Leelee Stranger on Rebellion Dogs / by Declan Maloney Drummond

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What is Rebellion Dogs about?

Rebellion Dogs is about addiction. When I first wrote it, I thought it was a relationship piece, but when I tackled the finished script from a director’s point of view, I realized it was actually about the effects of addiction; how it warps one’s perspective, changes one’s behavior, and clouds everything in denial. Rebellion Dogs is about two people in love and their drug dealer, whom they consider a friend. All three of them are in pain, all three have these tremendous needs and a sense of desperate loneliness, and instead of being able to help one another, they all turn to substances for solace. It’s a three person play where Heroin plays the biggest role.

What's been the process of taking such a personal story and transitioning it into theatre?

It has been absolutely amazing writing such an autobiographical piece. I think my learning curve as a playwright went way up too. Just because something happened in a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to portray it on stage. Sometimes things that actually happened can read as unbelievable on stage. You gotta know what reads, what to cut, when to kill your darlings. I originally wanted to write this play as full-on epic three act story arc, from the first meeting to the bitter end of the relationship, but trimming it down to a one act has been the best thing that has happened for the play. Everything is succinct, relevant, sharp. As for the autobiographical aspect, it is what makes the piece so personal and raw. The story and emotions I want to evoke in the audience are crystal clear. I lived them, I know them. Though the words may be drawn from imagination, the emotional experiences are pulled from memory.
How involved have you been in casting and rehearsals?
 I wrote Nila (the female lead) with my friend Tori in mind. I told her I wanted her for the part a few years ago when I began dabbling with scenes from the play. As it became clear to me as I was writing the play that I had to direct it, I think it affected my writing. Potential actors for the roles came up. I could write even more freely with a human model in mind- how would Tori say this? How would Marc (who plays the male lead) react to something like that? That was also a revelation for writing- if you write with a real flesh and bone human in mind, even if you don’t get that intended human, your character will still be richer, more alive, more real for it. So I’ve been along every step of the way, from writer, to director, to producer. By far the hardest part has been producing!
How did you get your start in theatre?

I’ve always been a performer. I did school plays when I was a kid and then fell absolutely head over heels in love with circus. I had a little mini art career in that in my late teens and early twenties. I studied at a pretty prestigious school in Sweden, and then I suddenly walked away from it all. I moved to California and buried my broken heart under a rubble of drugs and alcohol. At 25 I went back to school to see if I could get myself sorted out and find a real job I could foresee myself in for the rest of my life- something in social justice, was the vague plan. Then, out of curiosity I took an acting class. I had acted before, but never studied. That there was a technique behind this strange art that presumably anyone could do, fascinated me. It snowballed from there. Theater and acting became more and more important to me in parallel to my addiction worsening. Five years later I was living in New York with one year clean. Two years after that I’ve completed a Meisner acting program and am self-producing my own play. Life is wild.
What's next for you?

Directly after this run I’m flying to LA to attend the Reel Recovery Film festival for a short film I co-wrote and starred in last year. It will be nice to think about something else for a little bit! But I want to take Rebellion Dogs as far as she will go. I’m sure that means a whole bunch more mountings of the show in different locales. Then there’s been some talk about making it into a film- the challenge of turning a stage play into a screenplay interests me tremendously. But we’ll see. I’m full of ideas! I’m finishing a pilot up for a 30 min dramedy (this one I actually wrote for myself to act in), I have a few film and TV show ideas, and I have a short film I’ve been dying to shoot waiting to go. I’d be happy to tackle any one of those projects- whatever gets greenlighted by the circumstances of life!
Rebellion Dogs at BAX / Brooklyn Arts Exchange
October 6th and 7th, 8pm

Tickets at Rebelliondogs.org