We’ve just compiled many of the profiles and reviews that were published about Breathing Time. If you haven’t seen them yet, there are some great interviews with Aaron and Beau about the writing and production of Breathing Time (and even a little bit about Beau’s TV show House of Cards!).
Tristan Jeffers, John Eckert, Chad Raines, and Izzy Fields, our outrageously talented designers from last season, took a moment to chat with Davi Napoleon at Live Design about their work with Fault Line Theatre. The result: a fantastic article that provides a glimpse into their masterful attention to detail and storytelling.
It’s been a magnificent run, but yesterday afternoon Breathing Time was performed one last time at IATI Theatre. Within a few hours, the set had been removed and there remained little physical evidence of what had occurred.
The other night, I was speaking with a friend of mine who is also a talented and seasoned actor. He said that part of what makes plays so beautiful is the sheer fact that, unlike films, they do not last forever. They are an evanescent collaboration. An emotional, temporary shared event between artists and audiences. They are precious because they do not linger.
On a personal note, it’s been an absolute joy and privilege to work each and every day for the last few months with the artists who brought Breathing Time to life; I’d be hard-pressed to find more talented and hardworking actors and designers. Under the generous guidance of our fearless director Aaron Rossini and our new friend and playwright Beau Willimon, Breathing Time leapt off the page with honesty and clarity.
And with that, Fault Line Theatre’s 2014 Season has come to a close. Though it’s hardly been 24 hours since the metaphorical curtain has closed on Breathing Time, we’re already hard at work preparing next season and are excited to keep you posted as new developments arise! So stay tuned. Stay in touch. And stay excited!
Here we go!
It’s the last week of performing Breathing Time off-Broadway at IATI Theater. I got to the theatre a little early today so snapped this picture of the backstage area where Craig, Whitney, and myself await our entrances. It’s not much to look at, but hey, it’s cozy!
Only one week left to check out Breathing Time by Beau Willimon (creator of House of Cards). Use the discount code FRIEND for $15 off ticekts
Bankers and Binge-Watchers
By Barbara Chai
Beau Willimon on ‘House of Cards’ and 'Breathing Time'
Long before Beau Willimon became a showrunner of the hit Netflix series “House of Cards,” he was a playwright.
He wrote the 2008 political drama ” Farragut North ” (later adapted into the film “The Ides of March”) and followed it with “Breathing Time,” a play about two bankers sharing a Financial District office and the fateful events that lead their family members to meet in search of answers three weeks later.
Mr. Willimon completed the first draft of “Breathing Time” in 2004 and workshopped it around the country over the next few years. It is now being staged by the Fault Line Theatre, its first full production.
“The most I’d ever done was folding chairs and collapsible tables in rehearsal rooms,” Mr. Willimon said of “Breathing Time.” “They got the play. They had a vision for it.”
From his “House of Cards” writer’s room, coincidentally in the Financial District, where “Breathing Time” takes place, Mr. Willimon spoke with the Journal about both “House of Cards” and “Breathing Time.” Edited excerpts follow.
Unlike “Farragut North” or “House of Cards,” “Breathing Time” isn’t about politics. What inspired it?
The original seed for the play was a banker that I knew. There was a speakeasy I used to go to on Second Street in the East Village, an honest-to-God speakeasy where you had to knock on the black door, and the guy who ran it was a former mob guy.
There was this banker that I knew, he was a friend of a friend. I really only ever hung out with him when he was there, and he was the sort of guy that would talk your ear off for a couple hours.
He knew how to spin a yarn and was this tornadic-life-force individual, so I would get to chatting with him. He would go on these long monologues about whatever was passing through his mind in a given moment.
I think that’s where the character of Jack started to formulate. You don’t have a play if there’s no one to speak to, so I simply had him walking into an office hung over and beginning his day with his co-worker, who immediately presented himself as someone who’s the polar opposite.
Is it challenging to dramatize a workplace and the relationship between colleagues?
Minute human behavior and the rhythm of dialogue in and of itself provides a structure that can be compelling and balletic. There’s something really wonderful about seeing two people in a space that they’re so familiar with, in the midst of a relationship which already has its own contours, and dropping into it as though you’re a fly on the wall.
I simply had to keep tabs on the reality of that space, that there’s just two desks. That one guy is hung over, and the other guy is an early bird. And pay attention to the truth of the geography of that room, of where they are in their bodies, and who they are as people, and simply record.
Part of the joy of it was letting them go and letting them enjoy each other’s company or letting moments of silence sit there the way they do in real life. The naturalism of all of that is as compelling as staging a big battle scene in Shakespeare, if it’s done right.
