OffWestEnd talks to the team behind “Maybe, Probably” at the Old Red Lion until 15 Oct: writer Eric Henry Sanders and director Lydia Parker.

Maybe Probably is running at The Old Red Lion Theatre through 15 October 2022



Lydia Parker most recently directed Belvedere by Romanian playwright Ana-Maria Bamberger to critical acclaim at the Old Red Lion. Originally from New York, Lydia is the artistic director of Over Here Theatre Company which produced ObamAmerica, (Theatre503), Our American Cousin, Dolphins and Sharks (Finborough Theatre) and co-produced The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang (Park Theatre). Other work includes Our Children Will Be Next (Theatre503), Superman and Me (Canal Café), Something There That’s Missing (Edinburgh Festival), Skinhead (Brockley Jack Studio) A Big Fridge and Other Plays by James Fritz (Hen and Chickens), All I Need Is a F**k Buddy (Canal Café).

Eric Henry Sanders‘s many plays include Play With Time; Moving Water; Maybe, Probably; Reservoir; and The Heliopause. His writing has been produced and developed in theatres across the US and internationally, including the New Group (NY), Primary Stages (NY), Cherry Lane Alternative (NY), Company One (Boston), Goodman Theatre (Chicago), Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago), Florida Repertory Theatre (Fort Myers), Union Theatre (London), and Theatre89 (Berlin). His book on screenwriting, SceneWriting: The Missing Manual, co-authored with Chris Perry, was published by Bloomsbury Academic Press in 2022, and he will be teaching screenwriting at Amherst College in Spring 2023.

What first attracted you to the theatre?

LP: I had wanted to be an actress ever since I was tiny, putting on plays with my five siblings, which I wrote and directed. I remember seeing a play in Boston, Heidi, on a school trip and realising this was a thing that people did for a living. I was determined to make this my life and never let up. I started acting classes at Stella Adler Studio when I was fourteen in New York City, went on to NYU Tisch School of the Arts and then Drama Studio, London. I started directing when my first daughter was born in Brooklyn as I preferred being behind the scenes. And I could make the rehearsal schedule work around parenting duties. I have never stopped loving theatre. Nothing can replace being in a room with actors, seeing them bring characters and a story to life in front of you. The energy is truly palpable that they share with the audience. Directing for me is building a world, with the actors and designers that the playwright has envisioned and collectively creating something magical.

EHS: I grew up in Brooklyn and as a child my parents would take us to Broadway. It was always an incredibly special occasion. Then as I got older and started to see shows off-Broadway, I was blown away by the depth and variety of what I was seeing on stage. It was and remains like no other art form.

Can you tell our readers about what you’re working on at the moment?

EHS: I have a couple of projects in the works, and right now my play, Maybe, Probably is on stage at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

LP: I am currently directing Eric’s play Maybe, Probably, a sparkling new comedy, at the Old Red Lion about a couple who decide to have a baby before it’s too late. It’s very enjoyable but also heartfelt and really makes you feel like you’re in Brooklyn with your best friends, or people you wish were your best friends. After that I’ll be working on a new play by Romanian playwright Ana-Maria Bamberger.


What is your opinion of Off West End theatre, in general?

LP: I love working Off West End, in small theatres especially. I’m a huge fan of immersive theatre and when you do a realistic play with as much truth and honesty as possible, it is immersive, as the audience are right there. It’s an opportunity to witness great acting up close. One reviewer actually said she felt that the audience was eavesdropping into real conversations and that made me so happy. When done right, Off West End is the best theatre around.

EHS: In a word, it’s brilliant. There are only so many places where an audience can consistently see such incredible artistic talent in small spaces. Chicago and New York have their merits for small venues, but for the quality and number of excellent productions, London’s Off West End is the top of the list for me.


What was the most inspiring production you have ever seen or wish you had worked on?

