Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your production, Talking Trees, is currently running at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood, CA. As the writer and producer, what can you share with us about the premise of this story?
Lonnie Hughes: The premise of the story revolves around race, love, and the painful, yet ironic, duality of poor communication. This therapeutic tale centered around a mixed race couple and their refusal to effectively communicate, giving race permission to be the silent killer of their relationship is as present today as it probably was 40 years ago. The only difference is race is not just a color anymore, it’s a mindset. The play should leave you asking yourself what is your mindset and how effective are you in communicating your truth? It’s a mouthful and, yes, as a writer and lover of humanity…I think it should be digest like a good meal…hearty and full of gusto.
BD: What can you tell us about the inspiration behind Talking Trees, and are there any creators or other works which have influenced your work?
LH: The inspiration of Talking Trees came from a true life experience of being in love with the “other” as I quote the play. It’s kinda funny quoting yourself and also quite freeing, standing behind something that you truly believe. I fell in love with a beautiful woman who fell in love with me and the thought of thinking that wasn’t enough from the view point of her Parents still cuts like a knife. I have to tell you, sharing this work and committing to the truth has been the best therapy and healing I could wish for. When I started to write Talking Trees, it basically spoke to me like a wild fever. I started and I couldn’t stop writing. But because of the subject matter and my flippant fun persona, I knew I couldn’t tell the story from a poor-me POV, so Norman Lear, August Wilson, and Woody Allen all played a huge part in telling the honesty of the story but with a biting humor, like the way the hit show, All in the Family, made you laugh and think in the same breath.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with the cast, crew, and director Marjorie LeWit, and how would you describe your approach to visualizing and casting this production?
LH: The creative process working with the cast and crew was effortless. I like working like a family. I like hearing and feeling what the actors and crew want to experience as the character but most importantly as a real human. It’s very important to me that everyone walks away from the project with something more than they expected. After all of that is taken into account, I like to eat with the cast as many times as possible. So I made it possible that I cooked and fed the cast every time we had rehearsal pass 5 hours. The art of cooking foods that I like to make for myself and sharing it with the cast made quality times and that was just a small part of the process. The Best Part of the process was watching the Director Marjorie LeWit pull and stretch the actors gently into the characters you see on stage. Marjorie brought my mind off the page and into a tangible form for the everyday person to get it but most importantly accept my crazy chatter into superb visuals. I love the way Marjorie thinks, her approach and her super sensitivity to actors, the work and her complete dedication to bringing theatre to the world. She is a dynamic force and the perfect utensil to digesting my language.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the performance?
LH: I’d like for audiences to take away a “feeling” after a performance. I know it’s a strange thing to say, but I’m not too concerned if people like or dislike the play, but I am concerned and excited to know how they “feel.” I want people to walk away feeling something in their body, feeling something they must digest .(Here I am on that food thing again!) In simple, I’d like for people for once to get out of their heads and into their bodies and feel whatever that feeling is that promotes and honest conversation with a good chuckle or maybe two.
BD: Are there any additional upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
LH: I’m always feverishly writing in the middle of the night so I have loads to share…but most pressing I have a Musical, in the wings eagerly to take flight called “Hope is a Window” a cross between Father of the Bride and Titanic set in Louisiana the night hurricane Katrina is about to hit the Mainland. And, I also have a literature and art-book called When Was the Last Time You Were Nice to Someone comprised of 44 random interviews and drawings of people I met on the street, the plane, subways, café’s…wherever people would stop and talk to me, I interviewed them on what the word “nice” meant to them…
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Talking Trees?
LH: The only thing that I’d like to share with the readers about Talking Trees…is, “Life is simple, if we listen as hard as we talk”…then run to the theatre as fast as you can and feel whatever you want to feel…just feel…And as far as tickets, you can go to the website, www.talkingtreesplay.com, and purchase tickets for $20 or at the door for $25 at the Secret Rose Theatre (11246 Magnolia Blvd. in NOHO).