Actor Alec Seymour responded to some our questions, and added a few of his own.
What story are you telling?
You know, just a good old fashioned bromance between a boy and a plant trapped in the void of deep space. You’ve seen it a thousand times.
Oh, and it’s also about death. My dad died when I was 6. Two decades of grief, memories, emptiness and hope gathered to produce this show. It’s autobiographical, yet takes place in a fantastical, metaphorical space called the SuperVoid. Without giving away the secrets of Robert Plant and the Void, I will say that it follows a boy on the threshold of becoming a man. With no memory of a father, he struggles to build an identity before his life collapses into the abyss.
So, naturally, it’s a raucous comedy for the whole family.
…but seriously, don’t bring your kids to this.
Tell us about the moment where you said to yourself: “I just have to do this!”
After high school, I distanced myself from the loss of my dad. It was going on 12 years since he had died, and I was an adult. I could vote. I could buy cigarettes (and pretend that I smoked). I could look back at people still in high school and think, “Ha! You’re so young. You don’t even know.” The life I had so clearly earned was within grasp, and nothing was going to stop me from taking it—especially not emotions. Unsurprisingly, the next few years were spent wandering aimlessly through crippling self-pity, delusions of grandeur, and complete denial of emotional obstacles. By the time I was a senior at NYU, I barely considered my dad, outside of Father’s Day.
Then I played Hamlet, and the floodgates opened. As I waded through the story of grief, action, inadequacy, self-discovery, all of the synapses I had previously shuttered began to fire. Suddenly, I was finishing the grieving process I had started as a child and interrupted as a teen. Somehow, through all of the new and the familiar pain, life somehow became easier, and I knew myself again. I discovered a new context through which to see my life, organizing it around absence, legacy and responsibility.
After finishing the run, I remembered the theater’s power to shape lives and heal old wounds, and I knew I had to add my story to the canon. It’s my hope that Peace Lily will touch people in the same way.
Why is it important to you to do this play now?
Grief has never been a subject people like to talk about, especially if there is an assumed “scandal” involved—death by suicide, overdose, homicide etc. It is the most devastating, universal experience, yet we keep it at a distance with gentle euphemisms rather than actively supporting the people living through it. Often, they’re encouraged to do it alone, out of sight. So, I think it’s always important to present theater, film, literature, anything that directly addresses death and reminds people about the fact of loss. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is not something that should breed separation, but rather foster connection.
Peace Lily also addresses masculinity in the 21st century. I think it’s easy for people to ignore men’s mental health issues as something tainted by male privilege and toxic masculinity, but the relationship between a father and a son is singular, and it can go wrong in so many ways, extending far beyond one generation. I wanted to bring more empathy to a father’s failings, a son’s coping mechanisms, and all the ways that men try to rewrite the legacies, or lack thereof, they receive.
That being said, it’s not just a show for men and their dead dads. Every story of loss is unique, but despite the variations, grief remains universal feeling. This show is for everyone who has had to reconstruct their life after losing a corner of its foundation. It’s for people who lost someone a long time ago but never fully addressed their pain. It’s also for people who are fortunate enough not to know that pain yet, but care about someone who does.
You know what, if you’re a human being who’s alive, just come see it. You’ll get something from it. I promise.
Why did you list a show about grief as a comedy?
Because it’s goddam hilarious, that’s why! Death is one of my favorite things to make fun of. We’re all so afraid of that undiscovered country, so the best way to confront it is by laughing. I like to use comedy to bring people up to the very edge of their fears and then drop them into the middle of chaos and poignancy. If I do my job right, no one in the audience will leave without having both laughed and cried at least once.
Why do a solo show?
I’m inspired by all of the drama that happens when we’re alone, the madness we put ourselves through, and the growth that comes from it. We never feel more alone than after a loss, so I wanted to share that private evolution to build a sense of community for people going through grief.
Alec Seymour is a New York based actor, writer and producer. His proudest moment in the arts, unquestionably, was his turn as Cheeseburger Teen #2 in a Papa John’s commercial. Less fulfilling achievements include playing Hamlet, Il Capitano in the Commedia Dell’Arte Department of Fools, and producing Triassic Parq! The Musical off-Broadway. If he’s not working, he’s meditating. And if he’s not meditating, he’s probably watching TV…so he’s usually watching TV.