Let’s Chat! with the BASiC Theatre Project

Between Under the Radar and COIL, January is the month for downtown theater. But those two festivals aren’t the only place to get your wintry, under-14th Street fix: The BASiC Theatre Project is having a go at Elizabeth Meriwether’s The Mistakes Madeline Madea 2006 play about twenty-somethings, loss, and growing up in the post-9/11 era.

Mistakes Madeline Made

I recently spoke with BASiC artistic director Zi Alikhan about the play, his company, and about Meriwether, who, since first writing Madeline, has made it big in Hollywood, penning the screenplay for No Strings Attached and creating the Fox sitcom New Girl. Here’s what Alikhan had to say.

On first encountering the play…
I read Madeline in a class called Contemporary American Playwrights [at NYU] in fall 2008. The class was such a cool experience, but I was having a hard time identifying with any of the playwrights or their plays. It wasn’t until I read Liz’s plays that I was like, “Oh shit, this is a girl who’s not much older than me, who’s lived a very similar experience to me.”

Then she came to the class and was this awkward girl in big glasses who lived in Williamsburg. I was like, “You’re awesome—you’re just like every girl I see walking down the street!”

On Elizabeth Meriwether…
She’s been really supportive of the project. We were having a very hard time getting the rights to the play because her agents didn’t want a young theater company doing her work right now, when she’s so hot. So I wrote directly to her and said, “I’ve loved your plays for the past five years, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do right now.”

On the play
Madeline is about being in your early twenties, about being in New York City, and not having any idea of your sense of purpose. It’s also about a generation of young adults surrounded by constant war, feeling kind of desensitized to it, and what it means when war personally affects you.

On New Girl…
Yes, I am a New Girl fan—I started watching it and I still dabble in it. That being said, I think Elizabeth’s writing for the stage is what drew me to her in the first place. She’s such a strong stage writer. I actually think this is why she writes so well for someone like Zooey Deschanel—she really likes eccentricity.

As much as it’s about creating theater, I’ve always been interested in creating community, and I think that’s what we’re doing.

The Mistakes Madeline Made runs through January 20th at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y
Click here for more info; here for tickets
Interview has been edited and condensed




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