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JOURNAL SUMMER 2013

FOR THE LOVE OF STORIES

LORETTA GRECO

ON CAREER + CRAFT

NOTHING WRITTEN IN STONE

A ROUNDTABLE ON REHEARSAL W/CHRIS COLEMAN, MICHAEL JOHN GARCÉS, NANCY KEYSTONE, DAVIS MCCALLUM + PENNY METROPULOS FULL OUT!

THE CACOPHONY OF DEVELOPMENT TODD LONDON + LAURA PENN TALK NEW PLAY PROCESS

+ SNAPSHOTS OF FIVE SUMMER FESTIVALS

MEET ME AT THE MUNY A THEATRE LIKE NO OTHER

JERRY MITCHELL WHY I CAST THAT ACTOR

SUSAN BOOTH IN RESIDENCE

DONALD BYRD FROM THE ARCHIVES

RICHARD EYRE SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL


SDC EXECUTIVE BOARD

Karen Azenberg PRESIDENT

Doug Hughes EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT

Leigh Silverman VICE PRESIDENT

Oz Scott SECRETARY

Ethan McSweeny TREASURER

HONORARY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Pamela Berlin Melvin Bernhardt Julianne Boyd Danny Daniels Marshall W. Mason Ted Pappas Gene Saks COUNSEL

Ronald H. Shechtman EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Laura Penn

MEMBERS OF BOARD

Julie Arenal Rob Ashford Christopher Ashley Walter Bobbie Joe Calarco Larry Carpenter Marcia Milgrom Dodge Sheldon Epps Michael John Garcés Christopher Gattelli Liza Gennaro Wendy C. Goldberg Linda Hartzell Moisés Kaufman Dan Knechtges Mark Lamos Paul Lazarus Rick Lombardo Tom Moore Amy Morton Robert Moss Sharon Ott Lisa Peterson Lonny Price John Rando Susan H. Schulman Seret Scott Bartlett Sher Chay Yew

SDC JOURNAL

Published by SDC | Summer 2013 | Volume 2 | No. 1 FEATURES EDITOR

Shelley Butler ART DIRECTOR

Elizabeth Miller CONTRIBUTORS

Susan Booth

Lue Douthit

Seret Scott

DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR

Donald Byrd

Alyssa Dvorak

Michelle Sokolowski

CHOREOGRAPHER

PUBLICATIONS INTERN

MEMBER SERVICES COORDINATOR

Stephanie Coen

Adam Levi

Hannah Rettoun

ASSC. ARTISTIC DIRECTOR,

BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVE

PUBLICATIONS INTERN

TWO RIVER THEATER CO.

Chris Coleman

Kappy Kilburn

Barbara Wolkoff

DIRECTOR

DIR. OF MEMBER SERVICES

DIRECTOR

Elana McKelahan WRITER

SDC JOURNAL is published quarterly by Stage Directors and Choreographers Society located at 1501 Broadway, STE 1701, NYC 10036. SDC JOURNAL is a registered trademark of SDC. SUBSCRIPTIONS Call 212.391.1070 or visit www.SDCweb.org. Annual SDC Membership dues include a $5 allocation for a 1-year subscription to SDC JOURNAL. Non-Members may purchase an annual subscription for $24 (domestic), $48 (foreign); single copies cost $7 each (domestic), $14 (foreign). Also available at the Drama Book Shop in NY, NY. POSTMASTER Send address changes to SDC JOURNAL, SDC, 1501 Broadway, STE 1701, NY, NY 10036. PRINTED BY Bayard Printing Group

Union bug here SDC JOURNAL

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CONTENTS

FEATURES

SUMMER 2013

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Volume 2 | No. 1

IN THE COMMUNITY

2013 Directors Lab West:

We Gather Together

BY KAPPY

KILBURN

16 Meet Me at the MUNY:

A Theatre Like No Other

A look at the unique challenges + beauties of America’s oldest + largest outdoor musical theatre.

BY ALYSSA

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COVER

DVORAK

For the Love of Stories: LORETTA GRECO: ON CAREER + CRAFT

A conversation on her path to directing + becoming an artistic leader.

INTERVIEW BY LUE

24 Nothing Written in Stone:

A ROUNDTABLE ON REHEARSAL

Chris Coleman discusses the myriad approaches to rehearsal with peer directors Michael John Garcés, Nancy Keystone, Davis McCallum + Penny Metropulos.

INTERVIEW BY CHRIS

COLEMAN

30 New Play Development:

SNAPSHOTS OF FIVE SUMMER FESTIVALS

A sampling of summer programs championing the collaborations between directors + playwrights through the process of developing new work.

35 The Cacophony of Development New Dramatists’ Artistic Director Todd London on new play development + the complex relationship between playwright + director.

INTERVIEW BY LAURA

PENN

DOUTHIT SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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FROM THE PRESIDENT

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BACKSTAGE

BY KAREN

Christine O’Connor

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Consultant for Albert Hall & Associates

FULL OUT! SDC Foundation’s “Mr. Abbott” Award Honors Jerry Mitchell

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BY ELANA

If You Do One Thing This Summer, What Will It Be?

Our Members Respond

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IN RESIDENCE

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AZENBERG

FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

BY LAURA

PENN

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IN YOUR WORDS

Two Questions for Director Kym Moore CURATED BY SERET SCOTT

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Why I Cast That Actor

SUSAN BOOTH on casting Jake La Botz in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

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Donald Byrd/Nepal An Agent of Transformation BY DONALD BYRD

FROM THE ARCHIVES

An interview with RICHARD EYRE

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AROUND THE COUNTRY

A Breath of Fresh Eyre

SDC Regional Reports

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THE SOCIETY PAGES 31st Annual Fred and Adele Astaire

Awards, SDC Tony Toast + Tony Awards, SDC Foundation Symposium + One-on-One Conversation, Encore Community Service’s Annual Heart to Heart Awards Benefit, 2013 TCG Conference + SDC’s Lloyd Richards

AARON FRANKEL

 hakespeare for American Actors S and Directors BY ALYSSA DVORAK

MCKELAHAN

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OUR MEMBERS IN PRINT

SDC FOUNDATION

COVER

| Loretta Greco PHOTO David Allen

Kevin Milnes + Jay Pierce as Huck Finn + Jim in the 2008 production of Big River at Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Ivins, Utah PHOTO C/O Tuacahn Amphitheatre ABOVE |

| 1 Hal Brooks in the rehearsal for A Man, His Wife and His Hat at PlayPenn with playwright Lauren Yee + Projections Designer David O’Connor PHOTO John Flak 2 Davis McCallum in rehearsal for Henry the V at the Shakespeare Society PHOTO E Kelson 3 Cindy Marie Jenkins leading social media marketing workshop for Directors Lab West 2013 at Pasadena Playhouse PHOTO Evita Castine 4 Loretta Greco in rehearsal PHOTO Jennifer Reiley PREVIOUS

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FROM THE PRESIDENT

On the Luxury of Summer I decided to ride my bike to work today. From my house to the theatre is about a mile and a half, and the ride takes me through an old yet eclectic neighborhood and past beautifully tended gardens. The roses and lilacs are blooming, and the sky is an extraordinary blue against the still snowcapped mountains. It’s a landscape somewhat unfamiliar to a New York City girl, and yet there is something that I instinctually recognize. I feel the script shift in my backpack, giving a new and specific context to my environment. Summer theatre, of course! How many of us got our start in summer stock? How many were so lucky to experience the luxury of a job outside the city during the oppressive New York summer months? My very first stock job was choreographing for a little startup theatre in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, right on the water. It was absolutely beautiful—the locale at least, maybe not my show. Oh, but it was fun, and such an education! Afterward came Candlewood Playhouse, Music Theatre North, North Shore Music Theatre, Sacramento Music Circus. It is summer camp for theatre folk, a chance to make new connections, meet new collaborators, and experience big mistakes or huge successes. The schedule at many of the theatres allows for multiple artistic teams to be in residence simultaneously, creating one of those rare circumstances when directors and choreographers are working at the same theatre at the same time, and granting a unique opportunity to compare notes, share advice, or just enjoy a drink with one of the few people in this world who truly understands the work that you do—in this case, often completed in two weeks or less! In Sacramento, walking through the hotel lobby was like attending an SDC Membership meeting. Some of the best theatre lore can be attributed to summer stock, from the old barns that host a bat or two along with the audience, the outdoor techs held at midnight when it’s dark enough to see the lights, to thunderstorms and power outages, skunks, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and sunburn. The MUNY in St. Louis, celebrating its 95th season, is one of my favorite summer spots, but there are many theatres I that love, companies whose very names sound like summer theatre: Surflight, New London Barn, the Hangar, the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Gateway, the Cape Playhouse, the giant Kansas City Starlight, Theatre Under the Stars, and Pittsburgh CLO. It is quiet at Pioneer Theatre today, the last show of the year having just closed, and while I relish the quiet for the moment, and look forward to the opportunity to recharge and prepare for next season, I experience pangs of jealousy while thinking of my colleagues packing on this beautiful sunny day for a few weeks of “stock” in the mountains, at the shore, or in a barn. I hope the next generation of prominent directors and choreographers is out there, gaining the knowledge and experience that only comes from “doing.” I hope that the veterans take a moment to smell the honeysuckle and pass on some advice to the new guys. And I hope that the rest of us make a point to go buy a ticket and see a show. Just take care not to forget your bug spray!

KAREN AZENBERG Executive Vice President KAREN AZENBERG has been a Member since 1989

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FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” It seems impossible to imagine a world without Mandela. Maybe that’s because he has been so present in my adult life as an inspiration and a moral compass. I vividly remember being deeply immersed in working for Bob Alexander and the Living Stage Theatre Company during some of the darkest times of apartheid. Remember the Market Theatre’s Woza Albert!? Sweet Honey and the Rock’s Biko? How many of us came to understand the pain and strength, the guilt and hope of humanity through Athol Fugard’s work? I remember a sense of pride in knowing that theatre was playing a meaningful role in mobilizing the oppressed and opening the consciousness of the world beyond Soweto. For many of us, making theatre is our own attempt to make sense of the world. A mirror with which we reflect the world, or as Brecht challenged us to consider, a “hammer to shape” the world. We celebrate and change the experience of life—if even for a moment for those who enter the theatre. In this issue, in “From the Archives,” Richard Eyre talks with Anne Cattaneo about his 2002 production of The Crucible. In sharing how he and the cast entered Arthur Miller’s world, Eyre says, “We talked about the coordinates of this society. What they believed in and why they believed it.” I love that quote for any number of reasons, not the least of which is this idea of the coordinates of a “society.” As I sit here at the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, I am drawn to consider what SDC’s coordinates might be. What are the coordinates of the society outside my office window? What are the coordinates of our society when one day the Supreme Court invalidates central tenets of the Voting Rights Act, then the next day it strikes down the law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage? In moments such as these, it is often helpful to focus, to breathe. Later in this issue, Art Williams and Jay Broad take us back to “SSDC” and our founding, and in doing so remind us of what we believe in. Excerpts from the Credo as drafted by the Founders clearly state our commitment to: • • • •

elevating the standards of the art of stage direction and choreography aiding in the development and training of directors and choreographers increasing in the professional and public esteem these arts developing all conditions that will encourage them

the first spark of an idea to the moment the curtain rises, there is something altogether unique and distinctive about the why and the way any one director or choreographer gets the job done. There is no single “process,” as we will find again and again in this issue, and yet there are markers along the way that one must hit. Some are functional, some are ephemeral. There is also a recurring theme this summer of coming to things with fresh eyes or making things new. How do we make a classic new? Loretta Greco strives to take audiences to a place where they think it just might end differently this one time. How do you throw out our assumptions about a play or production and be alive to what is in the room? Todd London asks us to evaluate and feel bold enough to walk away from how things were done and see how things might be done while always remembering that creating meaningful relationships is hard. And how can one talk about meaningful theatre, relationships, process, and new plays without mentioning Lloyd Richards? In 1959, as SDC was being conjured by tenacious directors and choreographers, Lloyd was there, even as he was directing A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway. Lloyd spent his life making great work in enduring partnerships with playwrights like the great August Wilson. He profoundly believed in his calling and forged a path that many would follow. “I didn’t go into the theatre because it was a job,” Lloyd said. “I went into the theatre because I was choosing a way of life.” With all that Lloyd did for playwrights, for artists of color, and for future generations of theatremakers, he also gave generously of himself to SDC. No stranger to attempting the seemingly impossible, he led SDC to sign the first LORT Agreement, prevailing in the 1975 landmark Julien case, which gave our Members the right to be represented by the Union, and established SDC-League Pension and Health Funds. Today, the coordinates of this Society are drawn far beyond 1501 Broadway, just as the places and ways in which you make your work have expanded. We still know what we believe, and our purpose is clear—but it’s good to remind ourselves why and to remind ourselves to be ambitious. We should be ambitious for the craft and the business, but we must always be mindful of our potential for making a difference in our societies. And we should never be daunted by that which appears impossible as it may be the most important pursuit of all.

Laura Penn, Executive Director

I know I am repeating myself as I have shared some of those very words in the Journal before. So perhaps the more interesting inquiry posed by Eyre is why do they believe it? For makers of theatre, maybe it’s because, as Donald Byrd experienced in Nepal, theatre can bridge worlds, bringing us closer to our shared humanity. Or, as Kym Moore talks about, theatre gives us a place to investigate misguided perceptions. Each and every week you propel stories to life, lift them, pull them, and will them from the page—day to day, project to project. From

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SDC JOURNAL

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BOB ALEXANDER since 2008 | JAY BROAD since 1963 | DONALD BYRD since 2005 | RICHARD EYRE since 1996 | ATHOL FUGARD since 1975 LORETTA GRECO since 1994 | KYM MOORE Assc. since 2012 | LLOYD RICHARDS d.2006 | ARTHUR WILLIAMS since 1959


Kym Moore directing the cast of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at Brown in 2011 ABOVE

IN YOUR WORDS Two Questions Why I Cast That Actor Our Members In Print Backstage We Asked Our Members...

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CONTRIBUTE

If you wish to contribute to IN YOUR WORDS, would like to respond to any of the articles, opinions, or views expressed in SDC Journal, or have an idea for an article, please email Letters@SDCweb.org. Include your full name, city + state. We regret that we are unable to respond to every letter.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS After the recent publishing of “This Play Is Called Our Town: 75 Years in Grover’s Corners” (Winter issue) + “Engaged Theatre/Extreme Circumstances” (Spring issue), SDC Journal spotted two relevant blog postings, one by Kate Powers (who contributed to “This Play Is Called Our Town”) + another by Howard Sherman. Check out Power’s entry on directing Wilder’s famous play at Sing Sing Prison through the not-for-profit Rehabilitation Through the Arts + Sherman’s thoughtful musings on the performance. Powers’ Blog Posting: http://www. thorntonwilder.com/2013/06/they-wentand-died-about-it-staging-an-incarceratedcemetery.html Sherman’s response: http://www. huffingtonpost.com/howard-sherman/ address-sing-sing-prison_b_3383196. html?utm_hp_ref=theatre

TWO QUESTIONS CURATED BY SERET

SCOTT

for KYM MOORE

When did you know you were a director? What did that moment feel like? My first foray into directing came at age 19 when I directed an all African American production of Edward Albee’s biting satire, The American Dream.  This approach to casting was NOT about “colorblind casting.”  Instead I deliberately made the decision to cast the play with black actors, because I wanted to investigate the sometimes misguided perceptions of my social class. Having come from immigrant parents who tended to, in my opinion, overlook the cost of upward mobility, the choice to see how Albee’s themes might reveal some of my own observations seemed quite logical.  Dr. Beverly Brumm was the person that first encouraged me to direct when I was in college.  I would direct two more shows before graduating with honors in directing. Yet upon my return home to New York, it was clear that no one was going to let me direct anything at my age.  This meant that I would have to be satisfied with any job I could find in the “legitimate” theatre, which meant Broadway and Off-Broadway.  I did everything from shopping for fabrics at Barbara Matera to operating the big puppet in Little Shop of Horrors. Yet it was the so-called “downtown” art scene that held the most fascination. 

If a mentor of yours were to see your work today, would they recognize their influence? Ping Chong, Robert Wilson, Bill T. Jones, and Jean-Michel Basquiat made me think of the importance of the body, line, texture, and sound as critical elements of my mise en scène.  It was not until the early ’90s when I first saw Laurie Carlos’ work with Urban Bush Women that I knew my approach to the work was viable and affecting.  Praise House changed my life forever.  Here the elements of production that I’d seen as singular in the work of other artists were seamlessly integrated into a visual and viscerally penetrating whole.  Shortly thereafter, I would meet Robbie McCauley, and the way ahead came into crystalclear focus.  I knew where I was going, and there was nothing to deter me in my quest. Beverly, Laurie, and Robbie: three women directors who taught me by example what it meant to be daring, courageous, tenacious, and true. And yes, I think they would recognize their influence, because the lesson they all drove home in spades was to trust my own voice, and I have. It is with the utmost gratitude that I give them all my heartfelt thanks! KYM MOORE is Artistic Director of The AntiGravity Theatre Project (ATP) in Providence, RI. Recent directing credits include: Yermedea Raw by Erik Ehn at 95 Empire (Providence); The Factory Theatre (Boston) and La Mama E.T.C. (NYC). Her direction of Daniel Alexander Jones’ Jomama Jones Radiate was the 2010 New York Times and Backstage Critics’ Pick. She has directed plays Off-Broadway and in regional theatres including SoHo Rep, Joe’s Pub, New Dramatists, Penumbra Theatre, Here Arts Center, The Women’s Project, Boston Center for the Arts, and StageWest. In 2003, Pen and Brush Inc. awarded Kym first prize for her dark comic satirical play The Date. A newly devised multimedia performance work, Time’s Up: Love, Friendship, & Transformation Across the Fourth Dimension, is currently in development. Kym is an Associate Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an alumna of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab, and a faculty member in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University.

