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By BRIAN SCOTT LIPTON
If your vision of a theatre director is someone who spends their days blocking actors' every step, endlessly rearranging scenery, and giving copious notes after each performance, then you haven't met Jean-Michele Gregory. But Gregory is hardly your run-of-the-mill helmer. Instead, she's more of a collaborator with the man who happens to be her husband, acclaimed monologist Mike Daisey (pictured above).
Having paired up previously on such works as If You See Something, Say Something and The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, the pair is now undertaking their most ambitious project ever: All The Faces of the Moon 29 interconnected monologues that are being performed serially at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater through October 3.
"This production feels really strange, like every day is just one long intermission between acts," Gregory says, four days into the series' run. "It's even been hard for me to go to sleep, because I feel like we should be back at the theatre."
It's easy to understand why the show feels all-consuming. On one hand, All the Faces of the Moon, which is timed to a complete lunar cycle, is 29 different monologues, each performed only once. But on the other, it's a single, massive work that tells a semi-imaginary tale about New York. And while audiences can download podcasts of the segments they've missed, Gregory will be fully immersed in the project until it's over.
She heads to Joe's Pub about three hours before each show, while her husband arrives much earlier. "Mike is kind of living in the dressing room these days," she says. "He gets there around noon and sometimes doesn't even write the show until moments before he's ready to get on stage, even though he's been dreaming up these shows all summer. I come in around 4 o'clock so we can do a sound check. It has to be really good, especially since we have these podcasts. In fact, I stay in the sound booth for a while after the show starts to make sure the recording is going well, and then I come down and watch the rest of the show from the house."
By acting like a traditional audience member, Gregory gives Daisey valuable feedback. "He hasn't shared everything with me, so I only have a little more of a clue than the average person about what he's going to talk about," she says. "And the fact is I don't want him to tell me too much. So when the show is over, I want him to talk to me about he how feels the show went, and then I might give him some notes, so that he can adjust what he might want to do differently the next night."
There is at least one constant in every performance, though: A series of paintings by the artist Larissa Tokmakova which were specially commissioned for this project and relate to each night's monologue. Every evening, a new painting sits behind Daisey on the stage, reflecting on and deepening the story.