Transcribed and edited by
Frank C. Bertrand
Note: Linda Hartinian is the author of the the stage play Flow My Tears the Policeman Said based on the Philip K. Dick story. The play was first put on in New York by Mabou Mines in 1988. Linda was also a close friend of PKD. This interview was transcribed by Frank Bertrand from a 1999 radio interview with Linda and producer Frier McCollister. Click here to read Part #2.
[source: Cartoon Pleroma, KUCI, 88.9 FM, Irvine, California, May 3, 1999]
Robert Larson: Welcome to Cartoon Pleroma on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Irvine. This is Robert Larson on your Monday evening, May 3rd, 1999. What've we got lined up for you this evening? Well, I went and saw this play the other evening that just was really really wonderful. And this is playing at the historic Ivy Sub Station in Culver City. It's called Flow My Tears The Policeman Said. And it's adapted from a Philip K. Dick story. As we've discussed here in the past Philip K. Dick stories more often than not make you question nearly all assumptions about what is real. This stage version is definitely true to that form. So we've got lined up for you this evening the producer, Frier McCollister, and on the line from New York, Linda Hartinian, who adapted this story for the stage. We'll have them up for you in just a moment. First I'd like to remind you that the opinions expressed on this program are not necessarily those of the KUCI staff or management, or the UC Board of Regents. So, Frier, do we have you hooked up?
Frier McCollister: Yes.
RL: Welcome to the show.
FM: Thank you Robert for having me.
RL: You're quite welcome. And, Linda, we got you hooked up?
Linda Hartinian: Yes sir.
RL: Okay. Speak up just a tad.
LH: Okay, how's this?
RL: Yeah, that's better. And welcome to you.
LH: Thank you.
RL: And so, Frier you want to tell us a little bit about your background before we get into this?
FM: Well, sure I'm an independent theatrical producer and manager based in Los Angeles right now. I've been out here for four years and came out here from New York where I had the privilege of working with the Mabou Mines Theater Company, a very well established avant garde company, with which Linda has a long association. And her adaptation of the play that we are currently presenting was originally adapted and presented by Mabou Mines, first in Boston and then in New York. Linda can sort of give a little bit more background in terms of that production history. And I had the privilege of working with Mabou Mines as a company manager in the late 80s and worked very closely with Lee Breuer, who's one of the founding members, both as a manager and as an assistant director. Came out here in 1994 and began following the work of a local theater company called the Evidence Room, which is the company that's presenting Flow My Tears in Los Angeles right now. And I had of course seen Mabou Mines' production of Flow My Tears in New York, in I believe it was 1988. I was very impressed with it and was very impressed from a producing point of view with the fact that it sold extremely well and was very popular and had great appeal among the fans of Philip K. Dick.
Since arriving in Los Angeles and following the work of the Evidence Room and getting to know the artistic director Bart DeLorenzo, I had gotten wind that Bart was looking at Flow My Tears as a possibility to present in an upcoming season, and talked to him about it and encouraged him in the idea and expressed my desire to be involved with it. And this is the first production that I've worked with the Evidence Room as producer. I am hoping to continue that association. But that's pretty much my background with the piece.
RL: Okay, and Linda you want to give us a little of your background?
LH: Well, I met Phil years ago when I was in my early twenties, before I went to work for Mabou Mines. And he was a wonderful person who meant an awful lot to me. So I was in my early twenties and I met Phil and we became friends. I became friends with him and his wife Tessa. And then I went to work in New York and I met Mabou Mines and I started working with them. I wanted to get them together and I wanted Phil to write a piece for Mabou Mines. And unfortunately he died before he could do it. So my idea was to make a kind of memorial to him by doing the piece anyway, and doing the best that I could in adapting it myself. And that's what we did.
RL: Well, we'll get into your relationship with Phil a little bit more in just a little bit. But first I want to talk about the play that's currently running now. Frier that's going to be going on until May 16th?
FM: That's correct. Runs through Sunday, May 16th. We're currently running Thursday through Sundays at eight o'clock and we're selling quite well, so if the listeners are interested in coming they should make the reservations soon.
RL: Okay, and the phone number for that?
FM: Phone number for reservations is XXX-535-4996. Just tell us how many tickets you need and which day your interested in coming and we will return your call to confirm the reservations.
RL: Frier I want to ask you, was there something in particular about the story Flow My Tears that really spoke to you, that made you want to produce this piece?
FM: Well, there's sort of a two-fold motive going on with me in that. And first of all is my interest, my very sincere interests in the writings of Philip K. Dick. I was familiar with him and his writing, actually prior to learning that Mabou Mines had a production of Flow My Tears . And then seeing their production and seeing how popular it was, again from a producing point of view, really intrigued me, frankly, of the commercial viability of doing his work. But first and foremost I find his writing particularly compelling and my interest honestly in his writing came less out of any orientation toward science fiction writing for the most part as in my happening to stumble on his personal story of the sort of religious visionary experiences that he had commencing in 1974. And the story of that episode and the influence that it subsequently had on his writing compelled me to begin reading him.
