How did Lucy Alibar get from the bayous of northern Florida to the stage of the Kirk Douglas Theatre (and the Oscars, for that matter)?
The writer and star of Throw Me On the Burnpile and Light Me Up and her director, CTG Associate Artistic Director Neel Keller, answered this question and more from donors at Center Theatre Group’s eighth annual Inner Circle Ambassadors’ Reception. Donors attended the closing performance of the KDT’s work-in-progress production of Throw Me On the Burnpile and Light Me Up on Sunday, May 31. Afterward, they enjoyed an exclusive question and answer session in which they offered high praise to Alibar as she explained the alchemy behind transforming two weeks of rehearsals, two years of writing and a lifetime of memories into the funny, engaging play they had just seen.
Throw Me On the Burnpile and Light Me Up depicts a tumultuous childhood based heavily on Alibar’s, and on her relationship with her father, a criminal defense attorney with clients on death row. When asked how closely the play hews to her own life, Alibar said that while the feel is quite autobiographical, some of the events took place at different times, and some characters were combined. In response to the question of how she became the accomplished writer she is today, Alibar credited free public programs, including the generous scholarships of the Sewanee Young Writers Program and Young Playwrights Inc., a New York City non-profit that gave her support and professional mentors at a young age.
Alibar and Keller were also asked what they learned from these work-in-progress performances at the KDT. Alibar said she had learned that “I’m from this very specific world,” that can be hard for outsiders to comprehend. The idea of religion as a day-to-day aspect of people’s lives, for instance, or the fact that Florida has one of the largest death rows in the country and executes more people than most other states, surprised audiences.
Keller said that going into the performances, he and Alibar had chosen six stories, but they weren’t 100 percent sure why. Seeing them onstage together, they realized that the stories “do build on each other and take you places,” forming one story of a year in a young girl’s life during which she tries to understand mercy, justice, and death. Before donors mingled and enjoyed gourmet hors d’oeuvres and desserts from EnjoEat in the KDT lobby, Alibar thanked them for their support, then fielded one last compliment about Throw Me On the Burnpile and Light Me Up: “It’s almost a love letter to life.”