This is Part 2 of this interview. Read Part 1 here.
42 Things You Should Know About My Dad
Sara Keats: Tell me about the next upcoming project. What’s it called? What’s it about?
Roland Carette-Meyers: It’s called “42 Things You Should Know About My Dad”. ‘Cause we like long titles. That’s our title aesthetic. Doesn’t fit on a poster.
Claire Koleske: It’s like Fall Out Boy. We’re the Fall Out Boy of sad millennial theater.
Sara Keats: What’s the seed on this one?
Claire Koleske: So, I lost my dad last June, and that figured heavily in my piece. About 30% of Ways was me talking about that journey. When my mom came to visit, which was when Roland told me that he and [Roland’s wife] Kiki were expecting, it was this really weird moment in my life because I found out about your kid the same week that I actually started to process what it meant that my dad died.
Roland Carette-Meyers: The theme for the month is like, “Gone but not forgotten”
Claire Koleske: I had half a story already. My dad figures very heavily in my storytelling career. He was the one who was like, “Nope. Read this book. No, we’re going to watch this movie. ” He was very invested in being a storyteller and he did not get to do that with his life.
Sara Keats: Why 42 things?
Claire Koleske: 42 comes into play because in the first show, we had 21 beats each and that felt like the right length. At one point, I said, “If we mirror that same format, we come back to 42.” And my dad loved Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Sara Keats: It’s an important number.
Claire Koleske: My mom does this whole “pennies from heaven” thing, and I don’t do that, but I do “42s from the universe,” and so I look for 42s where I can.
Roland Carette-Meyers: It feels weird to impose a structure on this show before we had any story or any of it really, but it felt right that this is a companion piece to Ways. My “Gone but not forgotten” was sort of same but different. There is a Roland that exists in this world, and when my child is born, the Roland that exists in this world will be gone, and then there will be a Roland that exists in this world that is a dad. There’s this sort of irritatingly gendered trope that the person bearing the child, the person carrying the child becomes a parent when that seed starts to blossom into a bigger collection of cells. And then there’s the other side of it that the other parent involved, typically the dad, doesn’t become a parent until they meet their kid.
Claire Koleske: In a lot of ways, we’re both writing about identity, and how suddenly, in relation to other people, your identity can change. After my father died my brother said to me, “Us poor, sad, half-orphans,” and I looked at Milo and I was like, “What do you mean?” Identifying as a daughter, and identifying as a daughter whose father no longer exists… that’s weird.
Sara Keats: It feels to me like it’s a play that uses dads and the idea of fatherhood and the idea of parenthood, and the many things that that means, to really talk about, what does it mean when there is a moment of transformation of your identity?
Roland Carette-Meyers: How do you prepare for that? Which is why I think it is better as a play than it would be as anything else, because I think the story benefits from the opportunity to observe the character of Claire sifting through the sort of… What was left behind of your dad.
Sara Keats: Thinking about props and costumes and sort of the stuff that makes up the world of this play, I think about that on the experience that you’re gonna be talking about too, and just the sheer amount of crap that comes from the typical heteronormative baby shower…
Roland Carette-Meyers: [The baby’s] already got so much crap.
Claire Koleske: Right? He has a book. He has his own copy of Midsummer.
Roland Carette-Meyers: This little tiny thing isn’t even a person yet. He doesn’t exist yet, and yet he’s already begun to gather these things that will define who he is. Something I wanna be very clear with in 42 is that it’s a cis male story. And that’s not necessarily an interesting story, that’s not necessarily a story that hasn’t already been told a thousand times. I think by making it embarrassingly personal, we make is more specific and little more open.
Sara Keats: I love the fact that there are these two men who don’t exist on this plane, yet, who are just orbited by all of these objects, and what do those objects say about the identity of that person who is there without being there?
Claire Koleske: That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about is staging, because Ways was very minimal staging. But with this one, I have costume pieces… I’m gonna have a lab coat and this amazing purple coat that my dad wore and I’m going to have the shirts that my aunt made for my dad. And at the very end of the show, we assume it will be some kind of blank slate in the staging of that ’cause it is part of an identity. It is a journey of an identity.
Roland Carette-Meyers: And what do you learn… What am I learning about who this kid will be by collecting stuff and deciding what stuff I want, and what color stuff I want. We’ve been very clear with our family, no things that are murdered with blue and fire trucks like…
Sara Keats: Who else is in these conversations? I’m thinking especially, [Roland’s wife] Kiki’s a theater artist, is that a collaborative relationship like, or is it sort of just like, “I’m gonna run with my own journey of this and see you on opening night?” Claire, you said you were having this really great conversation with your mom. Do they know about the show? On the spectrum of knowing about the show through co-writing, where are folks landing?
Claire Koleske: I told my mom. She and my brothers are coming up for it, which I’m really excited about. For Ways, I didn’t tell William [Claire’s husband, who is also a playwright] anything until opening night.
Roland Carette-Meyers: He ran our sound.
Claire Koleske: He’s great. Normally, he gets the first draft of everything that I write. He read my romance novel and was like, “Here are five pages of notes.” But I didn’t give him this at all, and he found it to be an incredibly moving experience because he didn’t know anything going into it.
Roland Carette-Meyers: Same with Kiki. I would not have finished 20 minutes of grad school were it not for her help with my writing. [But for this show] she didn’t see a sentence of it until opening night, and that was really intentional. It was difficult…
Claire Koleske: Yeah, it was really hard.
On fatherhood and identity
Claire Koleske: At every turn, I have been compared to my dad. Every single like, “Yep, she’s just like Dan, she’s very driven, very career-oriented, very much focused on how can we get these results in the best possible way for everybody who’s on the team?” And so it is no secret that a lot of my dad’s living habits were what caused, in so much as it can cause things, the cancer. But the thing that I’m the most grateful for that he did for us kids is he said, “No, go be an artist. I didn’t. I love what I do, but I didn’t get to be an artist and I need you to do that for me.” So it’s… Yeah.
Roland Carette-Meyers: For so long, at least in my childhood, everyone around me, their dads were defined by what they did, that it’s take-your-kid-to-work day, that it’s show-and-tell and like, “My dad is a firefighter.” And so, the scope of my father’s identity for much of my being a small kid was like, “Oh, he’s the one that makes the really good burgers, and also he’s a pest control guy.” And those are the two things that he is, and that’s just… And it’s so much of what we carry into the world you… “What do you do as your job?”
Sara Keats: Identity and capitalism, who we are.
Roland Carette-Meyers: Yeah. So what am I carrying into this new relationship with my new son that will be my identity to him?
42 Things You Need to Know About My Dad plays May 16 and May 31 at 7:30 PM at the Copious Love space in Ballard. Tickets are available now at www.copious.art.