place to hide so we demand that our actors live in a moment of truth no matter how dangerous that is. This play is no exception.
BS:What’s the biggest challenge in directing this piece? 
JCFor me, the biggest challenge is in getting to the honest emotional core of the play. At its most basic it is a love story. And it is a love that has been buried under a lot of baggage. So, unearthing that is a very delicate process.
BS:What do you hope people will take away from the play?
JCI hope the audience leaves the theater realizing that our only hope for the future is in coming together as a family. It doesn't matter how we define that family but survival depends on taking care of and leaning on each other. The characters in the play learn how much they need each other.
BS:Why do you think it is important for audiences to see this play?
JCThis is a tricky one because we don't believe in preaching to our audiences at Exile, but I will say that it is important that we get past all of the labels that are flying around right now like "working class poor" and "cultural elite" and "red state / blue state" and try to find what it is that connects us. This play is so universal because it is about survival and the lengths we will go to keep our family together.
BS:What makes now the right time for this play to be produced in Philadelphia?
JCThere are so many themes in this play that are relevant today like the challenges of single parenthood and the devastating cycle of early pregnancies that destroy some families. That is why we have partnered with Planned Parenthood, who have their own survival problems right now, to raise awareness for these issues.
BS:Can you give some insight into your process as a director?
JCI like to think of myself as an actor's director. My job is to help these actors find that truthfulness on their own by whatever means we can use to get there. I always think of the rehearsal room as our laboratory where we have the freedom to fail and to keep failing until we unlock something precious. Then our job is to find the right way to present that gift to the audience.
BS:What are some of the most important factors in bringing characters to life with authenticity?
JCSometimes the best advice is to get out of our own way. The more we can let go of our own baggage the more space we have to fill that vessel with love. We do messy plays at Exile and the more we can embrace that messiness and make it our own the more truthful we will be.
BS:As you have studied and re-read this play, is there anything that has surprised you or caught your imagination?
JCThere is a beautiful twist that happens in the play that I won't reveal but which tickled me so much when I first read it. I always love when there is an "aha" moment in a play. And even though I know it's coming now I still get a little tingle when it is revealed. I think the other thing that caught my imagination is that being a parent myself, I find Maggie to be such a hero because she gives up so much to protect that kid. It is the ultimate sacrifice, and millions of parents do it every day.
BS:What keeps you inspired artistically?
JCJoy....just boundless joy in being able to do the thing I love the most. When I am in the rehearsal room I am fulfilled. I get so much inspiration from the other people in the room that I have a hard time just harnessing it all. But that is a good problem to have.