An interview with Preston Lane

by Amy Kingsley

Q: Why did you decide to produce Mrs. Warren’s Profession?

Preston Lane: Triad Stage is dedicated to the modern drama and our classics are from the great writers who created and defined the modern drama. From Ibsen and Strindberg to O’Neill and Williams, we try to make sure each season has at least one of these masterworks. Shaw is one of these innovators and I felt it was time that we shared Shaw with our audience. I chose Mrs. Warren because it seems such a very modern play and because the characters – especially the women – are so fascinating.

Q: Is it the first Shaw play Triad Stage has produced?

PL: This is our first Shaw. I haven’t directed a Shaw play in ten years, so it was a delight for me to rediscover what fun and what a challenge it is to deal with Shaw’s plays of ideas.

Q: When did you first encounter this work, and what was your initial opinion of it?

PL: I saw a production in 1995. I’ve seen and read Shaw plays since I was a child, acted in a few and directed a couple. But somehow Mrs. Warren’s Profession had eluded me. It instantly became one of my favorites and it has been on the short list for season selection at Triad Stage every year since we started.

Q: What do you think of the two female leads? Would you consider them feminist figures?

PL: I think the women are the reason you do this play. Both are such challenging and complex characters. I think Mrs. Warren is one of the great “star turns.” Both of her big scenes demand an actress with great talent. Vivie is often overlooked, but it is really her play, and the role is so difficult. Shaw wants our sympathies to be with her and yet she comes off on the page as so very unsympathetic.

I think this play, almost more than other, reveals Shaw’s then radical view of women’s liberation. Vivie is the prototype of the “new woman” she demands to define her own place in society. Even though Shaw may want to criticize her as a corrupt capitalist figure, Mrs. Warren has also made her own way in the world of society and business. I’m still surprised at how shocking some of things she says about marriage are after more than 100 years.

Q: Were you expecting such a big crowd? I don’t remember many sold-out previews during the first couple of seasons.

PL: Our preview audiences have really grown since we first opened and we now have a regular group of audience members who enjoy the anything-could-happen excitement of a first production. They are some of my favorite patrons because I’ve gotten to know so many of them. Frequently they will come and give me suggestions that make it into the final production on opening night.

We’ve been surprised at the amount of pre-sell on this show. I think a lot of people are interested in Shaw and his work. And I hope that Mrs. Warren won’t be the last time Shaw shows up in a season.

Preston Lane is the artistic director at Triad Stage. He is also the director of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, which runs until Feb. 17.