Nana Dakin ‘18 and Max Mondi ‘18 Assisting with NYTW’s Production of Mary Jane

October 9, 2017

There are two powerful couples working on the New York Theatre Workshop production of Mary Jane. Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Herzog and two-time Obie-winning director Anne Kauffman and their assistants, current students Max Mondi ‘18 and Nana Dakin ‘18.

 

We asked Nana and Max about the experience that they had assisting for this play.

 

What did You learn? Why is an experience like this important for your career?

 

Max: Working on Mary Jane provided me the opportunity to witness first hand a playwright, director, and five actors all functioning at the height of their craft. It was a joy being in a room where everyone cared so deeply about the work and the story we were telling, and everyone was constantly sharing their stories and experiences which constantly added beautiful layers to the storytelling. It was also very validating to see, even at such a high level, the company working through the same problems and issues we all deal with at every level, whether it's mounting a show at Columbia or in a basement in Brooklyn. Finally, it was a revelation watching Amy articulate her ideas and thoughts on the play to the actors, and seeing how she was able to communicate exactly what each moment of play means for her, while at the same time maintaining a deep humility and openness to all others' interpretations.

 

Nana: Before coming to Columbia my directing background was in devised, movement-based work. Over the past 2 years I’ve been eager to branch out by working with a lot of different kinds of text—classics, contemporary and new plays. Each of these experiences has enabled me to grow and I felt the next thing I needed was to see how a master director works with a text-based play. What I’ve learned from Anne Kauffman is how incredibly detailed one can be when working with language. There were many times in the rehearsal room where I thought, “Oh, this scene is looking good” because the intentions were clear and the story was being articulated. Then Anne would zoom in and adjust a particular detail, sometimes just a word or the timing of the delivery, and I would watch the scene transform from “good” to “excellent.” Her attentiveness and rigor was amazing to witness and is something I want to emulate. It was also inspiring to see the collaborative way she worked with Amy, the actors and the production team. Collaboration is easy to talk about but difficult to achieve, and it was gratifying to see it happen in a professional context.

 

Mary Jane is produced in association with Yale Repertory Theatre where it was commissioned and received its world premiere in April 2017. “During a rain-drenched summer in New York City, an indefatigable single mother navigates the mundane, shattering and sublime aspects of caring for a chronically sick child,” according to the company’s website. The play is running trough October 29th and you can get your tickets here

Nana Dakin '18, bottom and Max Mondi '18, top