Call Answered: Catherine Gropper Interview: The Meeting: The Interpreter

author director film filmmaker movies off-broadway play playwright regional theatre theatre writer Jun 28, 2024
Call Me Adam Title Page. Call Me Adam logo is on the left side. Catherine Gropper's headshot is on the right side. In the top center of the page is an orange circle with jagged edges that says Featured Interview. Between our photos it says The Meeting The Interpreter. Below the title and in between our names there is an auburn circle that says

I first met Playwright Catherine Gropper when I interviewed her very talented son, Gregory Gropper in 2021. Since that time, Catherine and I have remained in touch.

I am thrilled Catherine & I are able to connect even further over her new play, The Meeting: The Interpreter, coming to the Theater at St. Clements in New York City later this summer.

In this interview, Catherine answered my call to reveal:
  • How she came to write The Meeting: The Interpreter
  • Her inspirations
  • If there has ever been a time she lost herself
  • Her favorite place to write
  • So much more

Connect with Catherine: Website

The Meeting: The Interpreter  is set against the backdrop of the infamous Trump Tower Meeting of 2016, the play tells the story of an international interpreter thrown up against government systems of congressional and senate interrogations, catapulting him into circumstances beyond his control. “This man could be everyman … one of us,” says playwright Catherine Gropper.

This play is about the loss of individuality and privacy is based on actual events (a chance meeting between the playwright and an actual government interpreter). This two-person play supports a cast of thousands thanks to director Brian Mertes’ production scheme including puppetry, film sequences, projections, and intricate lighting and sound.

The Meeting: The Interpreter  will play at the Theater at St. Clements in NYC from July 29, 2024-August 25, 2024. Click here for tickets!

1. This summer, your new play, The Meeting: The Interpreter will be running at the Theater at St. Clements. What are you looking forward to most about this production? It’s been an arduous few years. When Covid happened it delayed this even more. There are so many things I’m looking forward to Adam, including having this conversation with you. 

I love rehearsals. The actors finally get to interpret my words. Brian Mertes is such an exceptional director and human being. So after a rigorous few months, we now begin. 

I’m also an artist and make film shorts. Brian totally gets the play visually. You’re in for a jolt because both he and I enjoy awakening the audience. 

2. How did you come up with the idea to write the show? I actually met the interpreter from that Trump Tower meeting. At first we were collaborating until Covid kind of kept us from meeting in person. Even though we both felt a deep sense of story and truth, he has since decided that he wants nothing to do with the play now. I think people feel vulnerable. 

This play examines how vulnerable we all sometimes feel. I felt deeply moved by his character and his humanity. We forged a friendship. We understood each other, at least then. I know myself better for meeting him too.

My sincere prayer is that I’ve honored him. Most, if not all of my plays are historical or biographical. My play Embers is based on Louise Nevelson and the 80’s art scene of Soho and her sacrifice of her son for her fame. Another play of mine, Miss Crandall‘s Classes is about an 1830 school teacher who opened up her all white classroom to the first black student.

Now The Meeting: The Interpreter is really a metaphor for our personal individuality and how we, without knowing it, allow others to rob us of our dignity.

3. What was the hardest scene for you to write, and why do you feel it was so challenging? After a few years deciding to out myself in the story was not an easy pivot. It’s not easy to reveal oneself. If we all do more of it maybe we will connect more.

In fact, Brian (Mertes) and I are still grappling with the ending. Caught up in this compression, the characters on stage and the audience alike are confronted by the larger world we often buy into or don’t. So is it bittersweet.

I feel we might be arriving at no matter what we each have potential. It’s pretty exciting to listen to the actors too. They will inform this journey ultimately.

Director Brian Mertes, Playwright Catherine Gropper
Photo Credit: Dan Lane Williams

4. According to press notes, The Meeting: The Interpreter is about the loss of individuality and privacy. 

  • When was there a time you felt like you lost your individuality? Hmmmm this is a very tough question Adam. I grew up in this city and attended an all girls school for 11 years. I learned to conform which was particularly hard for me because I’m an artist. I would get a dollar for drawing plants for peers in botany. Ironically, the more one is asked to be like everyone else, the more the inner self struggles to emerge. But you see there are these sort of rituals. We all have them. Family, faith, schooling, and after we hit five, we forget how to climb those trees we favored as children. My grandmother brought me to NYC. I didn’t lose my individuality, but I lost her. I think it was painful for her as well. 
  • How did you find your way back to yourself? My art always, always brings me back. And it’s my hope that through this play, the interpreter himself will be brought back to his own inner strength and core truth.

5. As people ask you about your plays and the meaning behind them, how do you keep some semblance of privacy? You don’t! Ha ha! You just have to know when to stop talking. Privacy is so so important isn’t it? 

6. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? My mom was an actress. She had been directed by Eva Le Gallienne. She graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Art. Did Pasadena Playhouse when she had a contract under 20th Century Fox, she’d study scripts. Fascinating. I wanted to know what those scripts were about. I wanted to write a play for her. 

I am an observer of life very much too. I did a bit of acting, but prefer to be behind the stage. Theatre is where we still can shake things up. We don’t have to conform.

7. Where is your favorite place to write your plays? I love very early mornings when no one is awake and nature is still. The city is too. I also love a University library. I’d go to Yale and find a little nook and they have huge comfy chairs. It’s just yourself and that space. At some point, I travel to diners too, and reread and tweak dialogue and lol at neighbors. I like life a lot and the wholeness of it still.

8. When you are writing a play, do you put any kind of parameters in place to help keep yourself focused? For example, do you turn phone notifications off while writing? I try to keep my dog away. She is very distracting, but then I get distracted, and realize nothing is so profound anyway. I like to be near an open window and feel the winter or summer air.

9. In addition to being a playwright, you are also a painter & sculptor. What do you get from these art forms that you don't get from playwriting? Working with one ‘s hands is the ultimate satisfaction. Nothing beats welding or squishing new clay into forms to later make a mold for. I am a painter foremost. I see the world through a painter‘s eyes as much as a writer‘s. 

Omg Windsor Newton paints are fabulous, and being on my own and stretching a soft linen canvas before putting gesso on it. The best.

My education is pretty steeped in art and art history. Our history is revealed through art history. Color is it. Don’t you think? Am a pretty good colorist. It’s all about how we interpret our world really. It’s so fun to be honest. I respect actors so hugely. I honestly don’t know how they do it. They become someone else and serve their character. They take this deep dive into life and it’s public. Pretty terrifying if you ask me.

10. What is something we didn't get to talk about in this interview that you'd like my audience to know about you? I am funny. So why am I not writing a comedy? I want to do so much for people to tap into who they are, what they feel, what they fear, and what they desire. I want them to vote too, in this election. Above all, maybe I want them to vote for themselves!

Catherine Gropper, Photo Credit: Dan Lane Williams

More on Catherine Gropper:

Catherine Gropper, acclaimed for her work as a painter, sculptor, and playwright, boasts accolades from Scotland’s national newspaper, the Scotsman at the Edinburgh Fringe (four-star review) and a rave from Anita Gates in the New York Times – both for her play, Embers (which enjoyed an extended run in NYC); and great praise in DC Theatre Scene for her play, Miss Crandall’s Classes, which explored racism in the education system. Catherine is also the author of several short stories and a book of poetry. She is an international award-winning filmmaker and a member of the Dramatists Guild.  

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