Shifting to your other major project, did your “House of Cards” team have regrets about killing off Kate Mara’s character?
None whatsoever. I knew I was going to do that in the first episode of season two, well before I even started writing season one. Kate knew it too. This is before we had even cast the character. It got harder, of course, to stick to one’s guns. We all loved Kate, but we felt if we retreated from the original plan, became precious about our characters, then we weren’t being truthful to the story of Francis Underwood.
What’s the status of season three?
We’re several months into the writing process, and in a few more months we’ll begin filming.
Does the show have many more places to go now that Underwood is president?
There’s only one way to find out, right? I don’t talk about any upcoming seasons.
Do you keep viewers’ habit of binge-watching in mind as you make the show?
Yes and no. Honestly, the writing of the show is no different than if it were released week to week. The reason for that is because a lot of people don’t binge-watch. A lot of people watch one episode here, one episode there.
So it has to be able to work both ways, as a binge and as something that a person could watch over the course of weeks or months. You can’t write toward the binge, at least not for a serialized narrative like ours.
At the same time, we sometimes have faith that our audience will remember something from several episodes ago that we don’t feel the need to constantly hit on and remind them of if you were releasing it week to week.
A New Play From The Brains Behind 'House of Cards'
In the fast-talking storytelling tradition of Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet, there’s a new name to know: Beau Willimon. He’s responsible for Netflix’s ungodly addictive House of Cards but also penned Farragut North, the play that became George Clooney’s Oscar-nominated film The Ides of March.
And his new off-Broadway show is just as much of a gut-puncher as the rest.
Breathing Time centers around an odd couple of sorts as they go about a typical morning in their NYC banking office. Jack is the booze-soaked, attention-hungry marketing guy; Mike is the straightlaced suburban father who works in derivatives. Their seemingly mundane conversations get increasingly heavier until you’re hit with a Frank Underwood-level reveal (that you can absolutely see coming but never want to).
The story later follows Jack’s sister and Mike’s wife as they also become an unlikely pair. But the idea here is less about plot, more about character studies and all about acting. (It’s impossible to look away from Craig Divino, who plays Jack.)
Who knows? You may have just discovered the next thing that develops into the thing that wins an Oscar.
Runs through April 13; IATI Theater, 64 E. Fourth St. (between Bowery and Second Ave.)
Q&A: 'House of Cards' Creator Beau Willimon
By Gordon Cox - Legit Editor
Beau Willimon is the creator and showrunner of “House of Cards.” He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for “The Ides of March.” Now he’s world-premiering his play “Breathing Time,” which runs through April 13 at Teatro Iati, a tiny theater in downtown Manhattan.
Why a little production from fledgling Fault Line Theater?
I liked the idea of doing it in an intimate setting. We seat 70 people at a time. Every seat will be a good one, which is the right way to do a play like this. It’s about loss and how we contend with it.
Have your roots as a playwright influenced your screenwriting?
Theater is dialogue-driven, and film is visually driven. But TV is somewhere in between: It’s filmic, but the best of television tends to be more character-based, because you’re spending 13 episodes at a time with these people.
Has your screenwriting informed how you write plays?
There’s an economy to screenwriting (that’s) definitely improved my playwriting. Even in a 55-page scene in a play, you want every moment to pack a wallop.
Your “House of Cards” writers’ room is in New York. Why?
New York feeds you. Sometimes when you’re stuck in a tough moment in a script, New York can unexpectedly give you the answer.
Working on any plays now?
I’m always working on a couple of plays in various stages. If I didn’t, I’d go bonkers. It’s my first love. You find an hour or you dedicate a Saturday. The fact that “House of Cards” gets me up at 6 or 7 every morning, it’s in my bones now to write every day.
'House of Cards' creator Beau Willimon talks 'Breathing Time,' his intense new play
By Hillary Busis
Breathing Time, a new play by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, opens with an extremely hungover guy named Jack entering his nondescript office, plopping himself down at his desk, and swearing. A lot. So much that during a recent performance, a shocked woman in the front row halted the action onstage in order to demand a refund.
If she had stuck around, she’d have gotten to know both Jack (Craig Wesley Divino) and his officemate Mike (Lee Dolson) as the pair bantered about everything from Machiavelli to Medieval Times. Their sprawling conversation takes up much of Breathing Time‘s first act…until something happens that turns this ordinary day into anything but.
