Director’s Cut

Senior Triston Pullen is the director of Red Light Winter for his senior thesis. Photo by Jason Stilgebouer


Jackalope Magazine sits down with Performing Arts Department senior Triston Pullen as he prepares to direct his senior thesis show. Red Light Winter goes up Nov. 17 and 18 in the Greer Garson lobby. Both showings start at 7 p.m. and admission is free.

Jackalope: What is the play about?

Triston Pullen: The play is called Red Light Winter, written by Adam Rappe. Is it about two friends who, after university, go to Amsterdam to kind of get away from the academic world and try to live the American dream. Coming to Amsterdam, getting high, drunk and having sex. Eventually, they meet a prostitute who they both kind of connect to, some more than others. It becomes this weird love triangle. It plays out in Ambersterdam, until Act Two when we find Matt in his apartment trying to write a play. And ‘knock knock  knock,’ the love triangle comes back alive and we see how this triangle unfolds.


Why did you choose this play for your senior thesis, from an artistic standpoint?

TP: I think I connected to it a lot. There is something about being an artist and feeling empty. For me, I’m always trying show my parents that I didn’t make the wrong decision and try and get their support, going above and beyond what’s really expected of me at my age to try to get my parents to say, ‘Hey you did good.’ I think, for these characters, they are in a stage of wanting their parents approval and trying to find something else to fill them. I think at the end of the day when we have emptiness as humans, it is love, attention or both that is needed. And it’s only ever rooted in those, and for these characters that’s it. There have been times in my life when all I wanted was attention, like senior year in high school. Now, I think honestly I crave love. Not necessarily anything in particular, but just from the universe in general. The artist life is usually not happy; you find pain to get to art. That’s what these characters are.


Was there anything from your personal life that also motivated you to choose this play?

TP: Arthur Miller says it’s not so much the written lines but what is between those lines and between those lines are pain. Pain is what motivates everyone to move.  I think that’s what resonates with these characters. Also as a gay man, coming from a conservative place where I was accepted and embraced, that love for another man to come into my life wasn’t always there, and I went the route some of these characters did. Whether it was drinking, drugs or sex. I think for a director to direct something truly good, and something that can really be considered art, he finds himself in the art even if it’s painful.


What moments brought you to this play? By moments I mean, are there things that have prepared you for this particular play?

TP: Recently, I went through a time during this previous spring break where I literally thought the universe had put me in a corner. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, I didn’t want to get out of bed, cried all day, didn’t want to eat, and finally when the pressure got too bad I decided I had to move. I think sometimes we think, ‘oh, someone is going to save us’ but for me the only actual person that can save us truly is ourselves. We may have people that come with a helping hand and help us out of the hole but we easily can just go back. I think when you are cornered and there is some sort of imprisonment, it is up to us to find the key; that, actually, we are the key, but it’s about finding the root of the problem, pulling it up and planting new flowers.


How has this show challenged you?

TP: The biggest challenge for the show is that it isn’t plot driven. It’s more of a [Anton] Chekhov play and a lot more psychological. It’s hard for me because it’s life. When I first came to theater, it was to escape life, and now I find myself directing things that are life.  It never fails when working on a play, there is always something happening in my life that I subconsciously know about, that hasn’t come to fruition that the play helps me through. To no surprise, this play is doing the same thing. I connect to my art socially, mentally, physically and spiritually, and it has a way of taking over me. Not always in a bad way, but I do believe it has to get bad before it gets better.


What do you hope that audience takes away from this play?

TP: All these peoples’ problems could have been fixed, if they quit looking at themselves in the mirror and turned around and said ‘Oh, this is what this person is needing, let me help him.’ And then when you can help someone else, then you can help someone else, then you can help someone else.  By the end you have 10 people helping the person in the deepest hole. That’s what I want my audience to see, that this is a very dark story but these are very real stories as well. The playwright writes about that, he says it’s based off of a true-life experience. I think I want them to walk away and say that even in the darkest of times, we can look at the situation and say, ‘let me step out of my own problem right now, because If I can help him, he can help me.’ When we look at our problems selfishly, that’s how we get where we are today.


Do you feel an obligation to choose art that sparks conversation?

TP: Yes! Personally I think we are done playing the role of artist that only serves to entertain. I’m not interested in that. I think, because we did not speak up enough we are in the predicament we are in with our president, with our government, even Puerto Rico. We look out and see who is doing the good, and it’s the artist, and as an artist I vow to not sit in silence anymore and say, ‘this is what’s wrong’. There has never been social change or any change without a radical movement. Radicalism through art is safe but it also speaks volumes, because an audience can come to see this play and all have different stories, and still see how messed up these charartes are and how messed up the world is and want to fight.


What has this directing this show taught you thus far?

TP: I think this show will show the meat of my directing. I will argue that this won’t be my full potential because we are limited. As a director, my job is to create harmony, but this time around I didn’t have a full team. So right now it’s really creating art out of nothing, which is its own testament.  If I can do it now with little, I can do it out there. That definitely speaks to what this school has taught me. I think the safety net is gone, and I’m learning that if there isn’t an opportunity, I can make one for myself.


This interview has been edited for style and clarity.