EDWARD ALBEE since 1974 | PING CHONG since 2001 | BILL T. JONES since 2006 KYM MOORE Assc. since 2012 | KATE POWERS since 2000 | SERET SCOTT since 1989 | ROBERT WILSON since 1986

SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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Jake La Botz as the malevolent character, The Shape, in the Alliance Theatre’s world premiere production of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County PHOTO Greg Mooney

WHY I CAST THAT ACTOR

SUSAN BOOTH On casting JAKE LA BOTZ in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. “So there’s this guy. Jake La Botz.” I’m pretty sure it was my first conversation with casting director Laura Stanczyk when I heard about Jake. “He’s hard to describe,” she said. “Just go to his website.” To step back a hair, I’d recently come on board as director for a musical project with a rather wild and woolly past. John Mellencamp and Stephen King had been working on a piece called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County for over a decade (in between their rather pressing day jobs) and now it was time to actually take it to the stage. T Bone Burnett had come on board as the musical director, and John’s band was slated to play the premiere production, and now it was time to cast. Alright. Fine. Always part of the process I enjoy. Here’s the thing though—there’s this one character called The Shape. A kind of deliciously malevolent stand-up comic meant to be the walking, talking, singing embodiment of all of our worst instincts. Very Stephen King in his dialogue and given some of John’s best misanthropic musical musings. “So there’s this guy,” says Laura Stanczyk. “Jake La Botz.” So I go the website. I learn that I can create my own Pandora “Jake La Botz” radio station. And I read the first line of his bio: Jake La Botz was conceived while his parents listened to a record by Texas bluesman and sharecropper Mance Lipscomb. Understand, in 10 years of development, a role’s probably been played by a few people. And the list of people who’ve had their way with this character includes Elvis Costello, for Pete’s sake. But I listen to this guy’s music, and I stare at his picture, and I tell Laura to by all means bring him in. It was kind of a tough room, I think, that audition room. They’re lovely guys—Steve, John, and T Bone—and I’d had a year’s worth of getting-to-know-them time. But I have to imagine when an actor or singer walked into that room to that row of guys (and me, the girl next to them, but who am I kidding?), it might have been a little unsettling. Enter Jake La Botz. First off, there’s the slightest hint of Howdy Doody in his slickly parted hair, the cowboy shirt buttoned all the way to the top, and the (initially) cherubic face. He’s a handsome man, understand, but that comes later. There’s a quick smile—the gold teeth glint for a second—and then he’s off. He’s off with a song of his own composition. (It’s called “I’m a Crow,” and you should stop reading right now and go download it. I’ll wait.) This is kind of ballsy, if you think about it. Performing your own work. For Mellencamp. For T Bone. But it’s this growl of a blues tune that he performs with a kind of lithe physicality and the odd bit of guitar humping that leaves one of those giddy WTFs hanging in the room. And actually, scratch that. He doesn’t really perform the song so much as he spreads it around the room like a net with a kind of brilliant menace. And he finishes. And he flashes another smile. And he’s pretty well changed the air in the room. Yes, that’s ephemeral nonsense. And yes, that’s what happened. Because Jake isn’t so much an actor as he is a chemistry experiment, and when you combine him with the right role—say, the embodiment of everything willful in us all—you get some wicked cool alchemy. The postscript on this is that the man conceived to sharecropper blues turns out to be a gentleman of Zen calm who leads meditation practice for the company. He also has the best tats I’ve seen on a human and an annual concert tour where he performs (fittingly) in tattoo parlors. And he dropped out of high school, played with Honeyboy Edwards, discusses Eastern philosophy and neuroscience with equal facility, is featured in the odd John Sayles film, and is pretty much the only person, voice, and chemistry I could imagine in the role. (The other postscript is that I’m really glad I listened to Laura Stanczyk. I still owe her a really large martini.)

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SUSAN BOOTH since 1998


OUR MEMBERS IN PRINT

AARON FRANKEL Shakespeare for American Actors and Directors BY ALYSSA

DVORAK

“Shakespeare’s the best there ever was,” says director and internationally known theatre instructor Aaron Frankel. In his new book, Shakespeare for American Actors and Directors, Frankel provides performers and directors with a detailed and expansive look into presenting Shakespearean productions. The book is designed to assist actors and directors in the U.S. in overcoming the trepidation and lack of confidence often experienced when approaching Shakespeare. “Shakespeare is not advanced but basic training,” writes Frankel in the introduction. “I wanted to get the groundwork out of the way,” he told SDC Journal. “I decided the best thing to do was to get the basics down into a book.” The book features multiple directorial approaches to scenes, tips for executing these choices, and comprehensive overviews of the meanings and symbolism behind the plays. The central focus of the book is inviting the actors into a “foreign land and [helping them] feel at home there,” says Frankel. With accents and iambic pentameter, the material can often seem unfamiliar and unnatural for many American performers. At the Uta Hagen-Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City, Frankel spent 30 years teaching the basics through professional Shakespeare workshops. With his many years of experience, he has developed a “distinct advantage when addressing how directors work with actors doing Shakespeare,” according to publicist Jaime Nelson.

“I wanted to explore the difference between how we do Shakespeare and how the British do Shakespeare. It’s not a British monopoly.”

From Frankel’s point of view, the extensive history of Shakespeare that exists in the United Kingdom has created a certain stigma attached to performing Shakespeare in the U.S. “I wanted to explore the difference between how we do Shakespeare and how the British do Shakespeare. It’s not a British monopoly.” He emphasizes that Shakespeare is not “of a particular time and place. It’s available now, it’s speakable now, and it can be directed now.” Actors should approach Shakespeare “just as someone would approach any [form of] acting,” because in reality there are many similarities between British Shakespeare and other American dramas. “Nobody wrote characters more related to one another,” says Frankel. “By the same token, American acting concentrates on actors affecting each other.” Shakespeare for the American Actors and Directors is published by Limelight Editions, a part of Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group. “I hope to give actors and directors some support, some guidance, and confidence to treat Shakespeare the way you treat any other play,” says Frankel. “Play Shakespeare well, and you can play anything.” AARON FRANKEL, an accomplished director, writer, and professor, has directed over 100 musicals and plays for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and university theatres. Having taught at 10 universities, including Columbia and The New School in New York, Frankel believes that “the most fulfilling part of his life…has been the professional encouragement of his students,” according to The Actors Fund newsletter, Marquee. For 30 years, Frankel led a professional Shakespeare Workshop at Uta Hagen-Herbert Berghof Studio in New York. He is a founding SDC Member and has served as chairman and president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. Frankel is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Writing the Broadway Musical.

NEXT ISSUE

JACK BE NIMBLE: THE ACCIDENTAL EDUCATION OF AN UNINTENTIONAL DIRECTOR Read about Jack O’Brien’s new memoir in the upcoming Fall issue of SDC Journal. Available now online and in bookstores. AARON FRANKEL since 1959

SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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BACKSTAGE with CONSULTANT CHRISTINE What attracted you to working in theatre? What initially attracted me to theatre—and continues to excite me most—are the unique possibilities for storytelling, interesting use of language, and the capacity for transporting an audience into another life or time or culture. While growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, I saw theatrical works that really changed the way in which I looked at the world, and I wanted to be a part of that. Was there a moment where you felt the pull toward a career in fundraising? Almost immediately upon graduation from college, I began to look for employment in theatre. The fundraising field was in a period of growth, and that is where a great deal of the opportunities lay. And so, with a strong communications background, fundraising became an excellent place to carve out a career in the theatre for myself.

O’CONNOR

What kinds of skills are necessary for a successful career in fundraising and development? I began my fundraising career before it was a defined field. At that time, there was no clear distinction in theatre management between public relations and what eventually became fundraising and development. So, writing skills, communication skills, and people skills were the fundamentals that people would look for when they hired for either position. Beyond that, one must have a very strong knowledge of the field and the art form—and a tremendous passion for it. Why is it important that fundraisers have, as you put it, “a strong knowledge of the art form”? A fundraiser’s job is to illuminate an artistic vision for persons on the outside in order to help them understand how they may play a key role in the fulfillment of that vision. Interacting with a wide range of artists is integral to understanding the unique needs of a project. For instance, when I

attended season-planning meetings with artistic directors, such as Gordon Davidson at Center Theatre Group, Daniel Sullivan and then Sharon Ott at Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Ed Hastings at A.C.T., among others, I was able to discover the particular needs of the organization for that season. These were all different artists with different visions, but they all possessed an astute eye for a great story that was thought-provoking and that made a statement. Through their stories, each one sought to truly engage their audience, their community. Pinpointing the ways in which these stories speak to an audience allows fundraisers to develop successful strategies for grant applications and to identify potential donors. How do SDC Members such as those you have mentioned figure into your development career? Working with such incredible directors and their collaborators on provocative, interesting work has easily been the number one reason I have remained in the field. My motivation has always been to be a part of the team

Christine O’Connor is a principal in the national consulting firm of Albert Hall & Associates, providing executive search, strategic fundraising, and planning services to a diverse base of clients in the performing arts and nonprofit sector.  Her successful career spans over 25 years as a development professional, fundraiser, and teacher, including work with many of the country’s most prominent nonprofit theatres, universities, and consulting firms. Prior to joining Albert Hall, Christine served as chief development officer for Seattle Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, and American Conservatory Theatre, and as a senior development officer for San Francisco Opera. Christine has provided consulting services to clients including Guthrie Theatre, Sundance Institute, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and Copper Canyon Press, among many others. She has taught arts management at University of Washington and San Francisco State University and is a faculty member in Seattle University’s MFA in Arts Leadership program and Arts Fund’s Board Leadership Training. Christine is a contributing author for The Art of Governance, published by TCG, and has served as a panelist for LORT, the Council on Foundations, and California Arts Council. She is a graduate of Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

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GORDON DAVIDSON since 1969 | ED HASTINGS d.2011 | SHARON OTT since 1980 | DANIEL SULLIVAN since 1971


WE ASKED OUR MEMBERS AROUND THE COUNTRY: Christine O’Connor discussing candidates with Member David Armstrong, Executive Producer and Artistic Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre

that brings a director’s vision to fruition. For instance, I was working with Gordon during what I felt was a very exciting time for Center Theatre Group. The theatre was working on a series of truly remarkable plays: Angels in America, Jelly’s Last Jam, The Kentucky Cycle, Twilight: Los Angeles, among others. Sitting down with Gordon to understand where the season was going to take CTG and its audience was an invaluable experience for me. In these meetings, Gordon was able to communicate what the story of that particular season meant for the organization. And, by pinpointing the way in which that particular story might speak to an audience, I was able to develop successful strategies for grant applications and to identify potential donors. Speaking of which, how do you identify potential donors and cultivate those relationships? I like to connect with people for the first time in a theatre lobby, in the midst of their experience with this thing we both have in common, which is a shared enthusiasm for the organization itself. I want to learn what they enjoy most about this particular theatre company—and, most importantly, what has moved them. Most donors to the arts have a passion for a particular organization, because they have a strong connection with its artistic vision. By understanding what excites a person most, I am better able to communicate to them how they can play a key role in the organization by becoming a donor. Lastly, if you had advice for SDC Members on their interactions with fundraising and development staff, what would it be? Our role as development and fundraising staff is to serve the art and the artists. So the ability to communicate your vision in a way that helps us understand better how to secure the necessary funding is crucial. And actively listening—both development staff and SDC Members listening to each other— for where we may all collaborate to make the fundraising campaign successful. These are challenging times, and there are external forces that make it very difficult to succeed financially. And, under the best circumstances, we want all of those challenges to remain external and not internal. Communication and collaboration between fundraisers and artists are key elements to any successful fundraising campaign. DAVID ARMSTRONG since 1979

If you do one thing this summer, what will it be? If I do one thing this summer, I will marvel at my toes. I will wet my toes in the Canadian Atlantic. I will wet my toes off the wild coast of Maine. I will wet my toes in the Baltic Sea, and I will see what I see when I see. Ah...a breath.  BARI NEWPORT

since 2005 | Bangor, ME

Potty train my twins, and get my five-year-old to sleep past 4:45. If that doesn’t work out, I’m going to petition Equity for nocturnal rehearsal schedules and up my Starbucks stock.  MATT AUGUST

since 2002 | Los Angeles, CA

I am producing and directing A Man of No Importance for our new group, Good People Theater Company, during the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Along with that, I hope to enjoy a shave ice or two in an exotic locale. Well, maybe just Carmel, but that’ll do. JANET MILLER

since 2000 | Sherman Oaks, CA

If I do one thing this summer, I’ll find the time to read and brainstorm through a few Chekhov plays that I adore—and hopefully get the chosen one off the ground later this year. ANDRE DION

Assc. since 2012 | Cortlandt Manor, NY

Although I’m busy exploring a new venture as an associate producer on Tennessee Williams’ Two-Character Play at New World Stages and prepping to direct Ella at Center REP in August, I’m determined to hit the Smithsonian Folklife Festival at the National Mall in D.C. at the end of June. It’s a free event, usually crowded and hot as hell, but fascinating and so much fun. In 2011 they did a program called Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was awe-inspiring, and this year, The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity is an entry in the lineup. I was born in D.C. but raised in Kentucky, so I’m a country boy at heart. Engaging great cultural artifacts and multiple forms of folk art rejuvenates me personally and continues to inform my work professionally. ROBERT BARRY FLEMING

since 2011 | Port Tobacco, MD

NEXT ISSUE

What’s in your queue? Today’s television—which often features the directorial work of SDC Members— rivals the crafts of film and theatre, hooking audiences for seasons at a time. We’d like to know what you are most looking forward to watching this fall. Is it catching up on the finales of Breaking Bad, 30 Rock, or The Office? Or diving into the next installment of How I Met Your Mother, The Walking Dead, or Scandal? Write to SDCJournal@SDCweb.org and tell us what’s in your queue for a chance to have your answer published in the Fall issue of SDC Journal. SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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PHOTO

DanceMotion USA/BAM

IN RESIDENCE

DONALD BYRD/nepal an agent of transformation BY DONALD

“I want my work to make a difference in the world.” DONALD BYRD

BYRD

From February 21 through March 24 of this year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel in South Asia to three countries I had never been to before—Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. This was made possible by a unique public/private partnership between the United States Department of State and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). DanceMotion/USA, as the program is called, states as its goal: “sharing American dance with international audiences to increase cross-cultural understanding.” Since its pilot launching in 2010, it has sent 11 American dance companies along with technical staff and company managers to approximately 33 countries across the globe. Represented in this group have been SDC Members Ronald K. Brown, Doug Varone, Seán Curran, as well as myself. Because my experiences in each country were so rich, it is impossible to include thoughts on each of them here, so I will focus on my first stop, Nepal. My journey began when I, along with eight dancers, a technical director, and the company manager from my Seattle-based company Spectrum Dance Theater, landed at the airport in Kathmandu.  It is a boisterous, crowded, dusty, and exhilarating place, with an “aroma” unlike anything I have ever experienced. It felt as if we had been suddenly thrust smack-dab into the middle of an Indiana Jones movie. To mix movie references, we were clearly no longer in Kansas. It is said that the first impression creates the lens through which all the following experiences are seen—and what a remarkable perspective was created with our first stop in Nepal. After 30 hours of travel and a few hours of sleep, early the next morning we had the first activity of our

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RONALD K. BROWN since 2003 | DONALD BYRD since 2005 | SEÁN CURRAN since 1999 | DOUG VARONE since 1997


residency, or what the State Department refers to as ”a program.” It was at a school in Lalitpur, one of the three municipalities that make up metropolitan Kathmandu (all in the Kathmandu Valley). We arrived at the school and were taken to a courtyard, where large, tarp-like cloth mats had been laid on top of the dusty earth on which chairs had been placed, facing a small stage. There were children dressed in school uniforms, already seated and awaiting our arrival. Children dressed in various traditional costumes greeted us with flower garlands that they placed around our necks. We were then led down front and seated in places of honor. After a welcoming address by the principal of the school, a group of children, all dressed in traditional garb, came onto the stage and danced traditional Nepali dances for us. How beautiful they were with their smiles, eagerness, and enthusiasm. When they finished dancing, with a huge smile of my own and tears streaming down my cheeks, I applauded long and vigorously. It was a moving and exhilarating experience. There was silence, and I realized that it was time for us to dance for them. Though exhausted from travel, without a warm-up, and confronted with a small dusty concrete platform of a stage, the Spectrum dancers threw off their shoes and without prompting performed some of the most difficult excerpts from our repertory. Inspired, I suspect, by the children’s spirit, they danced with such zest and zeal that I was surprised. The children oohed, aahed, and gasped with delight.  When our presentation was over, they wildly applauded. Then I invited the children to come on stage to experience some of the movement they had just seen. They rushed the stage like it was a rock concert (surprising, because we had been told that in school settings Nepali children are often reticent when asked to participate). Together, we created a dazzling mix of colors, with the traditional costumes and the school uniforms swirling around the American dancers on the small stage. What happened on that first day informed much of how we structured the remainder of our residency activities in Nepal. Working mostly with youth and young adults, our model became one of sharing and not just presenting, of exchanging perspectives, as opposed to “here is my American point of view, and you should pay attention.” We were simply trying to connect human being to human being. What was most striking to me about Nepal was how important it was for the Nepali young people to share, not only their traditional culture and history with us, but also who they are becoming. The past was shared through the traditional dances, and the aspirational future was apparent from what they had assimilated from watching American movies, music videos, and especially clips on YouTube. There was wild enthusiasm over our hip-hop classes. Hip-hop has captured the imagination of and been embraced by youth all over the world (along with social media and Beyoncé), and Nepal is no different. It appears to be a mechanism through which they are able to express their sense of aliveness in the 21st century, as opposed to their traditional culture, where they often lack the voice or the means of expressing their individuality. But they were eager also to receive the new kind of dance we brought with us, contemporary modern dance. It was important for me to reveal through our contemporary classes and workshops that there are other ways to move, along with what they see on YouTube. In fact, there are many ways to express oneself with movement. During the master classes and workshops that we presented over our 10-day residency, the experience was for them, it seemed, often new and startling. And the culminating performance of excerpts from my choreographies was exhilarating, challenging, and sometimes baffling—a good thing, I was told. My sense was they were excited by it all and eager to do and to experience. There was such hunger and desires, to not only have these uniquely American experiences through the kind of dance we do, but also to have authentic and honest interactions and connections with Americans in general. To that point, with the older youth (late teens and early twenties), many would follow

us to the different venues where we were teaching in order to have more encounters with us and experience what we were doing more deeply. In many ways, the interactions before and after every event were just as meaningful and important as the event itself, and these were just the “formal” encounters. There were many informal interactions that also yielded meaningful connections. An example that stands out is the “omelet man” in the hotel restaurant. We saw him every morning at breakfast. He was so curious about who we were and what we did that the dancers gave him a ticket to the performance, and he rushed over to see it when he got off from work. The next morning he greeted each of us with an even bigger smile than usual, presented his program that he had brought to work that morning, and had each of us autograph it next to our names and bios.   Jokingly, I have said that as someone older, I felt obsolete in Nepal, because much of the meaningful communication seemed to happen dancer to dancer, young person to young person (the entire country seemed to be under 30 years of age). But there were many opportunities for me to share not only American values of individualism and self-expression but also the diversity of America—sometimes they would ask me, “Are you really an American?”—and to just share myself. This happened with not only the dancers that I met but also with others (again, the young staff in the hotel restaurant is a good example) who seemed so eager to share their aspirations with me. I was glad to listen. I now have lots of new Facebook friends and lots of email addresses.   The experience in Nepal was a complex, contradictory, moving, and deeply affecting one. From the lung-choking dust and horn honking of Kathmandu to the quiet magnificence of a sunrise high in the foothills of the Himalayas in Pokhara (second largest city of Nepal, situated about 200 km west of Kathmandu); to the beautiful, lively, alert, and attentive children in the schools we visited; to observing the cremation of the dead at the Hindu holy site Pashupatinath; from watching the throngs circle and circle the Buddhist stupa Boudhanath to observing the young Nepali dancers repeating over and over again the movement combinations that the Spectrum dancers had taught them; and to the audience’s screams of excitement and approval at our culminating performance when, as our encore, the Spectrum dancers performed a traditional Nepali dance they had learned from Nepali dancers. I am still processing my experiences in South Asia, and they continue to resonate. But what I have taken away from the experience is a new commitment to three things that I had forgotten from years of being an “art-making machine,” churning out dance pieces and jumping from one theatrical project to the next. This was triggered when I was asked, “What is your dream?” My first response was the usual and very glib “I am living my dream; this is my dream.” But as I thought about it I realized the question required a much more thoughtful response. Today, as a result of my residency in South Asia, I know what my dream is. I want my work to make a difference in the world—not just to a production that I am working on, but also to the regular Joes that encounter it. It is important to me that the kinds of productions and pieces I work on and create make people think—that they are encouraged by dance to consider their lives and who they are and how their actions affect the world in ways that perhaps they had not considered before. I want to be, through the work that I do, an agent of transformation, to affect people’s emotional, spiritual, and intellectual “DNA” and plant the seeds of transformation. Big and very idealistic dreams, I know, but isn’t that what the theatre should do?

SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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IN THE COMMUNITY KILBURN

ST

GATHER TOG E ET /W

HE

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I am writing this during my favorite week of the year. A week that I annually look forward to—one that not only exhausts but also reinvigorates all involved. I am surrounded by people who call themselves directors and/or choreographers; some of them I knew before we started the week, and others are brand-new to me. Our common ground is love for our art form. So we have gathered together to discuss, explore, and

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BY KAPPY

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20 TOP

2013 Directors Lab West participants PHOTO Evita Castine BOTTOM

Allegra Breedlove, Jenny Lester, Joann Yarrow, Cristina Ferrari + Sarah Luz Cordoba setting up for Dos Corazones PHOTO Evita Castine OPPOSITE

DLW participants during a writing exercise with Burglars of Hamm PHOTO Cindy Marie Jenkins

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debate what we do as directors and choreographers and the world in which we do it. This is our 14th Directors Lab West (DLW). Over all those years, hundreds of directors, choreographers, and various theatre practitioners have come together to build and strengthen our community. The mission of DLW is to foster an intensive laboratory environment where a community of directors and

choreographers inspires and challenges each other to dream and create. It is about the exploration, not the finished product. It is about the collaboration, not the competition. It is about raising the standards of what we do, not about capitulating to economic forces. As Anne Cattaneo tells the attendees of her lab, we are “the future of the American theatre.” We owe a lot more than that credo to Anne. In 1994, she and the forward-thinking leaders at Lincoln Center Theater (LCT) saw that working and emerging directors lacked a program that could bring them together to cultivate their skills, TOGETHER being the key. We are artists who most often fly solo. Yes, we collaborate with our actors, creatives, and production teams, but we don’t usually have another one of ourselves in the room to bounce ideas off of, resolve problems with, hash out the possibilities. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a place in which we COULD come together and do that? Anne said yes, and she was right. (For more info on the mother ship, go to www. lct.org.) She went even further in 2000 by asking some West Coast alumni of the LCT Lab if we thought something like it was needed on our end of the country. Five of us answered the call, and by the skin of our teeth (and with the amazing support and mentorship of Lincoln Center) we found that the answer was YES. It is still YES today, and our Union agrees. SDC has been a generous supporter of the Lab for years. Let me introduce the DLW team to you. The five founding Steering Committee members are Nick D’Abruzzo, Ernest Figueroa, Olivia Honegger, Andrew Sachs, and myself. Ernest and I have since been joined by Che’Rae Adams, Jessica Bard, Brendon Fox, and Cindy Marie Jenkins (wrangled by our ever-patient production coordinator, Doug Oliphant). Putting this Lab together is a team effort. We plan the eight days, setting the theme and picking the attending “Labbies.” Once the week starts, it takes on the personality and needs of the group convened that particular year. As

ERNEST FIGUEROA Assc. since 1995 | BRENDON FOX since 2001 | KAPPY KILBURN since 2005 | DOUG OLIPHANT Assc. since 2012


we all know from tech, being together for that intense amount of time can bond a group forever, and Lab week is essentially eight straight 10 out of 12’s! Since 2000, the Lab has drawn artists from around the United States and the world. Guest artists have included actors, artistic directors, playwrights, critics, dramaturges, designers, musicians, circus creators, and representatives from Actors’ Equity Association and SDC. Previous years addressed topics such as producing theatre, working with writers, the relationship between actors and directors, physical forms of theatre, collaborating with designers, and adapting to changing technologies on the stage. (You can read more about DLW at www.directorslabwest.com to see what has happened over the years.) Each year, we pick a theme and text, which serve as a focus for our conversations and guest artist topics. This year’s theme was “Diverge and Converge.” Our text was Eurydice (both Anouilh and Ruhl). What exactly does that theme mean to us? DIVERGE How could we not contribute to the national conversation/debate on diversity? And when we say diversity, we mean race, gender, age, language, story, style, unexpected collaborators, and genre. CONVERGE Whom are we collaborating with? Who are our audiences? And true to our mission, we have converged a room full of directors just to talk and pick each other’s brains. When possible, we see productions that spawn conversations about interpretation, adaptation, diversity of storytelling, and casting choices. Many theatres in Los Angeles have supported the Lab over the years by donating or discounting tickets to their shows. This year we lined up Eurydice at A Noise Within (what luck—our base text!), Scottsboro Boys at the Ahmanson, Chess at East West Players, and Sleepless in Seattle at Pasadena Playhouse (our longtime home and supporter, thanks to Sheldon Epps). Several alumni of the Lab came back to hang out with us and present sessions as wide-ranging as improvising Eurydice (Dan O’Connor and Paul Rogan), mask work (Anastasia Coon), improvised dance (Megan Finlay), balancing family and work (Janet Roston), and bilingual theatre (Joann

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Yarrow and her troupe from Teatro Prometeo). We even roped in a few alumni as actors for a workshop on dance interpretation of text. We are always thankful for the gift of time and brilliance from our visiting guests. It is hard to encapsulate eight full days into a short space, and the Lab is one of those “you had to be there” kinds of experiences. But this year’s awesome guests included: local theatre companies Burglars of Hamm, East LA Rep, 24th Street Theatre, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, and Rickerby Hinds; Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps and Executive Director Elizabeth Doran; the always funny and insightful Luis Alfaro; Diane Rodriguez on new play production; Vincent Paterson on choreographing some of the greats and transitioning into directing; Carey Perloff on the gender imbalance in the field; Laura Shamas on mythology and pop culture; our SDC contract reps Randy Anderson and Mauro Melleno; and Anne Cattaneo herself. As long as the need for directors to connect remains, Directors Lab West will continue. We have seen partnerships, collaborations, and even a wedding result from the Lab, and we intend to support these necessary and invaluable connections. With the help of organizations and artists that believe in the Lab’s contribution to our community, DLW will help usher in the future of American theatre.

@ YOUR THEATRE?

CINCINNATI SHAKESPEARE COMPANY “COMPLETES THE CANON”

C

incinnati Shakespeare Company wrote to SDC Journal about their upcoming 20th Anniversary season during which the company will become one of only five theatres in the U.S. to have produced the complete canon of William Shakespeare’s dramatic works. Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips says, “I love anniversaries. One of the unique traits that defines our humanity is an ability to acknowledge and celebrate the passing of time. To recognize achievement and honor the relationships that have thrived through the passing of the years. It is also quite a feat to be able to say that CSC is ‘Completing the Canon,’ meaning that from the company’s inception in 1993 through today, we will have produced all 38 plays by William Shakespeare.” Billy Chace + Jeff Groh in CSC’s 2011 production of Shakespeare’s King John, directed by Brian Isaac Phillips PHOTO Rich Sofranko LEFT

SHELDON EPPS since 1981 | VINCENT PATERSON since 1992 | CAREY PERLOFF since 1995 BRIAN ISAAC PHILLIPS since 2010 | DIANE RODRIGUEZ since 2002

SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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Meet Me at the Muny A Theatre Like No Other BY ALYSSA

DVORAK

“If you can get through a show [at the Muny], and you’re pleased with the outcome, then

you can do pretty much anything.” LIZA GENNARO

PHOTO

Charlie Herwig/The Muny

DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER

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O

n a hot and sunny Missouri day, a group of tap dancers sweats through a number from Thoroughly Modern Millie, which they learned just hours before. In the large outdoor rehearsal pavilion, the cast and crew battle mosquitoes, sunburn, and the sometimes-unfavorable elements of nature as the creative team watches from their folding table. It is just one of only 11 days of rehearsal at the Muny. The productions at the Muny—America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre—must be big enough to match the size of the stage itself. With seven shows each summer, rehearsal time is limited, and the creative team is on its toes for every second of the process. Productions at the Muny provide a “unique set of challenges” as well as a “unique set of beauties,” according to choreographer Kelli Barclay, who has done six shows at the theatre. The historically massive Muny was constructed over the course of 49 days in 1917. The theatre presented a few productions before officially becoming the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis in June of 1919. In that same month, the theatre presented Robin Hood as the first show of their first official season. Since then, the Muny has produced over 900 productions in 94 seasons. Each show is given 11 days to rehearse for its seven-day performance run. According to executive producer Mike Isaacson, rehearsals start on a Thursday, and by the following Thursday at about three in the afternoon, the entire show must be staged. “You walk in and you’re drinking from a fire hose,” he said. With such a short time to teach, directors and choreographers must walk into their Muny productions with a solid plan and absolutely zero fear. “You really don’t have time to experiment,” said choreographer Michael Lichtefeld. “You pretty much have to have all your ducks in a row when you first start.” Being as calm as possible is the key to succeeding. “You can’t panic. As soon as you panic, the cast is Each show is given 11 days going to panic and then to rehearse for its seven-day you’ve really lost the performance run. battle. Actors can smell fear.”

“You walk in and you’re drinking from a fire hose.”

While the short rehearsal period may seem overwhelming, there are MIKE ISAACSON a number of beauties that EXECUTIVE PRODUCER come with directing and choreographing in the Muny space. “You can do anything because it’s just so massive,” said Barclay. The size of the stage is the theatre’s most prominent feature. It has a 100-foot opening, which is almost half the size of a football field. The theatre’s orchestra pit can hold up to 200 musicians, and the theatre itself currently has 11,000 seats. “Who’s ever seen that many people ever, except for a football stadium?” she said. “We get to do shows a little bit differently than everybody else,” said Dennis Reagan, the president and CEO of the Muny. The large space allowed for a 110-piece marching band in the 2009 production of The Music Man. Warner Huntington III picked up Elle Woods in a full-sized convertible in the 2011 production of Legally Blonde the Musical. And during the 2003 production of South Pacific, a vintage B-25 bomber flew over the theatre during the overture. These spectacles can’t be found in a Broadway theatre, but they are commonplace at the Muny. But there are technical limitations that come with being an outdoor theatre. The Muny has no fly space, and the first half of the show is performed in the daylight. “We rely on the shows themselves to be the stars,” Reagan said. This “brings out a lot more creativity in directors and choreographers to make the shows work.” Reagan defines the Muny as “a place to stretch” and a place “to really find out just how creative you are in being able to tell the story in a non-traditional environment.”

When searching for choreographers and directors to work at the Muny, Isaacson said that he looks for people who have “a combination of smart and heart.” Directors and choreographers are initially contacted in September to see if they are interested in doing a show. By late fall, official offers are made, and the contracts are signed in January. With five months of creative preparation, directors and choreographers have a fairly concrete vision for how they want the show to look when they begin auditions. Actors, singers, and dancers will come from all over the country to audition for a spot in a Muny production. The audition process is designed so that all seven shows can be cast based on one set of auditions. “We get to play fantasy Broadway,” said Isaacson. For the principal roles, the directors can search through hundreds of actors to find their ideal Eponine for Les Misérables or King Arthur for Spamalot. For the dancers, choreographers work together to determine which numbers from which shows will be used for making cuts. Choreographers from other shows will become responsible for “being the eyes of another choreographer who couldn’t get there that weekend,” and select the dancers for their shows based off of predetermined criteria, according to veteran choreographer Liza Gennaro. For this last audition in February, a number from West Side Story was used to make the first cut that eliminated 50—60% of the dancers. Many performers who have been lucky enough to get cast in multiple productions have been able to earn their Equity cards at the Muny. Performers are not the only ones able to advance their craft; directors and choreographers at the Muny are able to further develop their skills as well. Many people want to direct and choreograph at the Muny because there are “not a lot of places where people can learn their craft on a big scale anymore,” said Isaacson. “This is a place where talent is developing itself.” Not only do directors and choreographers get to experience working with scale, they also get to work with very large casts. “Give me 200 dancers right now and I wouldn’t blink,” said Barclay. With such large casts, you are able to accomplish “moments of great scale,” according to director Marc Bruni. The addition of the Muny Kids and Muny Teens programs in 1994 further contributed to the ability to create these moments. During The Sound of Music, Bruni said that Maria taught “DoRe-Mi” to the Von Trapp children and then biked off into the hills and gathered the larger group of Muny Kids to make the scene have a much greater impact. Since Isaacson became executive producer in 2011, the youth programs have been a real source of pride for him. “It is unfair of me to ask a choreographer during the 10 days to work with the children,” he said. Therefore, Isaacson brought in a transition choreographer to help make the incorporation of the kids smoother. Michael Baxter is the full-time Muny Kids and Teens choreographer who “works as a translator with the choreographer.” The children are used very selectively in order to maintain the professional quality of the productions. Isaacson explained that “their skill level is only A to F, so you make sure they do A to F

KELLI BARCLAY since 2006 | MARC BRUNI since 2008 | LIZA GENNARO since 1991 | MICHAEL LICHTEFELD since 1984

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Isaacson wanted to incorporate some of the older teens into the 2012 production of Chicago. Director and choreographer Denis Jones was slightly hesitant about the teens’ ability to learn the choreography and to blend in with the pros. Isaacson asked Jones to give the teens a tryout, teach them the choreography, and see for himself. Not only did the teens master the dance, Jones decided they deserved to participate in other aspects of the show as “ … With all of the unique well. While incorporating the and Actors can smell fear.” challenges youth programs into shows beauties, directors and can be extremely helpful in choreographers ultimately MICHAEL LICHTEFELD creating the larger-than-life walk away from the CHOREOGRAPHER moments, children always Muny proud of their have the potential to create unexpected accomplishments. “The absence of time creates delays in the process that the creators must be an energy that’s intoxicating. It’s good for their prepared to handle. egos, it’s good for their spirits, and it’s good for their core as a professional,” said Isaacson. “If Lichtefeld choreographed the 1993 production you can get through a show there, and you’re of Oliver! that featured 75 little boys from pleased with the outcome, then you can do the community. “I could have them for quite pretty much anything,” said Gennaro. an extended period of time,” he said, which made the process of teaching them a little There is “such a prideful feeling in St. Louis easier. “It helps to have a tag team for the about this space,” said Barclay. It is “definitely children.” In one particular example, there was like no other.” Isaacson provided a metaphor as a day during the rehearsal process when the to how it feels to produce a production at the rehearsal pavilion was unavailable. Lichtefeld Muny. “The closest thing to this feeling is like had to teach the dances in a local Catholic when a sports team succeeds and everyone is grade school gym. It was unbearably hot in excited.” Just like the cheers of devoted football the gym, and many of the boys’ mothers sat fans can be heard miles beyond the stadium, in the hallway with coolers filled with cold the sound of 11,000 people cheering for their beverages. As Lichtefeld instructed the boys to favorite musical can be heard throughout the form a single line, one of the young orphans entire 1,300 acres of Forest Park. got a little queasy from the heat. As soon as he got into his position in line, he got sick, which caused the boy next to him to get sick and so on down the line. Before he knew it, Lichtefeld had a ripple of sick boys “that you couldn’t have choreographed any better.” Luckily, there was a hallway full of moms ready to handle it.

You can’t panic

One of the surprisingly unique beauties that directors and choreographers learn to develop is the ability to tell a story mainly through sound. While every seat in the house can’t have the same view of the stage, “you can hear everything the exact same way at every spot in the theatre,” said Reagan. Bruni discussed how the show is only truly clear in terms of the sound. Therefore, directors must consider the show not only from how the story will be told through the visual, but how well it can be told through the audio. However, the audio does not help the show if the audience doesn’t know who is speaking. Reagan pondered this topic in his discussion with SDC. “How do you tell the person who’s sitting in the last row of the theatre who’s speaking on stage? Do they have them raise

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your first instinct

Phillip Hamer/The Muny

their hand? Do they start moving?” Due to the 11,000 seats in the audience, directors not only have to create larger-than-life moments, they have to create larger-than-life movement. The most basic step needs to be bigger in order for performers to make it off stage and into the wings. “Getting them on and off, and to do that artfully, is probably the biggest issue,” said Gennaro. “You can’t really make entrances from downstage, because it is so far away.” These almost animated steps and movements “would only work in the Muny space,” said Barclay. If they were to occur on a Broadway stage, they would appear cartoonish.

Successful Muny directors and choreographers trust their first instincts. Michael Lichtefeld’s longtime assistant, Anna Maria D’Antonio, said, “Having to work that quickly and that fast, you have to rely a little bit more on your instincts and what comes naturally first.” “That can be freeing,” said executive producer Mike Isaacson. “Go with your first choice, go with who you are.” Director Marc Bruni said, “There is a unique alchemy that comes with that experience.”

choreographing by numbers Many choreographers will approach their first rehearsal at the Muny having everything written down on paper. “You have to plot out how many people you have, how many dancers you have, how many singers you have,” said choreographer Michael Lichtefeld. Choreographing by numbers is a tactic many choreographers use when planning in advance. Numbers are a great way to get a piece “from the rehearsal room to the stage without a hitch,” Lichtefeld told SDC. The numbers are placed on the front of the stage, usually starting at the center with zero. The numbers increase towards each side, often in two-foot increments. The numbers in the rehearsal space, which is approximately the same size as the stage, are the same as the numbers on the stage. “Numbers don’t lie,” Lichtefeld said.

you can take it with you

The cast of Aladdin rehearsing in the outdoor pavilion; directed by Gary Griffin + choreographed by Alex Sanchez PHOTO Robin de Jesús c/o Playbill

While the grand spectacle of a Muny production can’t transfer to most New York stages, there are many skills that directors and choreographers who work at the Muny can bring back to New York. If you have the skills that are required to work at the Muny and “walk into a New York rehearsal room, you’re going to be ahead of the game,” executive producer Mike Isaacson told SDC. Some of the skills that will translate are “focus, advanced planning, clear vision, and alacrity with building community in a company.” “I learned so much having the opportunity to work that fast,” said assistant choreographer Anna Maria D’Antonio. “I love that challenge of being fast and furious.”