So, what happens? You’ll have to head to Manhattan’s Teatro IATI to find out — or, alternatively, check out our interview with master multitasker Willimon below. (The scribe has been juggling Breathing Time with work on House of Cards‘ third season, which is expected to begin production this summer. How does Willimon do it all? Simple: “I’ve never been a fan of sleep to begin with,” he says, adding, “If you’re committed to the theater, which I am, and you need the theater, which I do, you find the time.”)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m in a tough spot, because I want to ask you about the play — but if I do that, I run the risk of spoiling it for people who haven’t seen it yet.
BEAU WILLIMON: [laughs] Well, it is one of the tough aspects of this play: There’s an event in it that you don’t want to give away necessarily. My hope is that the audience can experience it the way that the characters do — that an everyday morning at the office feels everyday, until it’s not. I can’t prevent people from writing about or talking about what happens at the end of the first act, but I do try to be as vague as possible.[laughs]
Well, working for Netflix must give you a bit of experience in being vague.
It’s much easier in terms of House of Cards, because I simply don’t say anything about an upcoming season, period.
Maybe we should start with the title. Where did that come from?
There is a passage of Machiavelli’s The Prince, which Jack quotes in the first act. And within that passage is the phrase “breathing time.” To paraphrase, Machiavelli is talking about how one should use the breathing time between conflicts as a time to prepare. And that felt appropriate for the play.
What inspired Breathing Time more generally? You could give me a spoiler answer and a non-spoiler answer.
Okay, I’ll give the spoiler answer first. [Spoiler alert: He does.] I made a vow to myself that I would never write a play that had anything to do with 9/11. That in part came from an experience I had just a few days after the September 11th attacks. I was in London at the time, doing a playwrights’ conference at the Battersea Arts Centre. And we were doing the first 24 hour plays [written, rehearsed, and performed in a single day] that had ever been done in England. There were six writers. The other five chose not to write about September 11th, and I did. [I wrote] a 10 minute play called Never Never Land, and it was incredibly divisive. It was the last play done in the evening, and there were a lot of very offended audience members who felt it was way too soon to in any way dramatize that event. The other half, I think, felt a certain degree of catharsis. Not the sort of catharsis that could in any way balance out what had happened several days before, but the catharsis that comes from acknowledging it in the theater.
What happened in your play?
It was about two lovers, one in London and one in New York. The one in New York had narrowly escaped, and the one in London felt so helpless because 3,000 miles and an ocean was separating him from his lover. I tried to explore my own feeling of helplessness being in London at a time when I wanted nothing more than to get back to New York. It was that feeling one has of hearing your house is burning, and wanting to go home even though you can’t save the house — something deep inside you wants to be there.
Anyway, the reactions from that short play were visceral. I did a lot of soul searching afterwards and wondered myself if it was too soon to write about it, whether I’d been responsible as a storyteller, and made a vow to myself that that would be the only play I ever wrote that had anything to do with 9/11.
When I started writing Breathing Time, I had no intention of having September 11th be a part of it. Really, I just heard the voices of these two men in this office, and began recording them. There was a banker that I knew, who I would run into at this speakeasy on 2nd Street that I often went to. This was an honest-to-God speakeasy run by a former Mob guy, and it was filled with people from all walks of life. There was a banker that I would run into there who would talk your ear off for hours. He was this vital force of nature who could go on these epic monologues about anything and everything. And from that, I began to hear the voice of Jack in my head.
I watched him walk into the office hungover one day in my head, and there was someone else sitting there. I began to write what they had to say to one another. And not until I was about 30 or 40 pages in did I realize where they were, and when this was. At which point I realized that I had to break this vow to myself and write this play. But in a way, I don’t feel like I broke the vow, because the subject of the play is not 9/11. The subject of the play is loss, and the ways that we try to find meaning in our losses, and sometimes fail to. And our desperate need to connect in the face of loss, either with loved ones or with perfect strangers. So I wrote the first draft of it right after I wroteFarragut North, in late 2004.
Oh, wow. So it’s been kicking around for awhile.
Well, not kicking around. I kept it very close to me, and Farragut North took over my life for a bit. [That play became the Oscar-nominated film The Ides of March in 2011.] And I returned to Breathing Time time and time again over the past 10 years. I think a part of me was scared to put it out into the world, because of precisely the event we’re talking about.
I also felt that there was more work to be done on the play. On the surface it’s a very simple play; there’s only four main characters, six total. There’s no bells and whistles. But in terms of getting these people just right and making sure I really knew who they were, precisely — if I was going to put them through that — making sure that I did it responsibly and honestly, that was a long process of marination and reworking. So I did workshops over the years, and would pull it out from time to time. And I think it benefited from that long process of maturation. I also think that when Fault Line approached me and said “we want to do this play,” the distance of time benefits the play because it doesn’t feel like a whiplash reaction to something that happened yesterday. It feels, I hope, more measured.
