Drew Larimore doesn’t like fairy tales. The playwright, whose latest show, Out of Iceland, is receiving its off-Broadway premiere at Walkerspace by Alfred R. Kahn, in association with Culture Project, has never read Lord of the Rings and does not know what MiddleEarth is. Ironically, Out of Iceland is described as a fairy tale set Iceland where a mystical area is referred to as “The Middle.”
Out of Iceland follows a New York-based writer name Caroline who falls off an Icelandic volcano and awakens in the home of Hal Tanker, a cowboy who nurses her back to health – and who happens to be a complete stranger. Throw in a flamboyant troll and a missing truck, all set in the mysterious country and you have Larimore’s play, described as a “modern day fairy tale set at the end of the earth.”
Larimore, who readily admits to disliking the fantasy genre, also acknowledges the irony of his play being described as a fairy tale. But Out of Iceland, which was first inspired by a trip Larimore took to Iceland while attending Emerson College, is rooted in actual human experiences.
“I think if you look at the authentic fairy tales, what they were before Disney got a hold of them, they were all pretty brutal and upsetting and had an underlying core of real tragedy,” he said. “In a similar vein, there is a severe tragedy in the lives of Caroline and Hal; they both have experienced loss on a very profound level and have both come to Iceland in search of healing.”
While The Middle in Larimore’s play is not a reference to MiddleEarth, Larimore does consider it a universal location, saying, “To me, ‘The Middle’ really represents the starkest, most vulnerable part of a human being – an emotional place we all have to go to for true connection.”
While Larimore’s trip to Iceland did not involve falling off of a volcano or the interference of a flamboyant troll, it was a challenging vacation. Describing it as “one of those trips where I was proving to myself that if I could go there, then I could go anywhere, do anything,” Larimore recalled renting the wrong vehicle for traveling the country, being unprepared for the weather, and getting very lost.
“It was nuts,” he said. “I’ve never been so stressed out, but at the same time, I felt very in touch with nature and my surroundings. At one point during my time, I got to sit on top of a glacier and reach up and touch the low-handing clouds.”
Larimore has been developing Out of Iceland for the past five years, including several readings in Los Angeles, a workshop in New York and development at the 2008 Telluride Playwrights Festival. He is very excited to see the play performed onstage in New York.
“Seeing this play that has been such a big part of my life come to life onstage is such a rush of euphoria, I can’t even tell you,” he said. “Readings and workshops are great, but seeing it up on its feet as a functioning entity is nothing short of magic.”
Larimore spoke very highly of his colleagues, including Lea DaLaria’s performance as the troll Thor as well as the director Josh Hecht and dramaturg Christie Evangelisto. His experience of working with Hect and Evangelisto has been a uniquely rewarding experience.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with two people who I feel so connected to regarding a creative vision and who push me and challenge me as a playwright,” he said. “Josh has such a sharp eye for the truth and Christie such a sharp eye for clarity, combined with this immense sensitivity to my process that I can’t tell you how rewarding it has been to shape and evolve this play with them.”
While several years have passed since Larimore last traveled to Iceland, the location’s left a lasting impression on the playwright.
“Iceland as a place really moved me and antagonized me, just in the way that a person can,” Larimore said. “At one point in the play, Hal says, ‘Askja feels like a plus-one…it gets angry when it wants and sad when it wants,’ and when I think about my time there, that still holds true. Iceland’s more than a place. It’s a personality.”