Meet The Artist:
An Interview with Pam Strait Director, Blackbird
Blackbird by David Harrower
Fifteen years ago, Una and Ray had a relationship. They haven’t set eyes on each other since. Now she’s found him again. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, Blackbird is a deeply complex portrayal of two people whose ruined lives are inextricably intertwined after a sexual encounter.
What is your theatrical background?
I have undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Theatre from Henderson University and attended the National Shakespeare Conservatory. I’ve been acting, writing, and directing for more than 40 years. The Dead Guy in 2007 was my first B production and I joined the ensemble the next year.
You’ve worn pretty much all of the hats in the theater. Which do you like best?
I’ve been fortunate enough to wear many theatrical hats, from actor and director to property, costume, and sound design. I’ve cleaned bathrooms, mopped stages, run light boards and considered every opportunity a gift. Each of these hats has its particular reward, but at heart, I’ll always be an actor first! Analyzing a script, carving a new character from scratch, finding their reality, and pulling them into life — that’s the essence of theatre for me.
What has been a rewarding theatrical experience?
The Theatre B ensemble is an amazing group of smart, creative, dedicated artists and finding a home among them has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life — narrowing to a single project feels impossible. Each new production becomes my favorite!
What is your fondest Theatre B memory?
As much as I love working with the ensemble, just hanging out with them is even better. Long weekends at the lake, goofing off, relaxing — those are some of my fondest B memories! I feel so blessed these beautiful people have become my intentional family!
Let’s talk about this show. What is Blackbird about?
Harrower has given us a treatise on sexual abuse — the trauma it causes, the lifelong effects of that trauma, victim-blaming culture — all hard stuff. The dialogue is written in a prose style that is intentionally jerky, repetitive, shattered, which mirrors the lives of both characters. Based on the true story of a former US Marine, Blackbird is a dark and frank examination of the impact abuse can have on both survivors and perpetrators.
Theatre B intentionally chooses plays that make the audience think critically, and don’t always end with a perfect resolution. What makes Blackbird a good “B Show”?
Blackbird is totally a B show! It’s an incredibly difficult subject and Harrower addresses the unspeakable-ness bluntly, never offering us answers. I’m following suit and leaving it to the audience to decide whether or not Ray is a predator or if he just fell in love. Theatre doesn’t get any more “B” than that!
Interview by Emily Clemenson