Miner’s Alley Playhouse offers Steven Dietz’s Fiction, opening March 11. Fiction tells the story of a couple as they read each other’s journals and discover that it’s not so easy to tell the difference between the fact and fiction of personal history. Funny, intellectual, and touching, it’s hard to not identify with these two as they try to come to terms with the perceptions and realities of each others’ pasts. We were able to ask Dietz about how he wrote Fiction and what messages he thinks a good production conveys.
Colorado native Dietz has written several notable and award-winning plays, including Lonely Planet, God’s Country, and an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. All of his work is intellectual and witty, but Fiction showcases this especially because the two central characters (Linda and Michael) are themselves writers. Although their shared craft makes them an incredibly funny and enjoyable couple, their personal writing habits open a precarious window into each others’ pasts. When Linda is diagnosed with cancer, she lets Michael know that she would like him to read her journals when she passes, and asks to read his before she does. The play follows their challenge of reconstructing each others’ pasts with only the information available in the present.
Dietz toys with time in Fiction, as the story jumps back and forth in time between the present-day, when Linda and Michael are sharing their journals with one another , and the past events that are chronicled in their journals. As it stirs up past and present, it also combines fantasy and fiction. “The use of time seemed to come naturally out of the order in which the key information needed to be presented to the audiences; the sequence of the secrets,” says Dietz about manipulating time as a theatrical device. “We (hopefully) get the info[rmation] we need to surprise and inform us when we most need/want it, or when we’ll be most affected by it.”
As Fiction travels between the past and the present, it grapples with the fact that we all have a past that plays a role in our current relationships. Dietz mentioned that he wanted to highlight the fact that the past isn’t a singular entity, set in stone. “We have many pasts,” Deitz offered. “The one we have recorded, the one we remember, and the one that actually happened. I believe these are all somewhat different – and perhaps our life (in the present) is the collision of all of them.”And Fiction explores that collision, most specifically the collision that involves trying to share some of or all of our pasts with a loved one.
Although Fiction deals with serious issues, including infidelity and deception in relationships, Dietz emphasizes that he always prefers it when companies aren’t afraid to take artistic license with it. “I like when theatres approach Fiction as a tough and resilient play that you can knock around,” he said. “If you coddle it, it doesn’t play (in my opinion).” Dietz also mentions that nothing can put a production in trouble like placing an emphasis on the serious themes too early. “It’s a comedy (meaning humor as a tactic) for as long as it can be within the parameters of the story,” he advised. “It’s a comedy until it is NOT.” Dietz mentioned that the actors in the piece do best when they “play the moment, not the story.”
As audience members, we’ve been warned by other plays that we should be careful what we wish for, or that knowledge can be dangerous, but Fiction skirts around that especially damaging desire to know more about our romantic partners. Fiction certainly warns of the risk of prying into someone else’s journal, opening the flood gates of all their pasts. We asked Dietz if he keeps a journal, if he’s ever let anyone read it, and if he’s ever read someone else’s journal, with or without their permission? He gave us his most succinct answer of the interview: “Yes. No. Yes (and no comment on who it belonged to).”
Fiction opens March 11 at the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden. Click the banner below for tickets and more information!