GARY GRIFFIN since 1999 | DENIS JONES since 2006 | ALEX SANCHEZ since 2012

PHOTO

brilliantly.” While the Muny Kids have a more limited skill set, the Teens have actually been able to surprise choreographers with their abilities.


­For the Love of Stories LORETTA GRECO: ON CAREER + CRAFT oretta Greco has forged a storied career both inside and outside of institutional walls. She is currently heading into her sixth season as artistic director of the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where she has developed and premiered the work of numerous and varied playwrights. Greco is the recipient of two Drama League Fellowships, a Princess Grace Award, and a Bay Area Critics Circle Directing Award, and she was a finalist for SDC Foundation’s 2012 Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes exceptional contributions to the national arts landscape. Prior to her Magic post, she served as the producing artistic director of New York’s Women’s Project and as the associate director/ resident producer at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Recently, Greco sat down with dramaturge and longtime collaborator Lue Douthit for a series of questions about her path to directing and on becoming the director and artistic director she is today.

L

INTERVIEW BY

LUE DOUTHIT

PHOTO

David Allen

LORETTA GRECO since 1994

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What was the “aha” moment for you? When did you know it would be theatre, and when did you know it would be directing? There are two moments that were bizarrely clear. The first occurred when my dad took me to a final dress rehearsal of Oliver! at Glades Junior High School. I was in second grade, and as the lights went down, I was totally transported. I thought, from that moment on, this would be the very best job a person could have. I think it was really about the sense that we were sitting in the dark with total strangers, and we had all become a community. It was the sense of being transformed and transcended, and suddenly we were one, experiencing the same thing.

I have a pretty strong aesthetic, which is pretty minimal and provocative and is based on what we can do in theatre that we can’t do in any other medium. I treat designers very much like actors. We gather together, and I say, “We have a storytelling challenge, and I want us to talk together about how to solve it.” The interesting thing that happens is that the sound designer starts to talk about lights, the set designer talks about tone, the lighting designer talks about blocking. We’re having an authentic, collaborative conversation. The lines are blurry. We are talking about how we’re doing this together as storytellers. You’ve been an associate artistic director twice and an artistic director twice, and you’ve been a freelance director. What are the pros and cons of having an artistic home, and what are the pros and cons of the freelance director life?

Like most everyone, I started out as an actor. I was terrible, but that didn’t stop me from getting a bunch of roles. But in order to graduate [Loyola], you had to direct a play. I was up in arms about it. I was an actor, why did I have to direct? But there was no getting around it. I went to the library, and I happened upon Paul Zindel’s play, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little. I thought, “A bunch of crazy women. Okay, I know something about this.” And about an hour into the very first day of rehearsal, I realized, “Aha! You are a director.” I realized that it was the epicenter of collaboration, and that’s where I wanted to be.

They have actually fed each other in a profound way. My career choices were somewhat opposite of my fellow graduate students. I didn’t head to New York immediately to begin my directing career, but I worked at one of the largest regional theatres right out of school, the McCarter Theatre. I was the greenest directing intern in the history of interns, and the newly appointed artistic director, Emily Mann, let me be in on every piece of the organizational transformation and artistic strategy. Emily’s invitation to “the table” and her mentorship as an artist were invaluable. The following year, she created a job for me modeled after Madeline Puzo’s job at the Guthrie as a resident producer, and that grew into associate director. Together we forged a way to integrate a new play culture and infrastructure where one hadn’t existed before. I’m exceedingly proud to have been a small part of launching an initiative that’s now a robust piece of McCarter’s vision.

Being at the epicenter, you are called upon to collaborate with a whole range of artists. Aside from your stellar acting career—assuming you call upon that experience to assist you in talking to actors—how did you learn to best communicate with other artists? No matter how long we do this, it’s hard, and it does take a little bit of a village. I really believe in forging a community of artists you want to work with for the rest of your life. There are lots of artists on my list, and I’m still looking for the right thing for each of them. There is nothing more joyous than asking someone, “Will you do this with me?”

After five years at McCarter, I began a freelance career in New York. Jim Nicola was the first person to hire me, and that slowly led to directing at the Women’s Project and at the Public Theater. Directing at the Public in those years with George C. Wolfe at the helm was astounding. It fused the political and the artistic leader in me.

Specifically, I respect that this is an actor’s medium. They get the last word, and I love that. So I realized early on that you wouldn’t get the best, bravest work unless you enlisted them full on as partners. Early on in my professional career, and even in grad school, I very quickly worked with some of the best dramaturges in the country. When you see the contextual and structural foundation being built, you realize how it is inextricably linked to successful storytelling. The design piece I owe to designer Robert Brill and collagist Phil Creech, who taught me how to pay closer attention to what I was drawn to visually. Theatre is a visual medium, and sometimes the non-textual storytelling is as potent as the text. In great relief, it can say the thing that words sometimes can’t.

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Those were the years with Bonnie Metzgar, John Dias, Rosemary Tischler, and George, of course. Every time I walked into that lobby, it was electric. It felt like the entire world, like the epicenter of New York. The work, staff, and audience were as diverse as we could be. The stages, rehearsal halls, lobbies, stairwells were teeming with work of all kinds in every stage of development. George believed in the writers’ voices, and if the press didn’t, he was even more determined to lead the field by providing more opportunities for the artists he felt had something essential to add to our public dialogue. He was fearless. He made me believe it is possible to augment your own

Greco in rehearsal

EMILY MANN since 1980 | GEORGE C. WOLFE since 1984


work as a writer or a director and passionately create a meaningful body of work as a producer. Through these experiences, I began learning about the kind of theatre I wanted to make and the kind of theatremaker I needed to be—and that seemed inextricably linked to both having and providing an artistic home. I am monogamous by nature. I will never be someone who can direct 14 plays at 14 different places in one year. I can’t fall in love that often. But the artistic homes that have welcomed me—the Public, Women’s Project, A.C.T. in San Francisco—taught me something about the kind of artistic home I wanted to create, which I have tried to accomplish at Magic. I want to also add that what I have learned from having both a freelance directing career and being a part of several theatre institutions is that size matters, and perhaps not in the ways you might immediately think. When you’re freelancing in New York, as the “new work” person, you are often relegated to the black box space. There is this perceived challenge that you can’t cross that threshold. At A.C.T. and Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), I got the chance to work on Broadway-sized stages as a freelance director. It was important for me to know that I could rise to the occasion, and I’m grateful to artistic directors who gave me that opportunity. You’ve already briefly mentioned a few of your mentors. Specifically, what did you learn from them? Are there others? Jack Phippin, Peter Hackett, and Jane Ann Crum were my mentors in graduate school. I had been teaching high school for five years in Miami, and I was burned out. I went to graduate school to refuel, and Jack’s the one who sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be going back to teach high school. He said, “You’re a director, and you’re going to do it professionally.” They really opened my eyes to a whole canon of work (Robert Wilson, Strindberg, Ionesco) and how we can celebrate psychologically non-linear stories. It was Jack who said you need to apprentice at a large regional theatre and who made the invaluable introduction to Emily.

as leaders running major organizations while also being mothers. Libby taught me that it’s never too late for a second act. That fuels me more often than you might think. She also offered me an unparalleled experience—my first Shakespeare. She handed me 24 actors, three dramaturges, and the time and space to do this for the first time. This was given to an early-career director, and as a woman reaching out to me, it didn’t go unappreciated. And there was George Wolfe at the Public who among everything else taught me about the power of event.

One of the many things I love about your directing process is your strong devotion to story. How did you come to focus so keenly on storytelling? I’ve never stopped being that second-grade kid in the audience of Oliver! The stories I want to tell as a director and producer are still the stories I crave as an audience member. I believe we are innately hungry for and driven by story, by a desire to be transported beyond our literal experiences to discover where we fit into the grand narrative. I want to be sure we deliver ideologically robust stories that ask big questions, leaving the audience with something they can meditate on and wrestle with for a long, long time. If our stories aren’t deeply reverberating—if they don’t have a spiritual, emotional shelf life—then we haven’t done our job. I try to never lose sight of that. Story is king.

I’m interested in b o dies in space and how they attract and rep el, what they give off in relation to each other. I like theatre to b e sexy.

As I mentioned earlier, I was groomed by Emily Mann at the very start of my career to run a theatre and to artistically lead. I’ve never seen anything like the leadership team that Emily had assembled at the McCarter. Working with Emily was difficult in all the best ways. She was both extremely tough on and good to me. She and George Wolfe taught me that the political is intricately linked in to our aesthetic and that it’s possible to be both an artistic leader and an artist. Jim Nicola was the first person to look at me and say, “You’re good.” He told me I would work in New York. I was ostensibly seen as a producer at McCarter, and after seeing my work with Nilo Cruz, he looked at me as a director with a real aesthetic. He gave me space to work on something— my first job in New York, directing Nilo Cruz’s A Park in Our House. People like Carey Perloff at A.C.T., Julia Miles at Women’s Project, and Libby Appel at OSF were also astoundingly generous to me, giving me work that stretched me, and I am profoundly grateful to them. Libby and Carey, especially, gave me work that, quite frankly, very few producers would have offered a young woman director. Like Emily, Carey and Libby are two women who want the next generation of women artists to thrive. It was inspiring to watch them

I’ve gone from a freelance career, which is concerned with the immediate story at hand, to being an artistic director at a place that’s building an institutional narrative. There are different kinds of narrative, and one I am more attuned to these days is the unfolding of legacy and how that foundation ensures the future vitality of the American theatre canon. This is something we consider quite a lot at Magic. When you run a theatre, you have the joyful responsibility to paint a larger—hopefully lengthier—narrative, than when you are manifesting a freelance career.

For 47 years the Magic has offered writers an artistic home where they can create a body of work. We believe that developing and producing and evolving a shared artistic vocabulary over a long period of time hugely improves a playwright’s chance to thrive. Within Magic’s 47-year history, many writers have benefited from this kind of artistic haven by the bay: Michael McClure, Nilo Cruz, Rebecca Gilman, and Luis Alfaro are a few, but it is Sam Shepard that best celebrates our belief. Sam was given a decade of support at Magic—a place to live and a place that would both celebrate his experimentation and develop and produce his work in partnership with artists that interested him. I have to believe that there’s a direct correlation between that unparalleled support and the writing of some of his (and America’s) greatest plays (Buried Child, True West, Tongues, Fool for Love, etc.). That seminal period not only engendered a new play ecosystem capable of considering the difference theatres can make to individual artists, it revolutionized the way writers began thinking about the theatre. To my mind, Sam has changed the face of American playwriting forever. So we have an extraordinary five-decade narrative woven from Sam’s dedication to writing for the theatre (in addition to his music, poems, short stories), as well as the fact that to this day every other script that lands in my reading pile has Sam’s revolutionary DNA coursing through it. And that’s the foundation of our institutional narrative.

LIBBY APPEL since 1990 | PETER HACKETT since 1985 | JACKSON PHIPPIN since 1986 | SAM SHEPARD since 2000

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I love your strong sense for the sensual and visceral. You don’t shy away from the heat created by bodies in space. Does that always play an important part in choosing a project? Where did the strong sense of the visceral world of a play come from? I suppose it must be genetic. I’m Italian. And also probably environmental. I grew up in Miami surrounded by Cubans and Jews, all tribes that are incredibly passionate and able to express their emotions. To me, being in the theatre is chemical. I’m not interested in being solely cerebral. I tend to want to affect the heart and places much lower. I’m interested in bodies in space and how they attract and repel, what they give off in relation to each other. I like theatre to be sexy. In fact, I like everything to be sexy. To sit in our intimate thrust theatre at Magic in close proximity to the action and experience strong storytelling, both visually and aurally, through spoken language and the non-textual, is contagious. I believe the more viscerally charged, the more fully engaged an audience is—when we feel something charged through our bodies— the more opportunity there is for the work to truly alter us. Humanity is complicated and full of surprises. Robert Rauschenberg used to say that our art must be at least as interesting as what’s happening on the street. I believe the event of the street is not cerebral; it’s chemical, visceral. I don’t want theatre to merely change my mind; I want it to change my life—and that happens through the body. So what kind of plays are you most drawn to? I’m a sucker for great writing. I’m interested in what this medium does that the others can’t. We are not asked to enlist our imaginations very often in society. I think about the things we are bereft of in our day-today lives (outside of church or temple), and that is using the potential for awe through ritual, metaphor, and imagination. So I’m constantly looking for opportunities to engage audiences in those ways. I’m attracted to language plays, and of course I am also attracted to plays with emotional complexity and viability. I’m not a fan of emotional withholding in life or in art. I don’t like stinginess. I like a good conundrum. I like a good conflict that’s in that moral gray zone. I love a great, ambitious mess. I would take that over a tidy, predictable, wellmade play any day. I want to be entertained, too, and I don’t want that to be a bad word. I want to laugh in the theatre. Often. What I don’t like is exclusive theatre. I like theatre that includes everyone. I think there is a way to do that and still make it engaging and challenging.

ABOVE

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With Jon Tracy

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You have worked on so many new works and you have done your fair share of classical work as well. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Well, the writers of classical works are much more appreciative of your directorial vision than the writers at your side. There’s something about the collaborative “dig” when working on a new play. It starts singular and then opens up. The gestation period is contingent on what each play wants and needs to be, and the process is infinitely intriguing to me. The making, forging, birthing of something new, is stimulating intellectually and always surprising emotionally. It’s kind of like being a mother. Every stage is perfectly intense, and you think, “This is just it.” And, of course, you have to move into the next stage, and again you think, “This is it. Couldn’t be tougher or better!” That part of the new play process of constantly moving forward, digging for meaning, has never ceased to be fascinating. The process of approaching a classic is different, I believe. You have to find a way to tap into them as new. That doesn’t mean that they have to have some shiny concept placed over them. We simply have to come to the tale asking questions about why this, why now? And the job is to make it seem as though we are telling the tale for the first time. I learned so much working on Shakespeare. It was humbling to direct Shakespeare. At that point, I had no proof to believe that I could do it, but I did. So I took all my new play skills, and broke down Romeo and Juliet (Q1, 2, and Folio) beat by beat. It was an especially thrilling challenge to tell a story that everyone knows and figure out how to suspend disbelief to make everyone think that this one time it might end better. I have a strong aesthetic, but I’m not particularly interested in the audience seeing “me” within the storytelling. I’m vastly more interested in trying to unleash the story via the best work from a dozen collaborators, though that is not to say that every moment is democratic. That said, the classical work leaves more room for a vision to further illuminate the story in the here and now, while new work, for me, rallies around how best to amplify the story and the best of the writer’s intentions. I’d like to talk about the challenges of being a woman director, a woman artistic director, and a mother. Have you seen a shift in attitudes towards women in your career so far? How does your own perspective reveal itself at the Magic? It’s a big, complicated question, because no matter how I answer it, I’m going to make someone unhappy. I’ve tried very hard to forge my craft. It is important to me to separate, as much as possible, those two “c” words—career and craft.


The separation of career and craft came as a survival tactic. I was going to be a bitter person if I focused on what wasn’t going to come my way. I want to hold my head up high in the way I conduct myself in this business. I care about the people I work with, and I want to do great work in the room I’m in. I gravitate to the work I love, some written by men, some by women, and most by artists of color.

still believe in rich, viable, emotional exploration. But now I think more about the delivery of that emotion—how our channeling of the story is chemical and technical at the same time.

As an artistic director, I fear our mindset is still that we’re helping old ladies across the street every time we give a woman a job. To me, it just comes back to excellence. If you hire the best, collaborate with the best, invite the best, women and artists of color will always be at the table.

There are three big projects. One is Linda McLean’s new play Every Five Minutes, which serves the larger goal of trying to get this extraordinary Scottish writer better known and more produced in the U.S. The play is a beautiful, theatrical puzzle. It deals with some really relevant, volatile themes, and it’s also very unique in the way it reveals itself to the audience. What we’ve recently decided is to just schedule it and figure it out as it happens. It’ll be one of the largest productions we’ve done, with the exception of The Lily’s Revenge, and it will be a wonderful, trippy follow-up to her taut, remarkable Any Given Day, which we produced in Spring 2012.

About being a mom: I’m the oldest of five girls. My father was outnumbered six to one. He passionately taught us that we should choose a path that we love, that we could do anything and have it all. Now, most of that wisdom is a gift, but the truth is we can’t have it all. We have to make thoughtful, really mindful compromises. I’ve gotten better about setting a tone at work. I used to either sneak off or not go to my daughter’s activities. Now I say, “Sophia has a volleyball game, I’m out of here.” I try to be a better role model at the theatre. Everyone has to know that it’s important for each of us to have a life outside of the theatre. As a parent, I want my daughter to see that I love getting up every day loving what I do. If she can be as lucky, I’ll die a happy person. What would you say has been the biggest change from what you thought directing was at the start of your career to what you think it is today? I grew up on method acting: Stanislavsky, Uta Hagen. I started out overly indulgent of the emotional and psychological underpinnings of the work. As a director, I loved sitting around the table, talking about motivation and subtext and filling all that in for a long, long time. As I’ve gotten older and better, I’ve come to be more enamored with rhythm— the story as a score and how technical craft supports and executes the raw emotional impulse within the text and beneath. If you told me when I was starting out that I would be thinking about the scanning of a line and the technical use of language and being mindful of how tempo works within beats, inside scenes, and inside the structure as a whole, I wouldn’t have understood what that meant. That really interests me now. As structurally and dramaturgically driven as I am, I

IN REMEMBRANCE MAY 16, 2012 - JUNE 20, 2013

Is there a big project you have been circling around, trying to figure out how to produce?

The second is a five-year Magic March to 50, which involves celebrating Shepard’s great plays in revitalized productions, in tandem with developing and producing his new work, which I hope will ignite participation from many exciting Bay Area theatres, as well as theatres across the country. The largest dream is a ginormous project that would bring together three amazing writers’ reimaginings of the Greeks: Luis Alfaro, Taylor Mac, and Will Power. In building and producing two of Luis’ Greeks (Oedipus el Rey and Bruja), we discovered an incredible, really voracious appetite for these tragedies in our community. The audience communing with that level of catharsis really taught us the integral role of tragedy in our contemporary world. Luis, Taylor, and Will each come to writing with the profound perspective of being fierce solo artists, and yet their plays take on a life that is very distinct from that solo work. Each approaches the source material through a different portal—culturally, thematically, structurally, politically. Their individual voices, and specifically their work with the Greeks, offer a rich window into the American condition. The dream is that we’ll be able to have an open-air Greek extravaganza, with the public eating and celebrating theatre’s origins through the lens of three of our most exciting contemporary storytellers.

“Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear”

SHAKESPEARE

Clayton Corzatte

Joel J. Friedman

Jerome Kilty

Christopher Presley

DIRECTOR Member since 1996

DIRECTOR Since 1983

DIRECTOR Since 1980

DIRECTOR Since 2004

Tony Curiel

Patrick Garland

Mladen Kiselov

Isaiah Sheffer

DIRECTOR Since 1993

DIRECTOR Since 1995

DIRECTOR Since 1992

DIRECTOR Since 1973

Vincent Dowling

Cliff Goodwin

Albert Marre

Arthur Storch

DIRECTOR Since 1987

DIRECTOR Since 1968

DIRECTOR Since 1959

DIRECTOR Since 1963

Burry Gerber Frederik

Stephen Kanee

Stephen Porter

Augustine Towey

DIRECTOR Since 1960

DIRECTOR Since 1976

DIRECTOR Since 1959

DIRECTOR Since 1984

Porter Van Zandt DIRECTOR Since 1995 SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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NOTHING WRITTEN IN STONE A ROUNDTABLE ON REHEARSAL INTERVIEW BY

CHRIS COLEMAN

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H

ow do other directors create a sense of cohesion in the room? When do they start the staging process, and how do they know what that is going to look like? How do they get the company engaged in the story’s depth? And how do they help lead an actor through what looks like a blockade? These questions have rattled around in my head since I first began studying to be a director. Through the course of my journey, I’ve watched the answers to these questions evolve, shift, and evaporate. Sometimes those shifts have come from speaking with a colleague, acting in another director’s show, reading an article, or even from feeling pressed up against my own limitations. Reading SDC Journal has provided access to juicy conversations about how we do what we do. I was particularly interested in poking inside the rehearsal hall of a handful of colleagues whose work and imaginations I admire to see how their process is evolving: Penny Metropulos, Michael John Garcés, Nancy Keystone, and Davis McCallum. The following is an excerpt from our roundtable conversation. CHRIS | I’d like to get a window into what happens in each of your rehearsal rooms. Hopefully, we’ll see what commonalities there are, as well as what may be particularly idiosyncratic. Let’s begin with a discussion of table work. I will confess that when I started out as a young director, I didn’t do table work, because I’d had such horrible experiences with it as an actor and felt like it was really boring and, frankly, kind of bullshit. But while working as an actor with Nancy Keystone, I found it incredibly eye-opening and beneficial, so now I’m quite religious about it. The thing that was interesting to me with you, Nancy, is that the discussion was about the action, about what’s going on in this particular beat. There was also an incredible sense of wonder that you brought to the literal events of the story that kind of popped my head open. NANCY | Thank you. My goal is to get everybody in the room in the same world and to have them understand the world of the piece as well as their own characters. So I start with just basic, rudimentary facts about the play: given circumstances; time, season and place; who you are; where you’re coming from; what you’re doing there. And then I sort of move in tighter. So getting a kind of landscape view and then moving in closer and closer.

on the next day, particularly with a Shakespeare play, we’ll take it a scene at a time—and if it’s verse, we will just read it a line at a time, one actor per line. We pass off the job of reading like that, handing it off based on the verse lines. It may sound kind of like a drama school exercise, but I find, particularly with Shakespeare, this huge amount of clarity comes leaping out of the text just by doing it a line at a time. If you’re going to do a 30-line speech, it’s like lifting a car. It’s a big job. Whereas 10 syllables—you can kind of bring yourself to that. And it moves faster than you’d think. Then we’ll go back and read the scene a second time, and sometimes if it seems worth it, we’ll have the people who are going to play those parts read them. CHRIS | One of the things that I do is read back to front. I start at the last page of the play and work my way from the back to the front. DAVIS | A scene at a time?

OPPOSITE

Davis McCallum rehearsing Henry the V at the Shakespeare Society PHOTO E Kelson

CHRIS | Yeah, and what’s valuable about it is that instead of focusing on how they are going to say the words, they start to really look at what the pieces of the puzzle are, what the events are, and how you get from that to this. Penny, what’s your goal, and is there something unique you do around the table?

PENNY | I’ve worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for many, many years I find I can spend almost a week around the and had the privilege of working with a ABOVE table no matter what play it is. I mean, Chris, company that is well versed in Shakespeare Penny Metropulos in rehearsal for The Comedy of at your theatre the last two plays I did were 39 text. Sometimes I would walk into a room, Errors at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2008 with Steps and Venus in Fur. It wasn’t Shakespeare, and two-thirds of the people in the room had actor John Tufts + Sterling Tinsley on the piano but we spent a lot of time around the table. I done that very play maybe three times. Those PHOTO T. Charles Erickson try to come in and start from a “not knowing actors need to move, and a week at the table place,” which I am usually in anyway. So it ends up being pretty organic, can drive them into insanity. So I may spend a week at the table working and, depending on the actors, it can be a very involved conversation. on text, but if I find after a couple of days of going through it that we’re I know some actors are impatient with it, but I also feel that once we leaping ahead, I get people on their feet right away to get the words in get into staging, when we’ve sort of built the first layer, everybody has their body. Then as we go through the process, I go scene by scene and a much clearer idea of what’s going on, and staging can happen more do text work as we’re working on the scene. organically. One of the things that I have found very valuable pretty late in the CHRIS | Davis, how do you approach table work? process is to sit down at the table again and talk about it. The actors have so much more information at that point. Also, I will have everybody DAVIS | On the first day of rehearsal we’ll read the play and then talk in take the first scene of the play and tell them to stand up when they feel the vaguest terms about what excites us as a group about the play. Then they have a line that gives the exposition. CHRIS COLEMAN since 2000 | MICHAEL JOHN GARCÉS since 2001 NANCY KEYSTONE since 2000 | DAVIS MCCALLUM since 2004 | PENNY METROPULOS since 1994

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CHRIS | Why do you do that? PENNY | Because I think storytelling, particularly in Shakespeare, is difficult, and it’s helpful to know that you are giving that important piece of information to an audience. CHRIS | That’s brilliant. I’m totally stealing that. Michael, are your goals the same? Is there something different about how you approach table work? MICHAEL | The bulk of what I’ve done over my career has been new plays; I’ve done very little classical stuff. It’s usually either a first or an early production of a play, and so we don’t know the text very well. I tend to do two to three days of table work, and I split it up into two phases. The first, when the writer is in the room, is really about accessing that source. So we spend a day or two doing that first read and having, hopefully, a fairly deep conversation with the playwright. It gives the playwright an opportunity to really talk about where impulses come from, answer specific questions, things like that. The second focuses on the text itself, when the writer’s not there. I use those table days as an opportunity to understand what the actual inquiry is going to be. I come in with pretty strong notions, but the room and the curiosities of the people in the room can have a real impact on what the production style is going to be, what the acting style is going to be, what the entry point into the text is going to be. CHRIS | I love this theme that has come up about trying to begin “creating a world.” Maybe seven, eight years ago, I saw two Tina Landau productions within a week, and I was super curious about how she was doing what she was doing, because it was like nothing that I had ever seen anybody else do. DAVIS | What were the shows?

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CHRIS | Floyd Collins in Philadelphia and then Dream True at the Vineyard Theatre. The way she built an ensemble, and the way the musical numbers were incorporated, felt like something quite unique, like a created world. I got curious about Viewpoints. I’m a kinesthetic learner, and for me as an actor the table work was fine but ultimately meant I had to figure out how to translate that brain work into my body—how to go from an intellectual discussion to actually trying to embody the experience. I got curious. So I started training with Viewpoints and started incorporating that into my rehearsal process. I’m not really a devotee; it was just an experiment to create a kind of kinesthetic vocabulary and world inside the room. Nancy, I know you do all kinds of stuff in terms of movement. NANCY | I cut work in two different ways. When I direct stories that are farther away from us in time, then table work is very helpful. But with my company, Critical Mass, it’s all improvisational, and so much of it is nonverbal and about building vocabulary with the actors collaboratively. I think that those productions have a theatricality that requires the company to all work together to create a performance vocabulary. I’m very interested in the physicality of performance, and I try to help actors break through to the psychological within their body, because we can talk and talk and talk, but how are those things being translated through the body? CHRIS | How do you determine what exercises make sense? Where do you come up with that? NANCY | Some of it is based in Grotowski exercises or Barba. A lot of it is giving actors proposals while they’re moving or just helping them connect their imagination to their nerves and their muscles. I directed Fin Kennedy’s play, How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, and it involves a forensic pathologist doing an autopsy, which none of us had ever done before. In addition to research, I felt like the physical proximity and the way that she would handle and observe the body was important for the actress to understand. Sometimes it’s very specific to the event

TINA LANDAU since 1989


of the play in a really pragmatic way, and sometimes it’s more abstract—an attempt to make an abstract idea real for this play. PENNY | I think that as directors we are constantly trying to think on our feet. I just taught a directing class, and it became incredibly clear to me how important it is for a director to be able to take the moment and come up with something that will help stimulate a rehearsal hall. If something’s going downhill, or it’s dead, or you’re having a problem with a beat or an actor or whatever, you have to have some creative inspiration that will come into the room and help get that going. That could be an improv.

BELOW ONE + TWO

Michael John Garcés directing Café Vida PHOTO John Luker BELOW THREE

Michael John Garcés co-directing Making Paradise: The West Hollywood Musical PHOTO Gary Leonard

CHRIS | Michael, how about you?

A couple of years ago I did Madness of George III in Chicago, and I had a wide range of kind, big-shouldered older actors and really young actors and we were trying to put them into the 18th century. Three days a week, I did 30 to 45 minutes of style work with them. I would play music, and I would teach them how to bow and how to enter into a room, how to sit. Then we’d do this with music; then we took that into doing status work and pecking orders. They began to feel where they were in the world. While I play all the time, I have to say there is always a clock ticking in the back of my head. There’s a wonderful saying that Liviu Ciulei said, which I keep in my mind all the time. “We do not have much time, we must go very slowly.”

MICHAEL | I’m a very text-based director. I tend to do relatively few exercises unless it feels like some sort of breakthrough is needed. Nancy mentioned working from a place of “not knowing.” I do my best entering every process knowing as little as possible and preconceiving as little as possible.

CHRIS | That’s brilliant. Last year we did a new adaptation of Anna Karenina that we had workshopped the summer before. What I found around the table was that because everybody had the opportunity to study the book, everybody came in with all of these investments in what they thought the adaptation should be. I was wary of starting the rehearsal process at the table, because I thought it was going to become a battle and a debate about who’s going to get their version. So we actually started with a day of Viewpoints, because what I find in that method is that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve come in with; it just blasts your brain open.

CHRIS | What happens when you find yourself in a moment when something’s stuck—when an actor is stuck and not able to embody what you’re trying to get at? MICHAEL | I’ll do a modified Meisner exercise where we repeat specific lines in the play until we’re all insane; things like that. That tends to actually work really well. Also just saying, “Okay, let’s throw everything we’ve done away and approach it completely empty and fresh and emotion-free and build back up.” That tends to work very well, too. PENNY | I love this conversation. It makes me feel more sane.

DAVIS | I like the idea of having a bag of tricks that can help when a rehearsal process gets stuck, but usually it’s the idea that’s made up out of thin air that’s the most effective, because it’s the most responsive to the actual event in the room. There’s a section in Henry IV where Hal quotes Hotspur and then quotes Lady Hotspur, and I was trying to get this actor to really go for it in terms of the impersonations. So I had the whole company get involved; each person had to come in and present somebody from Shakespeare and the rest of them had to guess who it was. An actor came out and played Iago, and an actor played Hamlet, and an actor played Prospero.

CHRIS | Which is actually very scary! I’ve heard stories from people who have worked with you, Penny, about stuff you’ve done. I’m curious about how you use improvisation to get the actors experiencing the world? PENNY | Well, it’s one thing when you’re working with a company of actors that you know, because the vocabulary is set, and you can begin to play sooner. Very often we have time constraints that are causing a lot of outside noise: “How much time can I spend at the table? How much time can I spend on improv?” I have done so many different kinds of things. Let’s say in a play like Richard II, where you have a large ensemble, you don’t want all of those people who are playing extras in that big gauntlet scene to just be hanging around and not doing anything. So I’ve assigned people research work, requesting that they come in and talk about their families so that everybody

in that room has a real investment in the scene, because their family’s land is involved. They come in with a story that they’re telling. Consequently, the way they put down that gauntlet will make a difference.

OPPOSITE

Chris Coleman directing the classic Rodgers + Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! with a twist: an all-black cast, suggesting different resonances for the story’s themes + bringing fresh luster to the famous vocal score (Portland Center Stage) PHOTO Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

Or, I remember when we were doing Water by the Spoonful, we had this sequence of scenes between a guy who was kind of metaphorically chained to this desk and a woman who was very peripatetic, who never stopped moving. As opposed to it being about the desk, we just put some tape on the floor that he had to stay in, and she was trying to get him to leave, and they would play the scenes. Then we can sit SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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them back down, the way it had been staged, or decide to throw out the staging. I sometimes find in the second week of rehearsal, when you’re still 10 days away from tech, is a very useful time to just think, “We have a draft that is appealing, has excitement to it, but let’s put that away and go a whole different direction.” Sometimes you end up finding something you can drag into your previous draft or scrap it and start with a brand-new thing. CHRIS | Let’s talk about staging. How do you get at it? When does it show up in your brain? I had an experience as an actor where David Bell directed me in Falsettos, and he came in and had every single move mapped out, which sounds really restrictive, but if you’re a kinesthetic learner, it was fantastic. I had all of this information to push against or to use. We were never sitting around waiting for him to figure out what to do.

beautiful pictures in Bohemia that I forgot to direct Perdita and Florizel. It’s like, “Oh right, those guys.” I do think that if you have savvy actors, they’re going to tell you how they want to be blocked. I don’t mean they’re going to literally tell you; I mean that it becomes evident the first time they are on their feet. These people have a good sense of where they are, and it radiates out from there. MICHAEL | I don’t do a lot of pre-thinking about the blocking; I tend to work in the room. So for me, the thing is to treat it as improv in the sense of never saying, “No.” If I’m stuck I tend to say, “Do X, do Y, do Z,” and watch them do X, Y, or Z. And that usually unsticks me. Standing in the room silently thinking while everybody is staring at you is… CHRIS | The mark of death. MICHAEL | Yes. Plus, making a decision gives people a sense of security. Everybody feels good about it. I do that even in the context of my work at Cornerstone when we’re working with extremely large groups of non-professionals who don’t always have a sense of themselves on stage, though sometimes you’d be surprised.

For many years I would map it all out before I came in, and then we’d throw it out, but I thought the TOP exercise was really valuable. Nancy Keystone (background), Richard Gallegos (on floor) + Nick Santoro Now, if it’s a big musical and a (standing) rehearsing a workshop of “Ameryka” with her company Critical really complicated number, I will Mass Performance Group, which involved choreography based on a definitely come in with a road map. sequence in the film High Noon PHOTO Casey McGann If it’s not, I almost come in with nothing, and we do Viewpoints and BOTTOM then figure it out from there. PENNY | It’s fun to hear you talk about all this, Chris. I think that anytime you have more than four or five people on stage, you’ve got to have some idea of what you’re going to do, because it’s just a waste of time otherwise. However you do that, whether you begin by doing Viewpoints or whether you map it out, it’s going to evolve in the rehearsal hall. I remember very early in my directing career, I was doing Winter’s Tale, and I wrote a big note to myself saying, “It’s the downstage, stupid,” because I was so delighted in all of my

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Nancy Keystone sits with her daughter in her lap during a research + discussion session with Critical Mass Performance Group

CHRIS | So you’re discovering it off the actors’ bodies. You’re watching them move in space and you’re seeing what works and what doesn’t right there. MICHAEL | Yeah. CHRIS | I love that. Davis? DAVIS | I found sometimes I’m liberated by feeling prepared. If it’s a musical, I’ll know what part of the stage I’m going to put this little book scene on. Having worked through it either with a choreographer or with a set designer, I feel like I have a map of what the transitions are. Then I think Penny’s notion that if it turns into a four- or fiveperson scene, you do have to have some kind of tent poles which will allow you to figure

DAVID BELL since 1979


out how to get from one to the other. If it’s a smaller scene, as long as I feel like I have a sense of where the geography of the scene is, then the event tells me what shapes I want to have within that context. CHRIS | Nancy, what about you? NANCY | I feel like the preparation happens with the text analysis and the research. A lot of times I design my own set, so as I’m designing I’m imagining how the play is moving. I always think in terms of geometry. What’s the geometry of the scene? Is it square, a line, or whatever? And I never stop; I never stop staging. I feel like the first draft is blind, like it’s a matter of sculpting, and as each path through gets torn away, it becomes more and more detailed, more and more nuanced, and more and more specifics get clearer and more impactful, hopefully. It always should be about what the people are doing to each other. CHRIS | When I directed West Side Story, the first book scene in the drugstore has 16 male dancers with acting chops, and they can sing. We were staging it, but absolutely nothing was happening. I mean, there is not an impulse emerging, and they were like rocks. Then I realized they come from a world where the choreographer says, “Move your pinky here, turn your head here.” I realized, “Okay, I have to choreograph this scene. I have to choreograph the intentions, every single move, every single thing in the scene.” Once they felt that kinesthetically, they completely experienced it and could repeat it with absolute confidence. MICHAEL | One thing I’d like to mention with regard to staging that I don’t think has come up is the phenomenon of resistance. We talk about resistance as in “I’m getting resistance from an actor,” etc., and I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I imagine everybody does. But I think ultimately understanding the resistance the best you can, and using it as friction to make the scene better, has proved to be a really useful way to think about it for me. Either we’re going in the wrong direction, or there’s something really useful that we’ve got to break through, but be really specific about that. NANCY | I think that resistance is telling you it’s not working, especially if they’re smart actors. Whatever is happening isn’t working. PENNY | I agree. NANCY | I think it’s very valuable. CHRIS | On occasion, resistance is just pathological craziness. I’m just putting that out there. PENNY | When you can really inquire into it, you generally come down to the fact that there is something going on, either a lack of understanding or an insecurity or something going on with another actor. CHRIS | Or they may have a better idea. PENNY | Or they just may have a better idea. DAVIS | Yeah, show me what you’re thinking. PENNY | Davis, I want to know about the Shakespeare Society, which you are involved with. DAVIS | They are a great nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering appreciation of Shakespeare’s works, and they have a program called Shakespeare Works, where they’ll give a director a room and a bunch of actors months before the first rehearsal. Sometimes they’ll give you an expert, a Shakespeare scholar or somebody with real world expertise that has bearing on the play.