So when I learned that Mabou Mines had a production of this piece I became particularly intrigued with it. And then in seeing how popular it was I became very interested in the idea of the possibility of remounting it and had actually discussed that, before actually coming out to Los Angeles, with Bill Raymond who is the director of the piece in New York. That never transpired in New York, obviously, and then by coincidence I happened to become acquainted with the Evidence Room and Bart had expressed interest. So, but you asked me specifically in terms of what it was about this piece. In general, again, it was informed by my interests in his writings as it was colored by my fascination with his personal story. And then...
RL: As Phil Dick in general...
FM: As we began preparing in the very initial stages of pre-production for this show I began doing a little bit more research on Flow My Tears specifically and how it fit into Philip K. Dick's framework and sensibility of his own work subsequent to what has become known as the February 3rd '74 episode. And in fact it turns out that the book figured quite significantly in how he sought to make sense of his experience essentially. And, yeah, I can go into that a little bit more. But honestly as I began to learn a little bit more about sort of the significance of the novel to him it became that much more compelling and interesting to me as we approached mounting the play.
RL: So there was this in general real fascination with all of his work, but Flow My Tears seemed to have a lot of things built into it that made it a very viable project for you.
FM: Well, again, there was a bi-fold sort of motivation. And again it was, for me, principally informed by my fascination with the work and my own specific interests in Philip K. Dick's writing which really stems from his own personal experience, his series of visions that he experienced in 1974, which occurred actually one week following the publication of Flow My Tears in 1974. And Flow My Tears becomes sort of the initial text that begins the series of his later work that all has to do with basically the content of his visions and his efforts at making sense of them. And then, as I also indicated, from a producing point of view I was particularly interested in mounting this piece because it, number one, is the only authorized dramatic adaptation of a Philip K. Dick piece. It is also obvious, as I just indicated a very significant work in his oeuvre and beyond that, from a producing perspective, I felt that it was potentially a very popular piece. And in fact that's proven to be the case.
RL: Linda, you wrote this adaptation of Flow My Tears several years ago and there've been several different productions of it in different cities over the years. How did you come to actually write the adaptation?
LH: Well, we just sat down and we started. What I tried to do, because I'm not really a writer, is I tried to just take Phil's words right out of the book. And so by and large every single word that's in the play is right out of the novel. Once in a while I had to cheat a little bit and I had to glue a couple of sentences together here or there, but basically it's all Phil's words. And then we just tried to find ways to make it dramatically viable on the stage. It was a hard thing to do but we decided that we wanted to bring a novel on to the stage, and that's what we did.
RL: When I was watching it the dialogue just seemed, wow, that's definitely Phil Dick dialogue. There wasn't a lot of added sort of modification interpretation. And it worked quite well.
LH: No, absolutely not. We tried to stick to Phil's words. He wrote beautiful dialogue. At first I thought there would be trouble because of that but as it turned out every time we would deviate from it I'd have to go back and pick up the book and find out what he said because he always said it better. He was really wonderful.
RL: I want to get into your relationship with Phil. You actually knew him quite well and I believe your description on first meeting him was that he was, all at the same time, vulnerable, ingenuous, and egotistical.
LH: Absolutely. I had some free time back in the early seventies one day and I went out to see an exhibition of a friend's paintings that were being shown at a science fiction convention, which was something I would never do. I was never involved in science fiction and I'd never go to a place like that. But I just happened to be there. And I was walking down the hallway of this big hotel and this man sort of started to flirt with me, and started to try to talk to me. He said, you know I'm a famous writer. And I remember laughing, going well that's nice. And he said, no, no, here come with me and I'll show you my books. And he dragged me over to a table filled with books that he had written. Then he realized that his fiancÚ, Tessa, was there so he introduced us. And we just the three of us got along from that point on. We just became dear friends. And it was kind of an amazing moment for me. All of the time that we spent together, Phil and Tessa and I, all I can say is that he was like a father to me. And that he was like an artistic father to me and a real mentor. I really didn't have a father that I could go to. And they provided a lot of support for me, that continues to this day, years and years later. Thirty years later I still think of what Phil would want me to do, or what Phil would think of something.
RL: And sometimes do you feel that you actually get a message just, I don't know, we can call it synchronicity?
LH: Well, once, I mean after he first died I did have some dreams where Phil would come to me, during times when things were tough, and he would say things to me. I think it was Phil. And now that time has passed I think that Phil still watches over me some way, for every once in a while something great happens like this show that Frier put on in Los Angeles. I think that he's out there for me and I think that he cares about me.
RL: Well, I know that he was just a very important person in your life and not just from reading his books because you did know him personally.
