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Mind the Gap: An Interview with Mary Ladany

– by Colleen Brennan

Mind the gap, New York Theatre Workshop Flyer. (Photo Credit: https://deskgram.net/explore/tags/mindthegapnytw)

On November 1 st , 2018, I interviewed Professor Mary Ladany to learn more about her involvement in a program with the New York Theater Workshop [NYTW] known as Mind the Gap: Intergenerational Theatre Workshop. This 10-week program, located in Manhattan, is offered to seven students between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, and seven “elders,” over the age of sixty. Dr. Mary Lindroth, who possesses a great interest in and knowledge of the dramatic arts encouraged Professor Ladany to become involved in the workshop.

According to Ladany, the focus of the program is primarily on listening activities that encourage each writer to create original compositions based on the inspiration derived through conversation. This workshop was created by the NYTW in 2009 in order to “foster meaningful dialogue among artists and audiences of diverse backgrounds and generations” (“Mind the
Gap”). While students and “elders” study well-known plays and monologues, they also share their own personal experiences and memories, which are then integrated into short works created by members of the program.

Professor Mary Ladany describes the program as the “educational arm of the New York Theatre Workshop.” Through her involvement, she has developed a more intuitive understanding of the very intentional aspects of dramatic dialogue, such as stage directions and pacing, and how these elements are essential to the performance of the actors and their conveyance of the central themes of the pieces. At the five-week mark in the program, each ‘elder’ is paired up with one student, and these two spend several weeks in conversation,
growing to know one another more deeply in order to prepare a final assignment that professional actors will perform.

The date of final performances for the current “Mind the Gap” workshop is December 10 th , 2018 at 4:00 PM at the New York Theater Workshop, 79 East 4th Street, (between Bowery & 2nd Ave.) New York, NY 10003.

In our discussion about the program, Professor Ladany was kind enough to share with me a short work, referred to as an object monologue, written by a high school sophomore named Nora. After speaking with Mary about a journal of letters that she shared with her mother during the year of 2002, Nora composed a short letter addressed to Mary from the journal itself, urging her to cherish and add entries to the journal, although her mother has passed. Nora writes, “I want you to hold the letters close to your heart and let the words wash over you…Remember the poems…They were for her, but now they are for you.”

Inspired by the relevance of this precious memento, Nora effectively recalls the essence of Mary’s relationship with her mother through the act of writing. Ultimately, this object monologue created through the Mind the Gap workshop granted Mary yet another rare gift that strengthens her relationship to her mother and provides relevance to this memento. Since this revival of interest, she has decided to add entries to the journal in order to continue the conversation with her mother that was begun in 2002. The uniqueness of this assignment enabled the participants in the workshop to create highly imaginative pieces that truly emphasize the sacred in the material. The Mind the Gap: Intergenerational Theatre Workshop indubitably sustains its promise to participants that they will learn to “investigate, listen and empathize with someone of another generation, while using playwriting as a tool to
understand and represent their unique experience.”

For more information on the Mind the Gap: Intergenerational Theatre Workshop, visit https://www.nytw.org/education/mind-the-gap/.

“Mind the Gap.” New York Theatre Workshop, New York Theatre Workshop,
https://www.nytw.org/education/mind-the-gap/.