LP: I’m inspired by different productions for different reasons. I love Edward Albee plays and I’ve seen productions in both New York and London that were jaw-droppingly good, disconcerting and enthralling. Really a play has to hit me emotionally and usually that’s superb acting, writing and directing. I loved Pah La at the Royal Court about an uprising of Tibetan monks. But I also loved Lola Arias’ Minefield which had non actors telling their real-life stories of the Falklands War. You never know where the truthfulness will come from! But I also love to laugh, so there are many comedies that have done that.

EHS: Blue/Orange, Topdog/Underdog – apparently, I have a love for plays with a slash in their titles. Anything by Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Eugene Ionesco, August Wilson. Copenhagen. Arcadia. I’m not great at counting, but I think that’s more than one play.


Eric, what makes a really good character?

EHS: As a writer, to create a really good character you must first understand what they want, specifically, and why they want to achieve that particular goal (their motivation). Some motivations don’t need much explanation, like why one character is in love with another, while others, like destroying the Death Star, might need a bit more information to be understood. In either case, once it is understood what a character wants (again, specifically – Harry isn’t in love with just anyone, he wants to be with Sally) and why, the next step is to understand what obstacles stand in their path. Character then develops from how they negotiate these obstacles; the more their approach is engaging, nuanced, funny, or surprising, the more we think of them as really good characters. But without an understanding of that initial goal and motivation, the audience will not have a point of emotional entrance into the story.


If you could pick any one person or theatre company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?

LP: I’d like to work with Eli Wallach but I hear I missed the boat. I’m actually reall enjoying working with the cast I have now! I’d been wanting to direct Christy Meyer in a play for years; I’d only worked with her on a couple of readings and just love her connection to her roles and her truthfulness. It makes an actor shine on stage. I’d been trying to get Cory English for various projects for a while, but he was very busy. I’d been waiting for the right roles for Maria Teresa Creasey and Lance Fuller, as I’ve absolutely loved working with them in the past and am lucky to have them in the cast of Maybe, Probably.

EHS: There are so many brilliant actors and actresses working today, it would be next to impossible to choose just one. In trying to limit myself for the question, maybe I’ll focus my answer on just those Muppets that I would love to work with. Top of the list: Kermit, who I believe is a generational actor, not just as an amphibian but first and foremost as a true Artist. Miss Piggy, of course, but that may be too obvious, though I’ve thought of adapting Night Mother for Miss P – maybe casting her opposite Peppa Pig to see what kind of nuanced chemistry they could develop. Lastly, I would love to explore Elmo’s range. I think that there is an unexplored depth in him that could shine in an adaptation of dark classics like Oedipus Rex or Titus Andronicus.


Lydia, what things in your personal life do you draw upon when you direct?

LP: I always draw on my personal life! Especially for Maybe, Probably, which is about a couple having a baby in Brooklyn, New York. Both of my daughters were born in Brooklyn. I identified with Kate, the main character, and have had friends like Zoey. We had many interesting discussions in the rehearsal room as both the actresses are mothers to young children. I do have a habit of saying in rehearsal things like “You know when your best friend says things that really hurt and you’re like “argh!” but you can’t tell them as women don’t confront each other?” Yeah, I’m always drawing on my personal life. Probably too much. I kept comparing the two male characters to my husband.


What piece of work are you the most proud of?

EHS: It’s too much like choosing your favourite child. I mean, I only have one child, my son Henry, so that’s easy. But I’ve written dozens of plays and love each one. But if you promise not to tell the others, the truth is, it’s MAYBE, PROBABLY.

LP: I’m proud of every play I direct. I like a challenge and have certainly had plenty for different reasons. The Actor’s Nightmare at the Park Theatre was actually a collection of short, strange and funny plays by Christopher Durang which I had to piece together into a cohesive whole. It was a very surreal and bizarre production, which starred Disney actress Meaghan Martin who also produced it; she’s a superb actor! I also went for the surreal with Belvedere at the Old Red Lion last year, by renowned Romanian writer Ana-Maria Bamberger. My sound designer, Odinn Hilmarsson, worked on both productions and he has a way of transporting the audience to another world.

Maybe Probably is running at The Old Red Lion Theatre through 15 October 2022