Marcia headshot

[Interview] Play fate with Marcia Vanderstraaten

For one night, you get to play fate and feast like a God.

Sounds good? You’ll get to do that at Skinned Knee Production’s upcoming play, Mind Map of Love, an original play written by up-and-coming playwright Marcia Vanderstraaten, based on Christian Zott’s book of the same name.  It’s an ode to anyone who’s ever wished to go back in time to make a different choice or to scream at a friend NOT to do something. You get to decide what happens next in this play, staged in fine-dining restaurant ZOTT’S True Alps.

Featuring a cast of four, Brendon Fernandez, Elizabeth Lazan, Amanda Tee and Rosemary McGowan, this promises to be an intimate evening about a love story with a twist. Before we get into the thick of things with the Romeo and Juliet of this particular tale, we speak to playwright Marcia Vanderstraaten, to find out more about navigating love and playing God.

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Tell us more about this play; what’s the story about?
It’s essentially an encounter between two people and the trajectory of their relationship. A love story that has many possible outcomes, all of which are dependent on the choices of the audience.

What was it about Christian Zott’s book Mind Map of Love that inspired you to write this play? Or was it personal experience that prodded you into writing about turning points?
The idea to adapt Mind Map was Rayann’s. She read the novel and was intrigued by the choose-your-own-adventure format, and when she spoke to me about what it would be like to translate that to the stage, I was equally intrigued. What I like about it, from a playwright’s point of view, is that it highlights the importance of choices. All choices come with consequences, and I think this is a truth felt most keenly in a romantic relationship.

Mind Map of Love is said to be “a ‘compendium’ of the many manifestations of love, with the most beautiful and the ugliest, the most sincere and the lowest, the most animalistic and the most tender of emotions”. Given the depth of its exploration of love in the book, what are the key themes you’ve chosen to adapt and bring to life for this particular production?
I think in our adaptation we’ve looked more at the unusual and darker aspects of love, as opposed to some of the happy-ending possibilities that were in the novel. For me as a playwright, those aspects make for more interesting drama, and even more so because they are real things that happen to real people. Anybody can tell you how a love story should end. But no one can tell how it eventually will.

Seeing Mind Map of Love come to life with the excellent cast and director Rayann Condy must be quite exciting; is it how you imagined it to be when you were writing the play?
It has definitely been exciting! It is always a joy for a playwright to hear their lines spoken aloud, and doubly so when the performers are as excellent as Rosie, Brendon, Amanda and Liz. I can’t say it’s how I imagined it mainly because I try not to “imagine” too much when I write—that is, I don’t write with the whole play being performed in my head. I have a general sense of things, but I try to leave it open enough for a director to have their own interpretation of the piece. Otherwise what would be the point? In any case, I think Rayann has a fantastic directorial imagination, and it’s been great seeing how she’s interpreted the piece in her own specific way.

Was it challenging at all, having to include the audience in the story? In what way(s)?
No more than usual. I always include the audience in the story when I write – after all, they are who I’m writing for! In terms of letting the audience choose the story trajectory, it didn’t affect how I wrote either, because I simply prepared the choices beforehand. If anything, I think it affects the actors more than it affects me!

Which part of Mind Map of Love is your personal favourite and why.
That’s like asking a mother which is her favourite child! (But every mother has a favourite, doesn’t she?) I think my favourite is the Second-Date scene. Some of our scenes are extrapolations based on the material of the novel, which we did in order to flesh out the characters more deeply, and Second Date is one of them. Also in that scene they talk a lot about food, which I like (food, I mean, but I also like talking about it). I got quite hungry writing that scene.

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It seems this production is pretty interactive; just how involved does the audience get? What do you hope the audience will take with them after watching the play?
The audience decides the progression of the story throughout the show. Some scenes, like the opening and closing, are fixed, but the rest aren’t – meaning the characters can change in a number of ways, and so will the story. Every night will see a different story, based on what that audience chooses, so basically the audience holds the fates of the characters in their hands. I think a lot of people will have fun with that, messing with other people’s lives! But on the other side of that is the hope that the audience will feel, too, the gravity of choice and consequence, and how every decision we make can lead to either happiness or ruin.

Tell us a little about yourself! How did you get into playwriting and how has it been, being a playwright in Singapore?
I graduated from the NUS Theatre Studies programme ages ago but never really entered the scene until around 2012, when I was doing my MFA at NYU Tisch Asia. Being a playwright in Singapore is a mixed bag, really. Some days I feel invincible, other days I am just perpetually trying to explain to people that no, I don’t write for Mediacorp.

Share your thoughts on the theatre scene in Singapore – what would you change about it if you were commander of the universe for a day?
Only a day?? Where do I begin??

In less than 10 words, tell us why anyone should catch Mind Map of Love?
Two of mankind’s greatest loves: storytelling, and food!

E V E N T   D E T A I L S

Date: 4 – 7, 11 – 14 Nov
Time: 8pm
Duration: 1h 30mins
Venue: ZOTT’S True Alps, 97 Amoy Street, Singapore 069917
Tickets: S$160 *inclusive of dinner

Get tickets now

Show advisory: For adults only. The performance includes discussions of sexual acts.

Believes in doppelgängers, a parallel universe and is a sucker for superhero flicks. Idealistic yet cynical all at the same time, catch her at @mirancbc.

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