Our interview with Matt Pfeiffer, director of ‘Sin Eaters’
Q: How did you approach adapting Sin Eaters as a virtual production? What were some of the themes that you were able to highlight through this medium as opposed to an onstage production?
Well, since so much of the play is about screen time and what it can do to your perception of reality, I definitely think our approach is a commentary on those themes. On stage, you’d be able to engage with the intellectual idea, but people will watch this through the very medium that is under scrutiny in the play. There’s also a lot about voyeurism. The way we’ve staged it digitally is intended as a meta-commentary on voyeurism.
Q: How connected would you say you are to social media in your day-to-day life? Has working on Sin Eaters altered your opinion in any way?
Like most people, I’m way too connected to social media. I spend way too much time looking at my phone, just scrolling through nonsense. Working on the play has definitely reminded me of all the ways in which my perception of reality has been greatly altered by social media.
Q: What advice would you give another director who was adapting to online directing?
I was eager to create a circumstance that allowed the actors to play the play without interruption. In most cases that was true. It wasn’t until we had to do re-shoots, that the process wasn’t true theater. I would say that you should think quite a bit about what the point of view of the camera actually is. In the theater it’s a fairly intuitive process, we are aware of our relationship to the stage from the audience. In moving to a digital platform, you have to reconsider what the relationship between the play and the audience can be. What’s the audience’s relationship with the camera? And I think you have to try and make the camera character.
Q: What was it like collaborating with the two co-stars, Bi Jean Ngo and David M Raine? Did their real-life relationship help inform how they approached their characters’ relationship “onstage”?
They are both supremely talented actors. But their familiarity and comfortability with each other definitely added a layer of verisimilitude. The relationship of the characters is different from their actual relationship, but the dilemmas and tensions that face all couples are still available to draw upon.
Q: What would you like the audience to take away from Sin Eaters?
I’m always a little afraid of this question. I don’t want to be didactic about what the experience should be. I certainly think the play raises great questions about how we perceive the world when our main source of engagement is our phone. Or on line. In this pandemic, that has increased. We can’t seem to agree on basic information and truths. And, clearly, there’s a disturbing number of people who are inclined to see conspiracy and be galvanized to unshakable conviction by untruths. But when you silo yourself off and seek only confirmation for your perceptions, that’s where you can end up. The play, through a sort of Twilight Zone/Black Mirror lens, gets at that idea, metaphorically speaking. I hope that’s what the audience engages with.