How far would you go to get that dream job? Just what would you be willing to do? Four corporate warriors come together in one room to compete for one senior management position using The Grönholm Method: a system meant to separate the weak from the strong. But the weak may not be as futile as they appear. A wicked comedy that feels like a thriller, it’s a fool’s game of betrayals, reversals and manipulations that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Grönholm Method is on stage in Falcon Theatre in Burbank.
Bijan Tehrani: How did you get involved with The Grönholm Method, and what motivated you to work on it as a director?
BT McNicholl: I encountered the play in 2007 when I was in Madrid, Spain where I had a production of The Producers running a musical which I directed, and there was a member of the cast who told me about the play called The Grönholm Method. It was a wonderful play, and I researched it and decided to pursue and ink out the American version of it. I saw it in Paris last year, and it is a very successful play in Europe, where it is well known and done all the time. In America it needed to be literally and culturally translated. What got me interested was that it was both an intelligent play and an entertaining play.
Bijan: The adaptation of The Grönholm Method for the American version was amazing because it is written for our country and our corporate world; it was captivating!
BT: Yes,it is very contemporary and we were very happy to hear that it was not written in any other language, but I spent a lot of time working in Europe as a director and translating American plays into other languages, and overseeing American plays translated into Dutch, French Korean etc. I used my translating skills the other way, and translated the original Catalan script and used that as my guide, along with another version, to turn the work into the translation that we have now. I think you touched on themes and how applicable they are to our life and times, and that is what one seeks to see: how ones own life and life experiences relate to the play. In America, we are all some how involved in the corporate world at some level.
Bijan: How did you go about casting The Grönholm Method?
BT: We cast the net wide and we did try to find people who were in Los Angeles. We ended up choosing three actors from Los Angeles and one came to us from New York.
Bijan: The performances were great. How much did you work on rehearsals of the play?
BT: We rehearsed for three weeks. It was a highly collaborative effort, and you could say that we all found the play together and forged through it together. We had a lot of discussions and I was lucky that I had a lot of great actors and the team is shaped by me, and I hope that it shows that.
Bijan: How long will the play be at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank?
BT: It will be there until September 30th.
Bijan: Are you planning to take The Grönholm Method to other theatres and locations?
BT: That is yet to be seen.
Bijan: How has the reaction been to the play?
BT: The response has been unanimously enthusiastic, which we are very appreciative of. The lack of intermission is an important part of the play because we use a spell and we want to think that you are trapped in the room with these characters.
Bijan: Does it make it more difficult for the actors to perform without a break?
BT: I don’t think so, the play is planned very well and we have exits that allow the actors to go out and take a break. The play is mastered in a sense where it moves from section to section and appears and disappears at just the right moments. The actors, to their credit, are able to maneuver the twist and turns of the play with great skill, honesty, and a kind of killer instinct that the play requires.
Bijan: How did you go about working with the actors in order to understand their parts?
BT: A good director is like a good doctor, you treat each patient individually—the patient lets the doctor know where it hurts, and the doctor will diagnose the problem. They are all individuals they all have their own processes and needs, so I tried as best as I could to attend to their needs and talk through a problem when they wanted to talk through it, and let them process on their own when they felt that they needed to do some internal work. You’re guiding when you are directing, and that is what I think happened on this process: guiding, suggesting, nudging and—in some cases—stating what has to be.
Bijan: Back to the play itself, did you intentionally want to make a statement about the corporate world?
BT: I don’t have an extra mind about corporate America. I have spent some time in corporate America and in all levels of the corporate world. People change jobs and they are fearful for those jobs, and it is not a great way to spend 8 hours of your day, which is most of your waking life. I feel fortunate in that what I do is work and, though it requires attention and a lot of hours, at least it is work that I enjoy. I think a lot of people will identify with the subject matter. I think a lot of people live vicariously through that character that becomes our survivor, and I think that is a very powerful takeaway from the audience.
Bijan: As you are travelling and working in other countries, do you think that there is enough attention to theatre in the United States as there is abroad?
BT: I think we are very lucky, because other countries have more plays, but we have more musicals. In Paris there are theatres all over, but they only do plays. There is a lot of theater here, but I can always hope for more! I find that in Europe and the way the governments work there and there is a much more creative environment there in many ways, and it lets their creative juices flow maybe more so than here.
BT: Thank you so much for your time, and good luck!