PENNY | Is that week of work text work, or are you reading over the play and letting it mull around? DAVIS | This is like the zero week of rehearsal, and it happens six months before we have to start the first week of rehearsal. CHRIS | And is it with your cast? DAVIS | No, and that’s the beautiful thing. It’s just with a bunch of actors who are getting paid a tiny bit, but they’re interested in the play, and they’re donating their time to hear it in the room aloud, and maybe they’re interested in doing the production in the summertime or next fall or whenever it is. Because sometimes you get to the first week of rehearsal with a play and you think, “Oh, I must make a note to myself that when I get to do The Tempest again in 2035, I should do it X way, not what I’m doing this month.” As opposed to the way we often work just because of the way schedules are: we cast it, we design it, and we’ve got to put all the pieces together and then discover that it doesn’t all work. MICHAEL | I think Penny talked about the time pressure that we’re under. I mean, time is huge and so valuable, and it seems to be always diminishing. It’s also producer anxiety, and sometimes writer anxiety, along with all the other pressures that can contribute to not having the process that you should be having. No matter what the process, it’s extremely important to create a space in which people can actually be creative, as opposed to simply mounting the play. There’s a lot of pressure not to do that, to be very result-oriented. Regardless of what your process is, whether you know coming in what you’re doing or not, you are also trying to actually collaborate and not simply construct something based on a preconception. I feel like a lot of the director’s job is to create that space and see what happens, because a lot of what a director does is unknowable. CHRIS | I totally agree with that. DAVIS | Several people in this conversation are running theatres as well as directing. Even for those of us that aren’t running theatres, the barrage of email and deadlines somehow make it extremely difficult to carve out space where you’re not answerable to anyone but your own pleasure and interest in the play. Finding a way to bring that to your collaborators, apart from the kind of ticking clock of time, is a challenge. NANCY | I think it’s Renoir who made a film called The Mystery of Picasso. It’s about Picasso painting, and they set it up so you see all the brushstrokes and all the details. He would work until he’d get the piece to the point where you’d say, “Oh my god, that’s so fucking brilliant, that’s great.” Then he’d make one more move and mess it all up, and he’d have to rework it until it got to another place that was even more brilliant than it was before. And then one more move would mess it up again. He just kept doing that, and it was a great lesson to me to realize there is no “done.” It’s not done at the place where you stop. We have a very specific place where we stop, because it’s opening night, and there’s a rule that you can’t make changes after that point. The process is very fluid, and the older I get, I think the more comfortable I am with the fluidity and the collaborative quality of it and that the ideas can come from anywhere. Nothing is written in stone. CHRIS | The more I discover along the way, the more gratifying I find the process. You guys, this was so fantastic. Thank you. I’m going to steal all of your ideas. I really appreciate it.

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I remember spending summers at the O’Neill with my mom, Evan Yionoulis, running across huge grassy fields from rehearsal hall to rehearsal hall. On weekdays I would sit in on readings, and on the weekend I would go to the aquarium with the daughter of Artistic Director Jim Houghton.” Sarah Holder SDC INTERN

New Play Development

Snapshots of Five Summer Festivals New play development is an elusive process by which playwrights, directors, and actors come together for scene work, revisions, and readings of works in progress. There is no single best way to approach new play development, and there is no single way a director contributes to the process. No two processes are alike, and no two will result in the same conclusions, discoveries, or continually confounding questions. But many artists agree on the importance of defining goals and ambitions at each stage of development, and creative matchmaking can yield great rewards. Tackling the work while on retreat may offer huge benefits, and sometimes the best results come from the most unexpected ideas, collisions, opportunities, and places. SDC Journal is pleased to share snapshots of five of the most venerable and accomplished new play development institutions around the country—along with stories by Member directors who have had the opportunity to collaborate with writers within each company’s unique setting. The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, PlayPenn, New Harmony Project, Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, and New York Stage and Film are only five of the many worthy new play development companies in existence today, each as unique as the artists they support. Their settings inform and influence the development process taking place on their grounds, and as they each evolve in response to the needs of the individual artists and shifting landscapes of new play development, their only true constant is that of their individual creativity and diversity.

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PlayPenn brings together smart directors, dramaturges, and designers who all work together— not just on the individual plays they’re assigned to, but on the other plays as well…We read each other’s plays out loud and have a discussion before the actors are even involved. The writers have an opportunity to make some wonderful changes to their scripts and take very mature steps in their play’s development.” Hal Brooks DIRECTOR

HAL BROOKS since 2004 | JIM HOUGHTON since 1999 | EVAN YIONOULIS since 1987


Daniel Goldstein, a director, describes the O’Neill as “an estate. If you don’t have a car, which most of the time when you’re there you don’t, you really can’t go very far. The best place you can go to think is down by the water. There’s something really special about taking the walk through the long field toward the

The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Waterford, Con necticut

what to know •

water. As the smell changes from grass to salt, and the air gets damper, your mind frees. It’s thrilling to clear yourself in that way. “With the O’Neill in particular, because you’re in rooms that have been occupied by August Wilson, Lee Blessing, and John Guare—these incredible heavyweights—you feel the responsibility to create, to live up to the challenge that has been left before you. You are coming from a place that created The Piano Lesson and The House of Blue Leaves, and you want to do work that’s worthy. So you sit in your room and you want to challenge your writers to fulfill those goals. You want to become the Lloyd Richards to the next August Wilson—always.” Good Goods by Christina Anderson, directed by Mia Rovegno at National Playwrights Conference 2011 PHOTO A. Vincent Scarano LEFT

Director Danny Goldstein + playwright Willy Holtzman working on G.O.B. in 2012; sound designer Rob Kaplowitz also pictured PHOTO c/o PlayPenn BELOW

• • •

In the years since its inception in 1964, the National Playwrights Conference has developed more than 600 plays + has been home to more than 1,000 new works for the stage + 2,500 emerging artists. Up to eight playwrights are selected for this intensive laboratory each summer. The month-long development process culminates in staged readings. In 2013, nearly 1,100 scripts were submitted for consideration.

The oldest play development program in the country, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, was founded by George C. White on a waterfront campus overlooking the Long Island Sound in 1964. The National Playwrights Conference was established in 1965, and its first artistic director was Lloyd Richards. Its current head, the award-winning director Wendy C. Goldberg, has been in her position for nine seasons. Hundreds of writers have developed their work at the National Playwrights Conference—and the National Music Theater Conference, launched in 1978. The playwright most identified with the O’Neill is August Wilson. Notable plays developed at the conference include Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Ruined, which was written in part while she was in residence in the summer of 2006, and Uncommon Women and Others, Wendy Wasserstein’s first play, which was selected for development in 1977 through the O’Neill’s open submissions policy. The open submissions process has been in place since the O’Neill was founded and has remained central to its mission. It allows any playwright to submit work to the summer conference, where each script is first read anonymously—only the title is known—to ensure a merit-based assessment. In the final round, six or seven scripts are accepted for development, with other writers invited for residencies that do not include a public showing of their work. For the 2013 conference, the O’Neill received 1,100 scripts—an all-time high for Goldberg’s tenure. “The O’Neill is blessed with the longest legacy of play development in the country, and much of what we do was established by the pioneer Lloyd Richards,” says Goldberg. “Although over the years, as many other development opportunities have emerged for writers, I have tried to refine our process to help serve specific needs that focus on text, design, and beginning production conversations. Unique to our process is the involvement of designers in the conversation of development. This is most pronounced in our Dream Design Meeting, at which the playwrights and designers explore the visual, aural, and tactical life of the play. This collaboration is something that is usually only undergone at the beginning of a full production. It is one of our most unique features, and allowing us to always be talking about the play world and making us a theatrical conference as opposed to just a literary one.”  

PlayPenn Philadelphia, Pen n sylvan ia

what to know Director Josh Hecht speaks about his experience: “PlayPenn takes place in the middle of a city, which has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, we had the use of an actual theatre. This was especially helpful because the piece I was working on (Meghan Kennedy’s Too Much, Too Much, Too Many) involved an older woman who remains behind a door for a year after the death of her husband. Meghan and I were

• • • • •

The first PlayPenn conference was in summer of 2005. The 57 new plays developed at PlayPenn have had 145 productions worldwide. Six plays are chosen each year. The development process lasts two + a half weeks, with 29 hours of rehearsal + a public reading. There were 600 applications in 2013.

PlayPenn, which has helped develop 57 new plays since it was founded in 2005, hosts a twoand-a-half-week conference each summer. Paul Meshejian, a former director and actor, founded PlayPenn in part to bring new play development to Philadelphia—a region with an active, vibrant theatre community that did not have any companies dedicated solely to developing new work. Some of the projects developed at PlayPenn that have gone on to productions around the country and the world include Aaron Posner’s My Name Is Asher Lev, J.T. Rogers’ The Overwhelming and Blood and Gifts, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, and Stefanie Zadravec’s The Electric Baby.

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WENDY C. GOLDBERG since 2001 | DANNY GOLDSTEIN since 2005 | JOSH HECHT since 2012 | AARON POSNER since 2005 | MIA ROVEGNO Assc. since 2013

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specifically interested in spatial relationships, so being able to get on our feet in an actual working theatre was really informative. The downside to being in a city is that we don’t get as much of the cross-pollination of ideas that happens in the downtime at the more retreatlike summer development centers. “Every chance to work on a play in some kind of depth enhances my craft, and my experience at PlayPenn was no exception. Meghan’s particularly interested in silence in this play—the spaces in between. So one thing that I really got to explore is when to let questions remain unanswered. Some questions yield more richness if we have the courage to walk in the unknowing and let our instincts

The extra half-week—before actors arrive and the “official” conference begins—is part of what gives this artist-driven, decisively regional, and resolutely anti-commercial company its unique character. During these two or three days, a group of about 35 writers, directors, and PlayPenn staff reads through all of the plays together, focusing on the text—and then they spend the rest of the time seeing shows or going to ball games. Having spent 15 years working as an actor in Minneapolis, where the Playwrights’ Center is a national model for writer-driven work, Meshejian wanted his new company to support the needs of writers—and the idea of plays as literature—without thinking about commercial considerations. He was also determined to make the process as useful as possible for each writer and project. Instead of assigning key collaborators, Meshejian says, “I decided I was going to give playwrights their choice of directors, and I was going to offer writers and directors the opportunity to cast their own projects.” Of the six projects being developed this summer at PlayPenn—chosen through a double-blind reading process from a pool of 600 applications—Meshejian notes that all but one grew out of existing relationships between artists. “I was not unconscious of the fact that I was making an organization that does not produce plays,” Meshejian says. “But nothing gives me more satisfaction than seeing a play we had something to do with being produced in three different cities. We were a part of that, and I feel good about whatever support and help the playwright feels they got out of their experience here.”

turn over and mature.”

The New Harmony Project New Harmony, Indiana

“The New Harmony Project is less a festival than a play development retreat,” says

Mark Lutwak, a past director. “A handful of playwrights, directors, and some very fine actors and support staff withdraw to the mysterious town of New Harmony, Indiana, for a couple of weeks to help the playwrights bring their new scripts along. The town is steeped in literal and metaphysical history. Founded in the early 19th century, New Harmony has been home to two very different utopian communities. When combined with incredibly dense, lazy, humid air, this atmosphere seeps into the restored buildings, the meditation labyrinth, the outdoor chapel, and the rehearsals themselves. The New Harmony Project embraces all this in its mission, selecting plays to develop that feed the human spirit and encouraging a lowpressure collegiate style of working. It is a restorative and nurturing place to work.”

what to know • • • •

New Harmony Project was founded in 1986 + has developed more than 200 plays, musicals + other projects. Up to six plays are chosen each year. The process occurs over the course of two weeks, culminating in a final reading in front of a community of participants + supporters. In 2013, over 330 scripts were submitted.

The avowed mission of the New Harmony Project is to support scripts that sensitively and truthfully explore the positive aspects of human experience. Mead Hunter, the dramaturge and educator who was appointed New Harmony’s artistic director in the summer of 2012, is one of the field’s leaders in new play development. The former curator of the Just Add Water (JAW) Festival of new work at Portland Center Stage, he’s consulted for South Coast Rep’s Pacific Playwrights Festival, the University of Iowa’s Festival of New Plays, the Mark Taper Forum’s New Work Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays, PlayPenn, and the Colorado New Play Summit, as well as many other organizations. “The rural setting of the conference is a major part of its draw and its value for those who come here,” says Hunter. “The exquisite little town of New Harmony, Indiana, is idyllic. The nearest big city, Indianapolis, is four hours away! While the conference does get some outside visitors, for the most part the guest artists see only each other for the two weeks, which gives all of them, and the writers especially, freedom to experiment.” For Hunter, this retreat-like atmosphere represents a very different model than Portland’s JAW Festival, where each of the final presentations can draw up to 600 attendees, “an awesome turnout that has become an important part of the playwrights’ understanding of how their scripts are working.” He continues, “New Harmony is almost the reverse of that. When you’re expecting an audience mostly composed of fellow artists, there is great liberty to try things out, to play with your own material and see what sticks.” Hunter and his team currently read more than 300 script submissions for each conference, which this year will host five writers for developmental readings and three more in residency. “Scripts come to us through many different channels,” Hunter says, “but I look especially closely at the ones that come from directors. That kind of proactivity speaks volumes. At this stage of our creative history at New Harmony, the writer is the primary generative artist; creative teams are designed for each writer with this in mind. Inviting a company in to create a devised piece would be a dynamic innovation for us, but we may well do this in the near future. We just have to hope that the right company with the right project sets its sights on us. How about it, Nature Theater of Oklahoma? Universes? Pig Iron?”

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MARK LUTWAK since 1996


Sundance Institute Theatre Lab Park City, Utah

Director Trip Cullman on the physical setting of Sundance Institute Theatre Lab: “Sundance—whether it is in Banff, Canada, or at MASS MoCA in the Berkshires, or on the mountain at their original site in Utah (and I have been to all three)—really places an emphasis on the spiritual uplift and serenity of nature as an environment in which creativity can flourish. Furthermore, comfortable and peaceful accommodations and the taking of all three meals a day with your fellow Lab members add to the spirit of continual creativity that Sundance strives to foster in its guest artists. “I feel my work as a director has been greatly aided by participating in the Sundance Theatre Lab because of three factors: the artistic nourishment and support of the institution, the high caliber of artistry displayed by the other guest artists, and the critical and dramaturgical feedback.”

Rehearsal of Grounded by George Brant, directed by Laura Kepley at New Harmony in 2012 PHOTO A. Vincent Scarano LEFT

Ken Rus Schmoll (right) working on HANDS by Ken Greller during 2012 Theatre Lab PHOTO Fred Hayes + Sundance Institute ABOVE

what to know • • • • • •

The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab was founded by Robert Redford in 1984, + its offices are based in New York City. Up to eight projects are selected annually for the Theatre Lab + are developed next to 12,000-foot Mount Timpanogos at the Sundance Resort in Utah. The Theatre Lab lasts 21 days, with a unique day-on, day-off rehearsal structure culminating in a closed presentation for the Lab community. The Theatre Lab receives between 700 to 900 annual submissions. Over 80% of Lab projects go on to full productions within three years. The Theatre Program produces four additional annual Labs around the world—in Wyoming, Massachusetts, East Africa + France.

One of the best-known play development programs—and almost certainly one of the very few known by name to the general public—the Sundance Institute Theatre Program was born in 1984, when Robert Redford added a theatre component to the Sundance Institute Filmmakers/Directors Lab, which was then three years old. Today, the Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort, located in the mountains of Utah, is the centerpiece of an extensive theatre program operating under the Sundance umbrella. Under the artistic leadership of director and writer Philip Himberg since 1997, Sundance prides itself on evolving its programs based on the changing needs of the field, constantly adding new programs and adapting its submission process to reflect the different ways in which theatre is being created. (Himberg’s colleague in this work is producing director Christopher Hibma.) Among the projects that have been developed at Sundance are Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson’s An Iliad, Tracey Scott Wilson’s The Good Negro, Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ The Light in the Piazza, and Lisa Kron’s Well. “The way that plays were selected when I came to Sundance almost 17 years ago was that they were nominated by theatres,” says Himberg. “I changed that process so that playwrights could apply directly; then, after my first year, I also opened it up to directors to apply. In my memory, that made some people in the American theatre really angry; they felt like I was taking a place away from a playwright. But it was clear that theatre was being created by all kinds of generative artists—writers, directors, choreographers, performers, etc.—and this was a way to say that Sundance was not just a text-based lab.” Today, most of the works that Sundance helps develop—this year, seven projects, chosen from more than 700 applications submitted through an open submission process—continue to be playwright-driven. Sundance encourages playwright/director collaborators to apply together but

TRIP CULLMAN since 2003 | PHILIP HIMBERG since 2001 | LAURA KEPLEY since 2008 | LISA PETERSON since 1992 | KEN RUS SCHMOLL since 2006

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will help put teams together when no director is attached to a play or when an emerging writer might be better matched with a more experienced director. “We’re not interested in plays that are heading into production. What we like is when writers have real questions they can’t solve,” Himberg notes. Because Sundance looks at projects in various stages of development, it also needs directors who can discern what a piece needs during the three-week residency period. “Sundance is better at dramaturgy than we are at almost anything else. You don’t want time to be spent on staging when you really need to be around a table— but dramaturgy is not just about text and table readings.” As an example, Himberg points to performance artist Taylor Mac, who is bringing his postmodern adaptation of Aristophanes’ The Frogs to this year’s Lab, where it will be directed by Lisa Peterson. “Taylor’s play is about nature and takes place in a mud pit, so he wants to rehearse in the pond or the waterfall. We needed to find a director who would focus on the very special circumstances he needs to see his work.”

With the beautiful surroundings and the high concentration of worldclass artists residing in such an informal manner, you’re likely to have your most stimulating pajamaclad conversations since college, or get pulled into unexpected late night discussions at The Beech Tree. NYSAF may boast NY in its monicker, but being there takes you away from the associated noise of the city and the constant demands of its industry, allowing you to concentrate on the work whilst making surprising and unpredictable connections. I found the chance to work in such an enriching environment invaluable.”

Sam Buntrock DIRECTOR

Leah Gardiner, who has directed for New York Stage and Film, says, “Whenever I think about directing at New York Stage and Film, I think about going to camp. There’s absolutely nothing like working on a play with a playwright, stepping out of the room, and watching a deer eating grass right in front of you. It’s an amazing experience just to be so connected to nature while you’re creating. It’s so free up at Vassar. It’s a place where you can allow your mind to work on a different creative level because there are no outside interruptions like horns honking, or subways running beneath you. There’s nothing like finishing up a rehearsal and rushing back to the dorms so you can hit the barbecue and have a few brewskies before you have to dig into the play. You’re immediately immersed in a family setting with all the collaborators there, and because you’re all living together, you get to know each other on such a visceral level whether you’re there for 10 days or whether you’re there for a month.”

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New York Stage and Film (SAF) Poughkeep sie, New York

what to know • •

New York Stage + Film, founded in 1985, is entering its 29th season of a collaboration called Vassar & New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater. The eight-week residency occurs on the Vassar College campus, culminating in mainstage productions as well as workshops + readings of works, all open to the public. More than 250 professional playwrights, directors, actors + designers, as well as over 50 apprentices, will help develop 14 projects in 2013.

