As we gear up to welcome the irrepressible Mary MacLane to our stage, we chat to Tanya Goldberg, director of The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself, about the show.

Can you tell us a bit about the background and aesthetics of Ride On Theatre?

Ride On was born out of our passion to make the kind of theatre we most wanted to see. We felt that too often we walked out of theatres feeling we’d be played to, rather than for. I want a theatre that puts the audience at its centre, that reaches out to me, grips my heart, and leaves me somehow rearranged …

How does Mary MacLane fit in?

We attempt that in a bunch of different ways that really emerge from the work itself, but that always start with a kernel that intrigues us. Mary intrigued us from the very start – her writing was so fresh and immediate. She put voice to a yearning we recognised: the longing to transcend her immediate surroundings and step fully into the genius that no-one else could see lurking within. Like Hansel and Gretel, we just keep following those crumbs until they lead us to where our Mary is today. We’re not interested in Mary’s biography and history but rather in her ideas and situation.

You’ve described this show as “a monologue for two” – isn’t that a dialogue? What’s the idea?

We say monologue for two because our feeling is Mary would like hers to be a one-woman show but unfortunately for her she’s wound up on a stage which must be shared with three other men. Most displeasing to her, though she does try to make the most of it. That’s one level. There is another level of conversation between us (us as audience and us as theatremakers) and Mary, and Bojana is our representative in that. Poor Mary MacLane – she wrote books so that she could always control the conversation, but now she is dragged into communication with the likes of us!

 Mary was exploring her freedom in a world of corset-bound prudery. Can people be scandalised now to the same extent?

These days the corsets aren’t made of whale-bone and lace. But I think that if we look, we find them: those structures, mores and beliefs that reign us in and keep us from breathing freely. That is of more interest to us than the idea of scandal, which is of course going to have a different impact, given that the social context has shifted significantly since Mary wrote about her love life.

You’ve called Mary Mac “the greatest genius you’ve never heard of”. Is genius just a state of mind?

I think genius is bestowed on some, while others must claim it themselves. Mary is firmly in the latter camp. And why not? If she knew it to be true, it was arguably her duty to inform us all. Whether we accept it or not … well that’s another matter entirely.

To check out production shots or to hear Tanya & Bojana talk about Mary some more, click here.