The Purple Rose Theatre’s second play of their 2011-2012 season, William Mastrosimone’s A Stone Carver, opens on January 19 and runs through March 10. The Purple Rose’s longtime artistic director, Guy Sanville, will move out from his customary director’s chair to take on the role of Agostino, the father in the play, while Rhiannon Ragland, who has acted in numerous Purple Rose productions, will make her professional debut as director. I began by complimenting Ragland on her fabulous work in last year’s Consider the Oyster. She replied that it was the result of Sanville, “kicking my butt!”
Are you looking forward to kicking his butt now that the shoe will be on the other foot?
Ragland: Oh, very much. Yeah. (Laughter)
Sanville: I’m really looking forward to it. I’m still producing the show, but she’s the director and I’ll respect that, and hope she’s not too hard on me. (Laughter)
Ragland: I’ve wanted to see if I am capable of that, if that side of my brain actually works that well. I want to know more about what we do, not just as an actor, but what we do as a theater, as a company. You want to explore and see what other talents are hidden in you.
A Stone Carver comes out of Mastrosimone’s own family’s experience.
Sanville: It happened to his father. There’s a speech in the play where Agostino says, “In Italy, the Mafia come to my father and they say, "you pay this money every week." He tell me, "you go to America, you work hard, you get to keep what’s yours, nobody take it away from you.” And then his home gets taken away from him through eminent domain. Mastrosimone told me that that’s a true story. Here’s a guy who buys into the American dream and does everything right: He goes to work, he pays his taxes, he buys the stone, he builds his house — and just like that, they come and take it away from him.
Ragland: There’s a lot of romance in this show, too. It’s not the traditional man/woman romance, but the romance of family and of relationships. Agostino is not driven to prove himself by his worth. He’s in love with his work.
Sanville: He believes he’s born to make beautiful things.
Ragland: But he says it’s hard work, too. His son says, “You have talent.” And Agostino says, “What talent! I worked my ass off for this.”
Sanville: His son’s fiancé says, “Maybe he doesn’t have your gift.” Agostino says, “I bust my ass twenty years for this gift.”
Ragland: I think everybody has had that moment, whether it’s with a parent or a mentor who’s trying to push you, trying to help you, and you feel, for whatever reason, like you need to go and stand on your own, right or wrong. I think there are parts of it that are identifiable for everybody.
Performances are at the Purple Rose Theater, 137 Park St., Chelsea. $10-$40, depending on day. 734-433-7673. www.purplerosetheatre.org