Each summer, New York Stage and Film brings more than 200 professional artists and 50 apprentices to live and work together over an eight-week residency on the Vassar College campus in Poughkeepsie, New York. They bring projects in various stages of development, from scripts that have never had a reading through plays ready for a production (but not yet ready to be reviewed). They also bring audiences, people who return year after year and have developed a hunger and appreciation for new play development. The first SAF season, in 1985, included a new play by a relatively unknown writer named John Patrick Shanley. In the 28 years since the company was founded, its audiences have seen 12 more plays by Shanley, including his Pulitzer Prize winner Doubt. Other notable plays developed at SAF include Tony Award winners Tru by Jay Presson Allen, and Side Man by Warren Leight. Founded by actor Mark Linn-Baker, director Max Mayer, and producer Leslie Urdang, SAF is now helmed by Johanna Pfaelzer, who was named artistic director in 2007, and executive director Thomas Pearson. With work happening on three different stages, SAF’s summer season includes everything from one-day readings to full productions. The playwright is most often the initial point of contact— sometimes the projects come with a director attached, sometimes SAF plays matchmaker—but SAF attracts more director-driven projects than many new play development programs because of its ability to serve artists through full productions (without opening them to critics). Michael Mayer, whose history with SAF extends back to a reading of Side Man in 1996, was able to work with the company to design very specific workshops for the “reimagining” of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and for the new musical American Idiot, both of which went on to Broadway runs. Pfaelzer relies on directors with long relationships with SAF—which does not take unsolicited submissions—for their insight into programming. “Other artistic directors and literary managers send us scripts and ideas,” she notes, “but I think of directors like Leigh Silverman and Michael Wilson, who have done work on all of our stages, not just as the primary collaborators for playwrights, but as key advocates for bringing us new material. When a director who has worked with us says, ‘You’ve got to read this,’ I take that really seriously. It’s a key part of the ongoing conversation.” Director Sam Buntrock, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Daniel Oreskes + Mark Alhadeff in rehearsal for A Maze by Rob Handel; Vassar & New York Stage + Film’s Powerhouse Theater Mainstage, 2011 PHOTO © Vassar & New York Stage + Film/Buck Lewis ABOVE

SAM BUNTROCK Intrnl. since 2009 | LEAH GARDINER since 2000 | MAX MAYER since 1991 MICHAEL MAYER since 1992 | JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY since 1988 | LEIGH SILVERMAN since 2001 | MICHAEL WILSON since 1993


SDC Executive Director Laura Penn recently sat down with Todd London, Artistic Director of New Dramatists, to discuss new play development, the complex relationship between director and playwright, and how the process evolves and changes with each new project.

THE

CACOPHONY

OF DEVELOPMENT INTERVIEW BY

LAURA PENN

“Readings are an art form now,

and directors have gotten so good...in terms of process and in terms of the product that we’ve trained a whole generation of directors in directing readings. What gets lost is the sense of how hard it is to build a relationship, how hard it is to make a work, and how much hit-and-miss and exploration there is.” TODD LONDON

LAURA PENN | Everybody talks about the process of developing new plays as though we are all saying the same thing, or as if there is a defined process. My first question is, well, is there a process? TODD LONDON | I don’t think there is a process. I think the difficulty that everybody has been struggling with is this sense that there is one process. Every play, every theatre piece, is its own animal. Every director-playwright relationship is different. Every stage of development is different, and it’s a journey into what isn’t yet known. So if you suggest that there is a structural map for how to get where you may or may not be going, then you’ve already belied the exploratory process. Sometimes people think there’s a problem in the product when there really is a problem in the process. And I think that the more attention and energy that’s applied to thinking about process, there are things that can open up in the development of new work. For example, here at New Dramatists we went from being a culture of new play readings that were rehearsed for one or two days to a culture of new play workshops that last about five days. I should note the reason we were able to do this was because we got a grant from the Mellon Foundation. For years I had been wrestling with “Why aren’t the writers taking a more experimental approach to their readings? Why aren’t they taking the plays apart more? Why are they insisting on reading SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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the whole play? Why aren’t they bringing in collaborators who aren’t just directors?” And then as soon as they had five days, they started doing that stuff automatically. They had the space and time, so suddenly they were working backwards on plays. Suddenly they were working for five days on one act. Suddenly they were working with improvisation. Suddenly they were bringing in research materials and writing in the session with the director and the actors. And it wasn’t that they were limited before by the way they saw the reading process, it was that they were limited by the time of the reading process itself. LP | Can you talk more about that? TL | So you have resources of time, and space, and actors, and audience. And those things are more or less codified in various developmental spaces. And there isn’t enough time to really consider the question of process, because there’s a play to get through. And all you can do is sit around the table and read it.

Everybody rightly castigates the cookie cutter system of new play development and new play production, which so many of us have felt we were caught in for so long. And nobody made that up, nobody said, “Let’s be cookie cutters.” I believe everyone said, “Let’s find a way to be really good at making plays better.” But it’s hard in institutional situations, as you well know, to create flexibility, to be absolutely responsive to the needs of the artist all the time, because you have a season to get on, you have a season to pick while you’re getting it on, and then you have the next season to pick and get on. And the summer organizations, in a way, they have a great advantage, because they have the year to look and consider and reevaluate. They actually have downtime. LP | When many of these summer festivals were created, regional theatres didn’t have as many new play development programs. Now there are a lot of structures within regional theatre for new play development, with festivals, reading series, or labs. Has the proliferation of regional theatre programs impacted or changed the way the summer programs function?

One of the things we found was that within two years of making the change, suddenly we were more often throwing tables and music stands away, we were looking at flexible space, we were looking at workshop lighting and sound systems. They were bringing in projectionists. They TL | It’s a good question, and I don’t know that I can answer it. First of all, were bringing in choreographers. We were having in residence kinds of I think some of the developmental programs within theatres have folded artists that we’d never had before. For years we had asked, “Have you over the years. And those that have continued at places like Denver ever thought about engaging a designer in and— your process? Have you ever thought about a choreographer?” And the writers would say, LP | South Coast. “Yeah, I’d love to,” but then they wouldn’t do I think the differences it. And they wouldn’t do it because they only TL | South Coast and so on are more refined so [between] organizations is had a day. that they feel more like part of a system of new play development, more continuous with the fantastic; the more models the LP | One of the conversations that has been summer play festivals. They feel like the same happening the last several years is centered kinds of things, except they happen within a merrier because the more each around the belief that new plays get lost or large institution, and they happen at a different organization differs in the way time of year. trapped in the development process.

they do it, the more variety

TL | I think that the conversation about dead LP | How do directors function in these development is an old discussion. I think what’s structures? there is going to be for the happened in recent years is developmental different kinds of work.” organizations have distinguished development TL | Directors and playwrights have been put from what was happening before, where in a tough position in this country, because theatres were really doing either audience to the extent that new play development has development or new play auditioning, or some been about auditioning plays, it’s also been hybrid of the two. So they’d bring playwrights in for a day or two, give about auditioning for jobs. And it’s been about trying out collaborations them some actors, and nobody quite knew what the purpose was. in a hiring system, not in an ongoing artistic development system. So there has been a mixed use of new play readings where directors need But developmental organizations like the O’Neill, PlayPenn, Sundance, or to prove themselves to playwrights. New Harmony aren’t using development as an audition for a particular end or a particular artistic director. It’s exploratory and experimental, and LP | All the while trying to make sure the producer likes them as well. so I think the distinction needs to be made. TL | So they want to serve the playwright, but they also want to serve LP | Let’s talk more about those programs. Sundance is very different themselves, and they want to serve the theatre, and everybody is really from the O’Neill, for example. At the O’Neill, there is an audience of confused. So over time, directors have learned techniques for making a O’Neill patrons and industry professionals; at Sundance, you have a very reading work. Readings are an art form now, and directors have gotten protected environment with only a few people in attendance outside so good at doing readings both in terms of process and in terms of the of other artists in residence. There were 1,100 submissions to O’Neill product that we’ve trained a whole generation of directors in directing last year, and New York Stage and Film doesn’t take submissions at all. readings. Summer development programs for new plays seem completely distinct. They share almost nothing except they all have a writer, a play that wants What gets lost is the sense of how hard it is to build a relationship, how a process, and that process includes at minimum a collaboration with a hard it is to make a work, and how much hit-and-miss and exploration director. there is. However, I believe that as you open up time, you will also open up a sense of true exploration—both the interpersonal exploration of TL | I think the differences in these organizations is fantastic; the more the director-playwright relationship and everybody’s exploration of the models the merrier because the more each organization differs in the incipient piece. Given time, directors can come to a place where they way they do it, the more variety there is going to be for the different don’t have to prove themselves, where they don’t have to know things, kinds of work. where they don’t have to come in and show how smart their questions are, how deep their insights are.

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As part of a recent retreat at New Dramatists, we worked with a communications expert on the ideas of inquiry and advocacy, understanding the difference and learning to distinguish between them in the context of a conversation between people. This work has caused me to think about how we can better implement the notions of inquiry and advocacy, specifically in the context of new play development. I have come to understand that advocacy masquerades as inquiry and vice versa all the time in the developmental process. For example, say a director has a really strong response to something but has been trained to put that strong response in the form of a question. However, the question is a fake question, because the director already knows. We need to understand the difference between “I would really advocate for you to change that” versus “What is happening here?” Because the fact is that a disingenuous question like “What do you think of dot, dot, dot?” is trying to lead a playwright somewhere, and playwrights do not want to be led anywhere. They want to find their own way; that’s part of the writing process. It is in these moments that distrust is built. I don’t know where it comes from in our culture that as a director—and I was trained as a director—that you feel that you have to have an answer and also pretend that you don’t. I think it’s about really admitting what you don’t know. That’s the humility a director needs. Because when you’re working with a new work you may think you know, but you actually don’t. And the playwright actually doesn’t, and the actors actually don’t. LP | The power dynamic within the relationships and within the collaborations are very real. And it goes straight to your point of why directors feel like they need to know the answer. The director will eventually relate with everyone in the production process and will be expected, certainly once they’re in the rehearsal process, to be completely in control. TL | But I think any of kind of “take-charge” energy or any kind of duplicity in communication is going to send the playwright deep inside and going to make them more secretive. They know when they’re being manipulated or led somewhere. I had this epiphany moment here maybe 10 years ago, when KJ Sanchez was in residence as a New Generations Fellow. And KJ was, at that time, an actor becoming a director and creator, and now is very firmly a director and creator person. And she’s very collaborative: she had worked for the SITI Company and then Anne Bogart for a long time. And she wanted to hold a conversation with some of our writers about collaboration. She did this salon, and maybe five writers were there, and she started by talking about the joys of collaboration, you know, “how wonderful it is to be in the room with writers,” and so on. I just saw the playwrights kind of receding or retreating. When she was finished with her introductory remarks one of the writers said, “KJ, that sounds great, but by the time you start collaborating with me, I’ve already spent three years on this play.” And then the other playwrights pitched in and said basically the same thing, and it was like this aha moment for me. A director’s notion of collaboration is really different from a playwright’s notion of collaboration. Of course, KJ was able to flex with this new information, and unpack it. The group wound up having a powerful discussion about the expectations, possibilities, and limits of collaboration on new work. Of course there are exceptions, like Deborah Stein, or Elizabeth LeCompte, or Richard Maxwell, or Young Jean Lee, where the director and writer are one and the same person. Or examples where they come at it early in the writing, like with David Ives and Walter Bobbie. LP | Or big Broadway musicals often start with— TL | Right, they start with directors as part of the story and the creation. But in a new play development circumstance, yeah, you’re a latecomer. WALTER BOBBIE since 1993 | ANNE BOGART since 1990 | KIP FAGAN since 2008 PAM MACKINNON since 2001 | KJ SANCHEZ since 2008

LP | You touched on something earlier, this whole generation of directors who have become very good at readings. I couldn’t tell in your comment whether you thought that this is something you consider good or bad? TL | Well, I feel like there is no good or bad; I think it depends on the project. Some playwrights at a certain point want to hear their piece delivered, beautifully crafted. They really want someone who can come in and stage a reading, and get the beats across, and present the story. Others at different stages of development want a very different kind of thing; they want someone who can help them with nuance of character, or sit quietly with them while they take in what’s happening in the room, or be flexible. I remember when Lynn Nottage was working on Fabulation here, and she was in the process of writing this play, and she didn’t want any actor’s voice to stick in her head as the voice of the character. So they kept rotating who was reading what part, regardless of race or gender. That also takes a kind of humility from the director. And there are points at which a playwright wants to direct their own work and learn thereby. I think about Quiara Hudes and Davis McCallum. There was a recent piece of hers that Davis wasn’t available to hear, and so she went in the room by herself with actors, and she learned so much. But she didn’t learn that she wanted to be a director; she learned about her piece and then Davis came in at the next stage. That was always the intention; Davis is able to do things in the room with actors that Quiara isn’t. But they listen differently. LP | Are there better ways to provide mentoring, training, or advice on how to do this kind of work? In the university system, the playwright and directing programs are often separate and probably don’t have enough interaction in this area. TL | I think one thing that could probably be taught is a process of sharing expectations and assumptions ahead of time. So part of the conversation around a play is, “What do you want to get out of the next three days? What do you expect from a director? What do you assume I will do in the room?” And from the writer, “What do you as the director expect?” So that again you apply pressure to the process and the relationship directly rather than focusing on the play as if you have a shared vocabulary and a shared way of working. I would think about clarifying what you’re trying to get. Sometimes a playwright can’t answer, “What are my goals?” But it helps to set the terms so that when something gets gnarly in the middle, somebody can say, “Well, I remember you saying that you expected to get an understanding of this moment in act two, but now you’re asking me to stage the play including act one. Why are we spending time doing that instead of digging into this moment in act two?” So then they have a framework for what the exploration is, and maybe the answer is, “But I learned that already, and I’m moving on to the next thing.” “Okay, well then, what’s the next thing? What do you expect and assume now that we’re in the middle of the process? Do you know?” So I would think that directors can be trained a little bit, as can playwrights, in how to talk to one another—both what’s expected and assumed, and also what’s inquiry and what’s advocacy. And I think it’s partly trial and error, too. Playwrights kind of teach with their feet; they come back to the same directors for a reason. I think directors would benefit from looking at why so many playwrights want to develop work in a room with Leigh Silverman, or Pam MacKinnon, or Kip Fagan. What is it that they do that keeps them coming back? LP | I think I know how you are going to answer this, but does a director have a role in helping to channel all that feedback to a writer? TL | I suspect it’s different for every writer-director team, but I don’t know many writers who want filtered response in the process. I mean, playwrights are highly sensitive, antennaed beings, so they can feel SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL

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what’s happening in the room. And they don’t need someone to translate for them; they’re theatrical writers. I think the question goes the opposite way in that there are playwrights who prefer directors to speak to the actors and others who like to be able to say whatever they want to actors themselves. There are relationships between a director and a playwright that are very easy in terms of who speaks, and there are others that are more rigid, that are more tentative, and they have to work out who should speak when and to whom. But in terms of a director filtering information or translating to the playwright, I can’t imagine a playwright wanting that. LP | You mentioned briefly the idea of the designer, and I know the O’Neill now brings a designer into the collaboration, and I think they work a week or two, and then they do public presentations, and there is storyboarding and set designs. It seems you also advocate for that. TL | I think the more resources that are brought to bear on what the playwright needs at that moment and what the piece needs at that moment, the better. Designers are great, smart, visual thinkers, and it never hurts to talk to a designer, but maybe drawings are not what you need at that particular time. And maybe other times it’s exactly what you need. We do this five-play developmental retreat at New Dramatists called PlayTime, and there were times in the past where TCG had their design residence programs or director residency programs at the same time, and we were able to bring in somebody to just be here for the two weeks. And the playwrights would go to the person that they needed. So Liz Duffy Adams was working on Or, which is a play set in the Restoration, and was really interested in the costume designer. But someone else moving forward in a play with huge dramaturgical issues to solve didn’t need another voice in the room. In my ideal world, all of us who do development have infinite resources standing at the ready for playwright-director teams to call forth when they need them. And those infinite resources include other writers. They include flexible spaces. They include designers. They include sound and music. And that’s where I feel the developmental process is in its own exploration phase, because I feel like we’ve moved through a 30-year period of new play development, and we’re now in a theatre that is both a little static and marginal and a little exciting and new, and part of the newest newness is coming from different kinds of collaborations and different uses of time. Making theatre over longer periods of time—or over very short periods of time. And I feel like there is energy, this sort of group and collective energy, that is asking everybody to change their collaborative assumptions a little bit. And I think by doing so, work will be invigorated and continue to be invigorated. We assume that new play development happens around a table and that readings happen at music stands. We assume that the principal collaboration is between a director and a playwright, with the actors as sort of the third party. And I think that as the theatre is changing, there’s a kind of group-ness emerging that is wrongly called devised theatre but is really an explosion of different models of collaboration. I feel like we need to open up our assumptions about new play development and playwriting. It doesn’t have to be something that happens at computers, around tables, and then at music stands. And I think that given more time, playwrights will actually do more writing in the room with other people.

LP | As opposed to taking their homework home. TL | As opposed to taking their homework home, or feeling they have to show up with the play and then hear it and go away and fix the play with whatever input they have allowed in, and then come back with the play. It’s more fluid. LP | Sundance, years ago, changed its submission process. It used to be that only playwrights could submit, and then they invited project proposals from directors, and now I believe the submission process is very open. TL | Sundance has been really good at identifying talented people across the categories and at identifying really interesting projects. My feeling about Sundance, which I have great affection and respect for, is that they have really found a way to tap into vitality and talent, regardless of where it comes from. And I’m sitting in a playwright organization, and, yes, it’s always a little bit threatening when suddenly your central artist is no longer the person delivering, especially when it feels like nobody is asking playwrights what they think, anyway, and everybody is asking directors. But the truth is it is a highly collaborative art form; you never know where the excitement is going to come from. For example, they worked on Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation and they also worked on Grey Gardens at Sundance. So Grey Gardens is a really interesting piece with a set of artists who are Sundance-friendly, and Annie’s piece involved this group of actors that became really important to the life of the play. So they were like, “Well, here is vitality in a playwright, here is vitality in a group and a project, we’re not going to make those distinctions, we’re going to go where the excitement is.” I think that’s where the notions of new play development as a segregated or roped-off kind of work have to break down if the new play, or new work, or new theatre development community is going to thrive and keep feeding a thriving theatre. LP | You sound optimistic. TL | I feel really optimistic, actually, and my optimism is coming from having seen things like the Foundry’s production of The Good Person of Szechwan, which is an incredible collaboration between a director (Lear deBessonet), a performer (Taylor Mac), and a producer, and Natasha, Pierre, which is an incredible meeting of a composer/performer (Dave Malloy), director (Rachel Chavkin), and company (Ars Nova), and things like the Debate Society, which is two playwrights working as one (Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen) with a really great director (Oliver Butler). All in the same season that I saw Lucas Hnath’s A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About Walt Disney, and The Flick, which are playwright pieces with really good directors (Sarah Benson and Sam Gold, respectively). There is a lot of energy happening in our theatre, and it’s coming in different forms and shapes. And I think something is cracking open and being unleashed, and I do feel optimistic about that, because I think people for 15 or 20 years have gone outside of institutional models and away from the commercial lure, and now that’s bearing fruit. People are wrongly assuming that it’s just one model of development, but it’s actually a great cacophony of lots of new collaborative models of development.

