Athena Festival Playwright Hallie Palladino Shares Her Thoughts on Missed Connections and the Gender Gap in Theatre.

Missed Connections by Hallie Palladino
Directed by Ann Kreitman 
December 6th at 1:00PM
Avery, an introverted grammar nerd, has a crush on Layla, a stylish and self-possessed newspaper editor. When a missed connection ad details their chance encounter Avery is uncharacteristically emboldened to take a chance on love. The problem? The ad was printed before they met. When more ads start predicting the future everyone's lives are thrown into upheaval.

At its heart, what is your script about?
This play is a classic love story with a magical twist.
What do you want audiences to feel when they leave the theatre?
I want them to feel happy that everything worked out for the characters and perhaps a little inspired.
(from left): Arti Ishak (Carrie), Shariba Rivers (Elena), Ryan Jendrycki (Justin), Lexi Saunders (Avery), Miriam Reuter (Layla), and playwright Hallie Palladino in rehearsals.

What inspired you to write your script?
When I was teaching in the UK I actually gave my own writing students the same assignment that Avery gives the students in the opening scene of this play. I love writing plays for Chicago audiences with a lot of inside jokes about Chicago.
What are the themes and motifs contained within your script? What are the conflicts?
The play is about love and the courage it takes to make ourselves vulnerable by beginning a new relationship. It's also about breaking unhealthy patterns to make room for something new. All of these characters at the beginning of the play are stuck in a rut--a chance at love gives them the momentum they need to make positive changes. Avery is an introvert, and introverts are often great at solving other people's problems--but this also means that they are often cast in the problem solver role in every relationship, with their own needs getting unmet. Through Avery's mentorship of Justin she is able to find the confidence to take her own advice. Through being honest with herself that she is using her feelings for Carrie as a a way to avoid the uncertainty of a real relationship, she is able to move forward and make herself emotionally available. Layla's journey is one of differentiating her own dreams from those of her parents and letting go of the need for their approval--which it turns out she's had all along.
(From left): Shariba Rivers (Elena), Ryan Jendrycki (Justin), and Lexi Saunders (Avery) in rehearsals.

Discuss your use of language and the perspectives of your characters and how they shape your script
This is a language driven play about people who are all connected to language in different ways--Avery is a writer and a grammar enthusiast, Layla is a journalist and uses language to report, Justin is a poet and uses language to express feelings. Elena is a librarian who loves making speeches, both are ways of using language to create community. Carrie wields language to spin stories as a publicist and also to deflect from her vulnerabilities with humor. Throughout the play the characters use language to connect with each other but language also causes much confusion and conflict. The power of the magic ads in the play creates a heightened reality in which words inspire people to do crazy things.

How does your script work within Idle Muse Theatre Company's mission to be Transporting, Timely and True?  
Here is why Missed Connections is transporting, timely and true.
1) Transporting: The play has magical elements. A series of mysterious missed connections ads appear inexplicably in the play, functioning as a contemporary urban form of prophecy, spurring the characters to take a chance on love.
2) Timely: Now that we have marriage equality, it's time for more romantic comedies featuring lesbian characters. Plus love stories are perennially timely.
3) True: Missed Connections is about how hard it is to get out of our comfort zones and stale relationship patterns and take a romantic risk.

Have you personally experienced the gender gap in the theatre industry?
Personally, I've had entirely positive experiences working with very inclusive companies. The male artistic staff at organizations I've worked for have always championed women playwrights and directors. That said, we still need more female artistic directors in theater.
(from left): playwright Hallie Palladino, Arti Ishak (Carrie), Shariba Rivers (Elena), Ryan Jendrycki (Justin), and Lexi Saunders (Avery) in rehearsals.

What do you think is the best way to combat the gender gap in the theatre industry?
More female artistic directors would help. I also think it has to come from the audience side as well as the production side. The best thing theaters can do is to tell women's stories in a compelling way, and the best thing audiences can do is to demand these stories.

Where do you see the future of the theatre industry going in terms of inclusion and the gender gap?
There is a lot of attention to the gender gap in theater now which is encouraging. I think the Kilroys are helping bring attention to how many fabulous women playwrights we have. The Women's Voices Festival in D.C. is very exciting. Also just the fact that when an off-Broadway theater accidentally programs an all male authored season it now makes national news is indicative of the growing awareness around this issue. Here in Chicago we can do a lot to support diverse voices in theater by going to see the plays that are telling women's stories and making sure that we encourage others to do the same. I'm so grateful to Idle Muse and the Athena Festival for creating more opportunities for these stories to be heard.

The staged reading of Missed Connections by Hallie Palladino can be seen Sunday, December 6th at 1:00PM
Athena Festival
is a project to provide a greater voice and representation for women in Chicago Theatre. Athena is the Greek goddess of reason, intelligent activity, arts and literature. Likewise, the Athena Festival will feature staged readings of plays by diverse women playwrights, directed by women, featuring women in prominent roles  
- in particular, stories of women overcoming the barriers laid before them to show Chicago and the world that their voice is one to be heard.
Join Us For a Weekend of Staged Readings and Good Conversations - $7 per show or $20 for the entire weekend!
Can't attend?  Still want to support Idle Muse?

Supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H.  Driehaus Foundation.
December 5 & 6, 2015
1:00pm & 5:00 each day.
1106 W Thorndale Ave
Chicago, IL 60660 
Enjoy a series of Staged Readings followed by Conversations in support of Chicago Storefront Theatre.
Also This Season:

Jackalope Theatre's Frontier
1106 W Thorndale AveChicago, IL 60660