Seth Rozin never backs down from controversy in his plays.
“I’m never afraid of controversy,” Rozin said. “I don’t back down from controversy. I kind of welcome it.”
Pedophilia and technology abuse are two major themes in InterAct Theatre Company’s upcoming performance of Jennifer Haley’s “The Nether.” The company has evolved since its beginnings as a company focused on bringing American plays to international destinations.
Seth Rozin, the producing artistic director of InterAct founded the theater company after working on “Pan” at the Annenberg Center. One of Rozin’s primary jobs at the company was to facilitate interaction between visiting theaters and the performing arts students in the community.
“There was a theater company that came through, called the Irish University’s Theatre Company, that was bringing classic and contemporary Irish plays to the U.S., mostly through colleges in the northeast,” Rozin said. “While they were here, I got interested in the idea of international exchange through theater.”
And so the InterAct Theatre Company was born. With the idea of having cultures interact with one another, Rozin had a unique vision for his company.
“Our first season was to bring American plays back to Ireland,” he said.
But InterAct began to develop and evolve into something else entirely during the course of five years following the company’s founding, shifting its focus from international cultural communication to local culture exchange.
“The idea of interacting with audience members through plays around issues that are of cultural significance, combined with moving towards new work led us to where we are today,” Rozin said.
Theater graduate student Hannah Gold, 27, who worked with InterAct in 2012 on Mike Lew’s “Microcrisis,” said InterAct’s particular perspective makes a difference in the theater community.
“I think that they are really committed to new work, and I think producing plays that aren’t afraid of approaching difficult topics makes them different,” she said.
Though the evolution of InterAct’s current reputation took five years, the journey gave Rozin a deep insight into what he believes an audience should experience through theater.
“I sensed heavily that I didn’t know what my aesthetic was when we started out,” he said. “A lot of other theaters were doing plays that were purely personal; plays about families and children, marriages and grief. There weren’t many companies that were doing plays about the world.”
InterAct focuses on the larger concept of the relationship between cultures, rather than person-to-person interactions, to bring awareness to greater world issues.
“Any time you do a play, you’re bringing a visibility to something for people to see and reflect on,” Gold said.
“The way we interact as people is a cultural phenomenon,” Rozin added. “Like how the evolution of technology is changing the way we interact. Just a play about friends doesn’t examine that. We are examining our relationships through larger forces in the world.”
InterAct’s mission is to be “a theatre for today’s world, dedicated to commissioning, developing, and producing new and contemporary plays that explore the social, political, and cultural issues of our time.”
“If the characters we see don’t contribute to the world, then it’s not a play for us,” he said. “We do plays about how the individuals affect the world, even plays about a negative effect on the world. I’m more interested how the individual affects something larger.”
The white supremacy movement, pedophilia, education, corrupt governments and gay couples adopting are just a handful of the topics InterAct confronts. Although some of InterAct’s plays cause discomfort for some of the company’s subscribers, Rozin is not afraid of controversy.
If the audience feels uncomfortable about a subject, Rozin sees that discomfort as proof that the issue needs to be discussed.
“The Nether” opens March 25 and will run through April 17 at the Drake Theater.
“The bottom line is we like to make people think about something, and argue about something and see something from a different perspective,” Rozin said.
Katelyn Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.