Our mission at Quotidian Theatre Company is to find truth and beauty in the everyday, presenting plays in an understated, impressionistic style. This is a theatre that doesn’t rely on special effects; just piercingly truthful acting and no-frills storytelling about the poetry of everyday life. By providing realistic situations and dialogue, Quotidian lets audiences witness events as if over a backyard fence or through an open window, thus illuminating the depth and dignity of ordinary human experience.
Both our “cornerstone” playwrights, Chekhov and Foote, do indeed share a number of traits beyond the obvious restraint and lack of traditional plots. One shared gift is the lyrical evocation of nature to remind the audience that human dramas are but brief episodes on a vast stage which will survive us all. Nina’s sea gull, Astrov’s forest, Masha’s migrating birds, and Ranevskaya’s orchard are all echoed in Carrie Watts’ Bountiful and George Tolliver’s Matagorda coastline. The early work of both playwrights was quite realistic, with great detail and dialogue which ensured that the audience did not miss any intention. Yet as both writers matured, their work became much more “impressionistic,” with many details omitted, and dialogue reduced to brief brush strokes, so that intentions and motivations are rarely clear. Thus the audience is asked to become more than passive witnesses; they must assess what they see and hear and make decisions about characters and events.
In 2004, Quotidian staged its first play by Conor McPherson, The Weir, and this playwright’s work has become so very important to the theatre and its audience. Just as Chekhov and Foote, McPherson has a deep understanding of the human condition. This is a theatre of unanswered questions and “zero endings,” much like life itself. The most successful productions of Chekhov, Foote, and McPherson are followed by animated lobby discussions regarding characters’ actions and motivations. The playwright has held up a mirror to the audience and allowed then to experience the human spirit in all its frailty and perseverance.
QTC co-founders Stephanie Mumford and Jack Sbarbori bring a wealth of experience to the Company, having collaborated on over a dozen Chekhov and Foote plays in the last decade. Mumford received the Theatre Lobby’s Mary Goldwater Award for her direction of The Sea Gull in 1992. At about the same time, Sbarbori wrote a fan letter to Horton Foote, starting a correspondence which continued until Foote’s passing in March of 2009. Sbarbori’s direction of Foote plays has been recognized by many awards, but the greatest honor came when Foote allowed him to direct the de factopremiere of The Day Emily Married. Foote praised the production, and afforded the cast and production team full credit when the play was published in 1998. Foote’s support continued with his permission for the initial staging of his teleplay The Rocking Chair in 2001, and for a special presentation of Valentine’s Day in May/June 2003 with a prologue and epilogue drawn from other plays from his Orphans’ Home Cycle.
For those wishing to read more about impressionism in theatre, we recommend Dr. Tim Wright’s More Real than Realism: Horton Foote’s Impressionism, a part of Dr. Gerald C. Wood’s wonderful collection Horton Foote: A Casebook (Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998).