David Wells’ new play, County Line will run at the Performance Network from January 16 (Thursday) to February 16 (Sunday). The play has already received national recognition. It has earned an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, and is one of six plays selected for the upcoming National New Play Network Showcase. Last year, Performance Network staged another Wells play, Brill.
The description of County Line calls it a coming-of-age story. Brill was, in a sense, also a coming-of-age story.
Wells: You’re right, there are elements of that in both plays. The thing is, though, I wasn’t thinking in those terms for either play, though. It seems that most stories with a protagonist in his/her formative years could get the ‘coming of age’ label. Both plays are similar in that they feature a young woman going through life-affecting situations.
Phil Powers had the lead role in Brill and he’ll also be in County Line. Did you have him in mind as you were writing the play?
I had not been picturing Phil while writing County Line, but I was picturing Alissa Nordmoe, who plays Lois, the young woman telling the story. Alissa has this great authenticity and honesty, which is something I was really shooting for in the character of Lois.
How did you know of her work?
Alissa auditioned for Brill. At the time, I was thinking quite a bit about County Line, and I had a pretty specific voice in mind for the main character. When I heard Alissa read, all my ideas about County Line really crystallized around her. After Sarah Leahy was cast as Brill, I got in touch with Alissa and told her I was writing something with her in mind.
Can you talk about who/what you drew on for these rich characters and their interactions?
I don’t have kids and I was never a teenage girl; so it’s not a relationship I’ve experienced. I know I don’t tend to think in terms of gender differences when I’m writing, but rather about commonalities. I think there’s a lot more overlap between people than there is distance, so that may be part of it.
Lois has not had it easy even before the play begins, and endures a great deal in the course of the play…
I find that the stories that resonate most with me are ones in which people ultimately come together, rather than wind up isolated. While Lois spends the bulk of the play being failed by the institutions designed to protect her, she survives because of her relationship with Darius that leads to her connection with her uncle. The characters who don’t fare as well are isolated, without that overall connection.