For his first mainstage production for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Jeffrey Lo is directing a comedy he calls “a celebration of what makes us all messy, lovely human beings.”
“The Language Archive” by Julia Cho centers on a linguist fighting to preserve a dying language.
“It’s using the metaphor of a person who knows so many languages (but) doesn’t have the right words to express himself,” Lo says. “That’s what I feel is the beauty of the play.
“I see that as a doorway to how we communicate love and longing to each other.”
Lo knows something about communicating emotions: The San Jose native is a playwright as well as a director. His plays have been produced and workshopped at locally at City Lights Theater Company. His play “Writing Fragments Home” was a finalist for the Bay Area Playwright’s Conference and a semifinalist for the O’Neill Playwright’s Conference.
Lo says his playwrighting informs his directing in that he focuses more on plot than design elements when staging a show.
“The character arc is what’s the most fun for me,” he says. “My favorite time is sitting at the table with the actors for a read-through. I like dissecting what a playwright is doing with the play before getting it on its feet.”
As a playwright, Lo says, “I try to be mindful of the director. Sometimes a writer will write something that feels impossible to put on stage. I try to think, ‘Would I have a solution for this?’”
While Lo has directed TheatreWorks’ second stage productions of “Santaland Diaries” for the last two years, he says he’s “both excited and nervous” about helming a mainstage production for the company. He started working for TheatreWorks as a sound mixer directly out of college and worked his way up to assistant director, a position he held for seven years.
“I’ve been fortunate that the size and scope of companies I’ve directed for are growing,” Lo says.
The director found a personal connection to “The Language Archive through his Filipino heritage. One of his favorite words in Tagalog is “bayanihan,” which means a spirit of communal unity.
“The play talks about how different languages have very specific words for feelings, events or items specific to one’s culture and experience,” Lo says. “Preserving language is important because it preserves culture.
“In terms of human connection, it’s important to hold these things tight.”
“The Language Archive” runs July 10-Aug. 4 at Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Tickets are $30-$100 at theatreworks.org or 650-463-1960.