LWT: Can you talk more about the relationship that you have with playwright Emily Mann?
Jade King Carroll: I have a show running at her theatre right now. (The Piano Lesson.) I can’t remember meeting her. My father collaborated with her on a musical called Betsy Brown during the first decade of my life. I fell in love with the theatre watching that musical be developed, watching Emily Mann direct. George Faison choreographed. Joe Papp was at the helm of it; he was huge in developing it. I didn’t realize as a child what luminaries I was watching. I was just going to work with my father. But I fell in love with what I saw Emily directing, and it just inspired me. And then I saw a production of The Glass Menagerie (that she directed) during her first season as Artistic Director at McCarter, just as an audience member. And I remember thinking, “Wow, you can do it with just words.” I had been raised on the musical and around music. I fell in love with Tennessee Williams, and at the ripe old age of eleven, I said, “This is what I want to do. I want to direct.” And Emily has been absolutely amazing in keeping the door open and mentoring me since then. I was a directing intern at McCarter, and a decade later I just had my directing premiere there. I was her associate director on A Streetcar Named Desire. She’s always had an honest conversation with me and been completely inspiring. I’m very lucky to have her as a mentor. And to be working on this play that twenty years ago was my first Broadway opening. It’s a very special moment in time.
LWT: Has she had any advice for you coming into this process?
JKC: She’s had so much advice for me my whole life. We’ve talked about (this play.) She’ll be stopping into a few rehearsals. We were texting this morning. She’s very excited.
LWT: What do you admire about her writing?
JKC: You know, I think the way Emily writes is she really captures characters. She writes all kinds of plays, but she’s known for what people call “testimonial theater.” Emily made Amy Hearth’s book into a play, but you never hear Emily’s voice in it, which I think is wonderful. What she does as a playwright is capture the characters’ voices. So she’s almost invisible. It’s really Bessie and Sadie talking to each other. I think that’s what makes the play special. It’s these two women welcoming you into their house and inviting you into their history and their lives. It’s really their voices.