Photo by Brian McConkey
TimeLine Theatre and Chaim Potak’s luxuriously vivid novel “I Am Asher Lev” represent an obvious match. Though Aaron Posner’s bare bones adaptation leaves something to be desired, it’s easy to see why the esteemed theater company chose to present this theatrical slice of culture and time. Our Town spoke with Artistic Director PJ Powers about Timeline’s goals, issues of faith and religion, and why the play’s message is too complex to boil down.
Our Town As artistic director, what are your goals for TimeLine?
PJ Powers I hope TimeLine can always be a place that piques people’s curiosity. This is accomplished, I believe, many different ways: picking plays that are provocative, creating a world within our theatre that is immersive and stimulating, designing productions with intriguing, unexpected choices, featuring both veteran artists and emerging artists that perhaps haven’t been seen before, and ultimately presenting stories that get people talking – stories that ignite dialogue about vital issues of today. It’s my job as artistic director to collaborate with a dynamic team, inspire their ideas and work to help bring those ideas to fruition.
OT Timeline's tagline is "Yesterday's stories, today's topics." How does a theater company benefit by prioritizing a connection to the past?
PJP Our mission of presenting plays inspired by history that connect with social and political issues of today is the heart and soul of TimeLine, informing all of our artistic decisions. And it’s important to recognize that this mission – along with our tagline – isn’t just about looking back. It’s also about looking at the here-and-now. We use history as a context for discussing issues of today. It becomes a framework to examine how we got to where we are right now.
OT Why is "Asher Lev" a good fit for TimeLine?
PJP "Asher Lev" is, much like our mission, about evolution and progress. It’s about honoring the past, while forging boldly into the future. Young Asher is finding his place in the world – finding his voice – and while he wants to honor his heritage, he cannot deny what is happening to him in the present. Anyone who has forged their own path, despite family disapproval, can identify with what it’s like to courageously pull away from their past. We were very drawn to that. We also were very interested in doing a play that explored issues of faith and religion – things that all-too-rarely are examined on stage.
OT If you're familiar with the original work, what compelled you about the adaptation? ie what are its strengths?
PJP The strengths of the adaptation are in the audience’s relationship with Asher. He leads us through the story with ease and dexterity, thanks to Aaron Posner’s adaptation. The play seamlessly shifts through different years and stages in Asher’s life, and the audience easily makes the leaps in time and leaps with changing characters in Asher’s life.