LH: No, I'd never read one of Phil's books. And he was right, I didn't know that he was a famous writer. He was just a person to me and in fact when I would go to visit them he would give me books of his to read. And then we would talk about them afterwards. Sometimes I didn't understand them and I would have to go and talk to him. I was, I'm not an educated person, really, and he was always interested in what I was thinking or what I got out of the books or what I didn't get out of the books. And he use to give them to me as gifts, and they were really wonderful gifts. Now that I'm older, I look back at the books and I read the books and it's different for me. But I've sort of come a long way since those days with Phil. And it's just, when you think about it, that's the kind of a person that he was. What he was was an incredibly generous human being who could see an ordinary young person, who wasn't special, who wasn't interested in science fiction, and wasn't a fan and be interested in her and be interested in what she had to say and what she thought and to give her advice and help. And I don't think there are very many famous authors that are like that.
RL: He was a real regular guy in a certain way.
RL: And do you think it was possibly your either open-mindedness or curiosity that he really appreciated?
LH: Ah, I don't think so. I think that he was that way with everyone. And I think that he was open and generous with every human being that he met, and in every situation that he met, and that some people were more able to follow his instructions. For instance, he told me - I was a grocery checker - and he told me to go to New York and that that would be a better thing for me to do, is to go to New York and get some experience. So I went to New York and I got some experience and I came back the next summer, and I came back with sort of my report, what I did over the summer. And I said, well, I went to New York, I joined an experimental theater company, I went on tour with them in Europe and I met Samuel Beckett. I remember his mouth dropping open, and he realized that I actually did what he told me to do. And I guess not everyone would do what he told them to do, but I did. And I guess hearing that people would do that. I think Paul Williams also got a lot of good advice from Phil. And he's a wonderful person, too, Paul.
RL: Yeah, we had him on the show.
LH: But I guess he got different advice than I did because I think Phil told him to go up to Petaluma or something.
RL: How many people went on adventures based on Phil's...
LH: What Phil would tell them to do. And then he would tell people to do things and they wouldn't, or they were not able to accept this advice from this wonderful human being.
RL: You made a major life change just based on his suggestion, you had that much respect for him.
LH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I did. I had that much, but by that time I really did think of him as my father. And I had asked him if he would act as my father...
LH: So I just followed through with that and I just figured it was my father telling me to do that. I also brought him the man that I married, Bill Raymond, that Frier just mentioned, who directed the original work with Mabou Mines. I was married to somebody else. It was not a happy marriage and then I met Bill, and the first thing that I did was, when I was serious about Bill, was that I brought Phil out to my house. And I introduced him to Bill to see whether he thought that Bill would be an appropriate husband for me. Phil gave me his blessing, and told me, he said, Bill he's the nicest man in the whole world. You'll never find anyone nicer or better than he is. He's the one that you should marry. And so I did and we've been happy ever since. So everything I ever did that Phil told me to do was a good idea.
RL: Wow, so almost like a spiritual advisor, you might...
RL: So, Frier, let's get back into a little bit talking about the play currently going on now. Were there any special challenges in making this happen the way you wanted it to?
FM: Well, certainly. It's a very large cast, first of all. We have, if I counted them all up, about eleven, twelve actors. The set design for this production, which was conceived by Jason Adams, who I must say has done a superb job, is very complex and involves a mechanized turntable, among other things, as well as video design, which incorporated a large sort of improvised screen, by Adam Soch. So as these elements began piling on, it quickly became apparent that this was the most technically complexed production that the Evidence Room had ever attempted. And inevitably when you take on a project of this size the rehearsal process becomes increasingly challenging as you approach opening night. It was certainly the case with this show. Technical rehearsals for this show were exhausting for everybody and entirely nerve wracking for me. They did not go particularly smoothly and we weren't frankly sure whether we were going to get through the entire show cleanly on opening night. Thank god that everything in fact went fine and everything has been going quite well since then. But it's a large technically complex production and that presented probably the biggest challenge for us.
RL: I've found nothing to complain about. I love the video bits, the music at the beginning is just really nice, sets a good tone. The acting, all the performances I found just great. It was really a joy. I was on kind of a high for a couple of days after seeing it.
FM: Well, that's good to hear. And you remind me to credit our sound designer, John Zalewski, who did quite a number of sound cues as well of all varieties. And he's done an excellent job. He designed the sound for the Evidence Room's previous production, One Flea Spare, that just won a L.A. Weekly theater award actually for his sound design for that, and has done an excellent job for us with this show as well, as well as our lighting designer, Rand Ryan, who is also dealing with a variety of challenges in terms of creating isolated stage space with lights alone pretty much. So all of these guys worked very hard, as well, and I also have to credit Ann Closs-Farly, who is our costume designer, who I must say on a budget of about five dollars managed to come up with just an excellent excellent work for all of the characters.
RL: Yeah, definitely. It's just about time for our musical break. So we're going to get to that and I'd like to remind you all that we're speaking this evening with Frier McCollister and Linda Hartinian. Frier is the producer of the currently running play Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and Linda is the person who adapted this for the stage. And we'll be getting back into more discussion of this with them after our musical break. This is Robert Larson. You're listening to Cartoon Pleroma on KUCI 88.9 FM in Irvine.
Click here for Part #2 of the interview.