TINA SATTER I stumbled upon this transcript and was like, I think this could be a play. It was so amazing, how it was on the page. It had the coughs, the stutters, the surreal diversions in discussions of cats, the reveals — because it was interrogatory in nature. It felt all there.
LUCAS HNATH I’ve always been under the impression that nothing was cut, right?
SATTER Nothing was cut.
HNATH With mine, it is not exactly the transcript. It’s many days of material. So there’s not only cutting, but there is rearranging. I break up the text into very small chunks, these little scraps, and then I move them around and arrange them into the story that I think we’re telling.
COLLINS-HUGHES Reality Winner’s actual interview with the F.B.I. agents lasted how many minutes?
SATTER We’re not totally sure. It’s only a little over an hour the way we do it. So that’s the weird thing. I mean, the time quote at the end, [one of the agent characters] ends the play saying that he stopped the recording at 5:17 p.m.
COLLINS-HUGHES You both use a tone of surreality to get at sometimes painful and sometimes enraging realities.
SATTER That is a very present component of how we think about it in the play: What am I, and then us together as a collective, imagining Reality is feeling second by second? There’s the actual tangible surreality of, like, you’re talking about monkeys and then you’re asked again about this crime you’ve committed and are trying to avoid saying you did. The surrealness of moving through her head in that tension just felt like something we had to constantly tend. To me it felt like that filmic, surreal thing you might feel in your body as trauma is happening to you in the second. So we were interested in: Can that happen on this pretty simple stage?
HNATH The thing that feels so specific in your piece is the physical protocol. I suspected strongly watching it that you must have done some research into physically what do F.B.I. agents do when they are securing a space.
SATTER I have to admit we did no research. I was really like, what does this script give me? Once it was cast and we were meeting in a room, the three [actors playing] male agents and Emily as Reality, that was this question: Should we? We all have all these F.B.I. idioms in our faces. We know that stuff. But we really wanted to feel what they were finding as actors.