Given what you said earlier, that the play is more about loss than 9/11 specifically, do you think that knowing what happens in the play would ruin someone’s experience of it? Or would they just have a different experience of it?
It’d just be a very different experience. I don’t know if it would ruin it; there are plenty of people who go to see Julius Caesar knowing that Caesar is going to get stabbed, right? [laughs] But I do think there’s something to be said for arriving at it as the characters do. And some audience members suspect something earlier on at different points. Some people might look right at those windows straightaway and think to themselves, “I think I know where we’re at.” But I’m far more interested in preserving that process for each person.
If you walk into the play thinking “this is a 9/11 play,” you also might feel you don’t have permission to enjoy these two guys. You might not have permission to laugh. Everything is clouded by that veil. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the play is less powerful, it just means you aren’t afforded that other experience.
And you don’t see act 1 as being some sort of puzzle to be solved by the audience.
No — the purpose of the first act is not to figure out what’s going to happen at the end of it. The purpose is to get to know these two guys.
Do you feel like this story would work in another medium?
I haven’t thought abut it in terms of another medium at all. I think one of the great advantages to the theater in a story like this, and particularly in that intimate setting, is the proximity that you have to these two guys. You’re right on top of them. You’re in that room with them. That gives you a certain access that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
You’re currently working on the third season of House of Cards. As the show continues, are you looking to the British version as a guide?
I don’t talk about anything that’s upcoming. In general, and I’ve said this many times before to folks, we’re not doing an adaptation of the British version. We reinventedHouse of Cards, because that was necessary. From 1990 to now, a lot has changed in the world, a lot has changed in television. We were telling an American story as opposed to a British one. Our first season alone had more hours of content than all three seasons of the British version combined. You’ll find no bigger fan of the BBC version than me, but the two are vastly different in terms of tone, in terms of story, where we place our emphasis, how much we dig into characters, and the scope of our world. We will steal things from time to time, but our goal is not to recreate it.
So people trying to predict what’s going to happen based on the original – that’s not a valuable exercise?
That’s a sneaky way to ask what’s going to happen. But I don’t comment on anything that’s gonna happen that hasn’t been aired yet.
You couldn’t possibly comment?
Breathing Time plays through April 13 in New York City.
Thank you for the great review of Breathing Time TimeOut New York! Check out the review below:
By Diane Snyder
Breathing Time: In brief
Four New Yorkers are connected by a traumatic event in a comedic drama by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon. Aaron Rossini directs a cast of six in the premiere.
Breathing Time: Theater review by Diane Snyder
Those who know Beau Willimon from his work on the thrilling Netflix series House of Cards are in for a surprise: Almost nothing happens in his clever, meandering new play Breathing Time—until suddenly everything changes. The first half, set on the 95th floor of a lower Manhattan office building, has conscientious Mike (Lee Dolson) and freewheeling colleague Jack (Craig Wesley Divino) engaging in morning-banter mundanities that evolve into power struggles and culminate in Jack’s sorrowful monologue about his Vietnam-vet dad. Exactly when this scene is set becomes clear as a rumbling noise from outside reaches deafening proportions.
Then it’s three weeks later, and Jack’s sister, Denise (Shannon Marie Sullivan), meets Mike’s wife, Julie (Molly Thomas), trying to find out more about her brother’s life. But shared grief doesn’t translate into simpatico sentiments, and as their encounter dissolves into anguish, Aaron Rossini’s Fault Line Theatre production reaches full force. Willimon’s dialogue so thoroughly captures the rhythms of ordinary conversation that it can have a soporific effect in large doses, but Breathing Time is an ace showcase for its young cast and an unsentimental look at lives interrupted.
Breathing Time is well underway. I’m currently backstage in the men’s dressing room with the wildly talented Craig Wesley Divino and Lee Dolson. We just finished warming up and are now getting ready to do our 8th show of 20.
Reviews also just came out over the weekend and we’re excited to share a few highlights here!
“Mr Divino and Mr Dolson make it absorbing and amusing.”
- NEW YORK TIMES
“Willimon’s gift for incisive characterizations and colorful dialogue is well on display. The ensemble deliver strong performances, with particularly fine work by Divino as the endlessly gregarious Jack.”
- THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“There are excellent moments in the play, including a monologue in which Jack tells a defining story from his childhood in two ways — first funny, then heartbreaking.”
- ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
“A brilliant study in character… It’s just about the most hopeful sign of humanity that you’ll see on a stage anywhere. Breathing Time is blessed with a superb cast… which achieves an understatement that resembles the best in film acting.”
- THE WRAP