Todd London was the first recipient of Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) Visionary Leadership Award in 2009. He is beginning his 17th season as Artistic Director of New Dramatists. 2010 saw the publication of his book, Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play (written with Ben Pesner). A former managing editor of American Theatre magazine and the author of The Artistic Home, published by TCG, he has written, edited, and/or contributed to over a dozen books. His new book, An Ideal Theater, an anthology of founding visions for American theatres that Todd collected, edited, and introduced, is due out in August 2013 (TCG). In 2001, he accepted a special Tony® honor on behalf of New Dramatists, and in 2005, he represented New Dramatists at the Obie Awards, where the organization was honored with the Ross Wetzsteon Award for excellence. Todd has taught at Harvard and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently serves on the faculty of Yale School of Drama.

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SARAH BENSON since 2010 | RACHEL CHAVKIN since 2010 | LEAR DEBESSONET since 2007 | SAM GOLD since 2007


SDC FOUNDATION

SDC FOUNDATION’S “MR. ABBOTT” AWARD HONORS

JERRY MITCHELL

! T U O L L FU BY ELANA

MCKELAHAN

“I love theatre when it leaves someone with hope,” explains director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. “Someone can walk into the theatre in the most foul mood, and if you can change a person’s heart by the end of the first act, it’s magic, and if by the end of the show you can have them up cheering and dancing and forgetting about why they came to the theatre in a foul mood in the first place, well, that’s really special.” This desire to create theatrical magic has guided Jerry from his small-town roots in Paw Paw, Michigan, to the flashing lights of Broadway, where he has enjoyed a successful 33-year career. On May 13th, Mitchell was granted the “Mr. Abbott” Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the field. 2013 has proven to be a remarkable year for Mitchell. In addition to the “Mr. Abbott” Award, he has also received a Drama League Award for Distinguished Directing and a Jeffrey Fashion Cares Community Leadership Award for his philanthropic efforts with Broadway Bares, a comedy burlesque show that has raised more than 10 million dollars for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“It’s an honor on so many levels,” says Mitchell. “All I keep thinking about is all of the people who have taught me and guided me to where I am today.” Among them are Jack O’Brien, who presented the “Mr. Abbott” Award to Mitchell on May 13th, and Jerome Robbins, whose willingness to toss out six months of work on his ballet On the Town to start from scratch has inspired Mitchell to make difficult decisions in the rehearsal room when necessary. “Nothing, really, is sacred. You have to be that ruthless with yourself. If something isn’t working, you have to be willing to let it go and try something else. If he can cut a whole ballet in one day, I can certainly change a musical number.” This willingness to be flexible is critical to an artist who prepares as much as Mitchell. “My approach in the rehearsal room is to be over-prepared when I walk into the room and expect nothing,” he explains. “When I start rehearsal on a musical, I live with the story, but more importantly, I live with the music until I can sing the entire score without ever having to look at a piece of paper. I need to absorb the music, the words, and figure out what’s the best way to tell that story. By the time I enter the rehearsal room, those ideas are painted in my head.” Mitchell’s dedication to his craft has earned him Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle JERRY MITCHELL since 1990 | JACK O’BRIEN since 1969 | JEROME ROBBINS d.1998

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Jack O’Brien presenting to Jerry Mitchell OPPOSITE LEFT (top to bottom) Mitchell w/ Joy Abbott | w/ Harvery Fierstein | w/ Cyndi Lauper PREVIOUS TOP

Andre De Shields MIDDLE SDC Executive Board Members + Jerry Mitchell BOTTOM Performance of “Positive” from Legally Blonde PHOTOS Walter McBride RIGHT TOP

“If you can change a person’s heart by the end of the first act,

it’s magic.”

JERRY MITCHELL

Awards, as well as great success for his most recent show, Kinky Boots. In the first month of its Broadway run, Kinky Boots earned 20 award nominations, and it has edged its way into the top five highest-grossing shows on Broadway. With a number of projects in the pipeline and a new production company underway, Mitchell’s career is showing no signs of slowing down. He is, however, reminding himself to bask in his success. “I’m actually enjoying—I’m taking— I’m forcing myself to take a couple of minutes to enjoy what’s happening at Kinky Boots. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that doesn’t happen every day.” The “Mr. Abbott” Award ceremony invited Mitchell to do just that—sit down for a few hours and reflect upon his many successes. “Full Out” was the theme of the night, and it appropriately encapsulated Mitchell’s energetic dedication to his craft. Emceed by Mitchell’s longtime collaborator, Harvey Fierstein, the event opened with a series of enthusiastic introductory speeches and blossomed into a musical revue tribute performance that included highlights from Mitchell’s career. The revue began with a dance from Never Gonna Dance and cycled through modified numbers from The Full Monty, Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, Legally Blonde, and Kinky Boots (with a special introduction by Cyndi Lauper) before ending with an original finale entitled “My Heart Belongs to Jerry.” Jerry’s heart, according to his award acceptance speech, belongs to his fellow theatre practitioners. After dedicating his award to those who have supported his career, he expressed his sense of duty to burgeoning artists: “I do this for those who will come after me,” he said. Indeed, Mitchell has paved a path all the way from Paw Paw, Michigan, to Broadway and beyond, showing just how high a passionate, generous, talented young man can soar.

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ANDRE DE SHIELDS since 1989


FROM THE ARCHIVES

A Breath of Fresh

“ F

or me, what is most attractive about the theatre is that there is one ineradicable thing about it: at the heart of every decent theatre piece is a human being. All theatre depends, in some way, on the scale of a human being—the human body and the human voice. Whatever you do, you can’t dissolve that.” RICHARD EYRE

FROM THE JOURNAL, VOLUME 16 NO. 1 | SPRING/SUMMER 2002

O

n January 30th, between rehearsals for the much-anticipated Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, Richard Eyre took time to sit down with SDCF in an eloquent and insightful One-on-One Conversation. Mr. Eyre was interviewed by his frequent collaborator, Anne Cattaneo, dramaturge of Lincoln Center Theater and creator and head of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Here they discussed the genesis of Mr. Eyre’s work on The Crucible, his years spent leading the Royal National Theatre in London, and work on his latest film, Iris. The following is an excerpted transcript of that wonderful One-on-One Conversation. ANN CATTANEO | Let’s talk a little bit about The Crucible. I know it’s not the first time you’ve directed this play, but it is the first time you’ve directed it in America. Could you talk a little bit about it? Why now? Why here? RICHARD EYRE | I first directed The Crucible, I think, about 30 years ago. Although I grew up in the south of England, I can’t honestly say that, at the time, I was aware at all of the McCarthy hearings. It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I became aware and knowledgeable about American history. So, to me, the play was attractive as a fable first, rather than as a metaphor for a piece of American political history. I’d always felt the play had the power of great stories—great legends, great fables, great moral fables. Part of that has to do with the fact that Arthur Miller coined a language for the play, which is neither contemporary nor a sort of 17thcentury pastiche. It’s a mixture that comes from Arthur’s reading of the King James Bible, of reading Shakespeare, and of studying the transcripts of the Salem witch trials. From those, he’s concocted a theatrical language with fantastic muscularity and color. It is very much its own thing. That, I believe, is what a playwright always has to do, to evolve a language. That’s one of the reasons why it has this power as a fable. The other reason, I think, is that apart from its subject matter—which will never go away because it addresses how a society deals with dissent and how a society becomes repressive when it feels itself to be threatened—the

RICHARD EYRE since 1996

Eyre

play, in some way, is what I would describe as Shakespearean. By that I mean it possesses the rare gift Shakespeare had—which is why he’s such a brilliant model for playwrights—of being able to fuse the private and the public, the individual and the social. The Crucible really does that as well as any 20th-century play I know. AC | What was your second production? RE | Well, I ran a regional theatre in Nottingham, and I did it there simply because I loved the play. Also because you always get good houses for The Crucible and, if you run a theatre, that is a strong consideration for putting on any play. Another factor—and it has to be said that this is one of the reasons why I’m enjoying it so much here—is that The Crucible is a play for a great company. It has at least 12 really great parts, including the obvious three star parts of Proctor, his wife, and the judge, Danforth. The play demands a great company, so, if you have a group of really good actors, the play becomes what every play should be: more than the sum of its parts. AC | I’m curious how you prepared. What was in your mind as you set out to meet a new company? What was that like? And also, how did you undertake to find your way through The Crucible this time around? I’m not talking necessarily about concept, but how did you start thinking about what you wanted to do?

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RE | I was talking early on in rehearsals with some of the actors about this, and one of them said, “I guess you could say that your concept is ‘try not to screw it up.’” [laughter]

AC | That leads me to a question regarding whose work you admire. When you were starting out, whose work in the theatre did you love? And whose work do you admire now?

That’s partly why the theatre is so intoxicating to work in and why you form very strong bonds with the people you work with. Because of that social contract.

So first of all, we started off reading the play and talking about it. Arthur was around for the first three days of rehearsal. With this play, there’s lots of historical baggage to talk about. We talked about what the coordinates of this society are, what they believe in, why they believe in it. I have a lot of excellent research material that I brought back from a visit to Salem earlier in the fall. I brought the transcripts of the trials and a very useful book called Everyday Life in Colonial Massachusetts. Actors want to know, need to ask: “What do I eat? What do I wear? What do I sit on? Did I make this piece of furniture?” The book can help with all those things you need to know in order to say to an actor who’s playing in a 17thcentury play, “I think you do this.” Then, there was Arthur telling stories about the origin of the play and about why he still, to his horror, finds that elements of the play are very much alive.

RE | Hopefully, they’re the same ones then and now. Certainly, Peter Brook is someone I admire because of his King Lear. It was the first I’d seen. I’d never seen or read the play when I saw his King Lear, so I was knocked backwards and sideways and upside-down by that. But also Peter Brook because he talked so well about the theatre. I wrote to him once when I was very young and said, “I want to be a director,” and he very charmingly wrote back, “Why don’t you come by and we’ll talk about it?” This was the 1960s, when things were done with tremendous sparseness, taste, and muscularity—things that really made the plays fantastically expressive with a minimum of resources.

AC | You were an artistic director and you’re now a freelance director. Do you have any reflections about the life of a director?

AC | What did he say? RE | We were actually talking about a number of examples of contemporary witch hunts. Arthur was saying, “There was this guy who was accused of pedophilia, who turned out to be not guilty. But he had been persecuted. That was a kind of witchm hunt in a small Midwest town.” So you see, you start by just talking about the play. It is so precisely written that you have to work through the text. You can improvise to a certain extent, but, essentially, you have to work through, funnel everything through the language. That means being very fastidious about how the language is put together—the choice of words, the choice of punctuation. AC | Which is how you approach it. RE | It is. But I think it’s also important how you play the piece. The Crucible is built with a number of very powerful cadences, rising cadences that lend to detonate climaxes in a combination of physical and verbal energy. If you don’t detonate those climaxes, because the actors are playing their own thing and taking the moment before the line rather than playing the action or thought through the line, then it just doesn’t ignite. But if you can hear it...My current actors are very, very, very good. They can hear it. And immediately they say, “Oh, I see what you mean; I’m taking that moment, because I’m preparing myself to say...” And I said, “Yeah, but just play it through the line, and you’ll find it much, much easier.” That is a combination of utterly pragmatic discovery and a sort of disciplined process that depends on study of the text.

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The playwrights that first struck me were all American. My teenage years were completely dominated by American culture. The first plays I read were Arthur Miller’s and Tennessee Williams’. I thought there was nothing half as vigorous, exciting, or expressive in English writing as these plays. AC | Speaking of writers, I was looking through your book again before this interview, and I saw a quote from you about running a theatre. You said, “Policy is who you work with.” I love that quote. RE | Well, I guess for me, what is most attractive about the theatre is that there is one ineradicable thing about it: at the heart of every decent theatre piece is a human being. All theatre depends, in some way, on the scale of a human being—the human body and the human voice. Whatever you do, you can’t dissolve that. And because of that, you can’t conceptualize theatre. It sort of resists modernists, and it resists abstraction. However hard you try to make theatre abstract, obstinately, at its center, you still have these messy human beings. That’s really why I’m drawn to it. Precisely because you can’t get rid of the people. And so if I say that policy is who you work with, I am referring to those human elements. And part of the job of each director has to be to create a healthy society, albeit one that you’ve assembled. You’ve assembled a group of people who are all contributing to that society, and you have a common aim. Everybody has signed up to that common aim. Voluntarily. They’re agreed that they want to be a part of this group. Going towards an end. Putting on a play. And then what’s so wonderful about it is that the circle is completed by an audience who says, “This society is incredibly healthy. We love it.”

RE | Well, I miss the collective creativity. I miss all the meetings, because they were meetings with my colleagues and friends, the people I’d chosen to work with. I miss the comradeship of that. And it’s difficult as a freelancer because you’re not your own producer. What’s so fantastic about running a theatre is the joy of seeing other people’s work. There ought to be a word for taking pleasure in other people’s joy. That, essentially, is the key to running a theatre, if you’re a director. You’ve got to stand aside and say, “Well, here is a play that I would like to direct, but they’ll do it better.” So you hand it over. And then in some way, it’s more satisfying. So, as a freelancer, you’ve just got to carve out your own work and get in the habit of being your own producer, of not having to listen to half a dozen people who tell you how to make your work better. And no matter what anybody says, no one is that great at just saying, “Yes, thank you very much. Thank you.” [laughter] I know that sometimes it feels as though you are surrounded by enemies who are trying to screw up your beautiful dream, when, in actuality, they’re just people saying, “You know, I could help you.” So, one of the things I try to do—even if it’s difficult because of pride or vanity—is make myself listen to the people who are trying to make my work better. AC | John Guare would always say that he used to get the best notes from the second balcony usher at the Barrymore Theatre. She was always giving him notes. [laughter] Okay, the time has come to open the floor to questions. AUDIENCE MEMBER | Following up on the point you were making about the Iris producers, after you’ve written down all their suggestions, do you actually incorporate them? And how do you decide which notes to incorporate? And if you don’t incorporate them, how do you handle that? RE | I incorporate what I think is right. I had an interesting experience in New York during a test screening of Iris. You know, you hear people say, “Oh, these test screenings are a nightmare.” Well, in some ways, they are a nightmare. Because the movie studio has this questionnaire that they give the audience to fill out, and within five minutes of the film finishing, you’re told that the movie scored 17.5 or whatever. You ask, “Is that good?” And the studio execs say, “Yeah, yeah, it’s great.” It’s no more scientific than people going to a

PETER BROOK since 1959


n theatre, you say to the audience, ‘Look there. That person is talking. That person is the most important figure. I want the audience to look there.’ Whereas in film, very rarely is the person talking the most interesting thing in the scene.”

I

RICHARD EYRE

preview and saying, “What did you think? 17.5? Yeah.” But there it is. Anyway, in New York, after the questionnaires were filled out, they kept back about 20 people from the audience for a talkback session. There was a moderator who was conducting the conversation. Now, the worst moment for any director is when the moderator says to the audience, “I want you to hold up your hands. I’ve got five choices. Was it excellent, very good, good, poor, terrible?” I thought, “Ugh, I can’t look.” [laughter]

Sam Mendes, and Roger Michell, five directors who are not exactly contemporaries—have had successful movies recently. They’re all people who have worked more in the theatre than in films. And that, I think, is because they’re used to working with writers on finding ways of telling stories. And they’re used to working with actors on realizing performances.

But towards the end of this discussion, the 20 people got very free, and nobody had completely destroyed the film. In fact, they were very generous about it. Then someone said, “I’m not sure about the ending.” And somebody else said, “Yeah. I don’t know about the end. I didn’t mind it, but doesn’t the film have three endings?” And the others in the room said, “Yeah. Yeah, it does.” So I went away thinking, “They’re absolutely right.” The film had three endings.

Another difference is that in directing a film and its actual staging, you’ve really just got to rid yourself of the theatrical habit of looking at a scene from only one point of view. I learned something really useful from a very gifted and very instinctive cameraman. I would set up a scene for him that I’d rehearsed, and I’d stand where I thought the most interesting perspective for the camera would be. But he would start walking around the room. Then he’d beckon me and say, “Look from here. It’s much more interesting from here.” And he was right. If you work in the theatre, you’re so used to seeing things from where you sit in the rehearsal studio. You don’t wander around the room and imagine the sightlines.

After that we recut the film. But we didn’t recut it because the audience told us to or because there was someone from Miramax saying, “If you don’t recut the film, we aren’t gonna distribute it.” It was simply that I realized, after hearing it spoken, that the audience was right. Somehow, even with the eight producers, editors, and so on, none of us had observed that. But once we’d seen it, it was perfectly clear. So, you know, I guess you’ve just got to make your judgment in good faith, not because somebody is making you do it.

The other bad habit from theatre, translated to film, is trying to use the choreography to throw emphasis. In theatre, you say to the audience, “Look there. That person is talking. That person is the most important figure. I want the audience to look there.” Whereas in film, very rarely is the person talking the most interesting thing in the scene. Quite often, it’s the person being talked at. Or, sometimes, the dialogue is used behind a piece of action so that the dialogue itself is often not the action of a scene.

AUDIENCE MEMBER | Would you talk for a moment about your personal feelings about directing for theatre as opposed to directing for film?

The temptation with writing for film is to put too much dialogue into the screenplay, because people like a good read, and they tend not to read the stage directions. In cinema, the core of the film lies more in the stage directions—in the descriptions—than in what’s actually being said.

RE | This is a wild generalization, but, in some ways, performances need to be more potent on the big screen. In fact, I would say that the most interesting difference between theatre and film is that almost everything about the theatre is bad training for working in film. You know, the currency of filmmaking is working with actors. I don’t know if it’s entirely a coincidence that quite a few British directors— myself, Nicholas Hytner, Stephen Daldry,

AC | I’ll close with a brief anecdote about you, which, I think, illuminates a little bit into who you are and how you work. A few years back, Richard was talking to our Directors Lab members about his production of Richard III with Ian McKellen, which was, I guess, at BAM during this time. He was telling our group

STEPHEN DALDRY since 1993 | NICHOLAS HYTNER since 1991 | SAM MENDES since 1998

about what he was trying to do with the play, when one of our lab directors said, “My God, that idea you’ve just spoken about…I saw the production and actually saw that idea on the stage. I do productions all the time. My friends do productions. We see each other’s productions, go to bars afterwards, and tell each other our ideas, but we don’t ever see them on stage. How do you get your ideas on the stage?” Which is the ultimate question. And Richard very gamely said, “You sit, as I did on that particular production, with your designer and your actors and you go through the text, moment by moment, line by line, and stage direction by stage direction. At each moment you ask, ‘What does this mean? What does that mean to us?’ And if you answer that question each time, all of your ideas will go on the stage. That’s all I know.” Well, Richard, you clearly know much more than that, as we have all seen. I loved this conversation and hope you will take pleasure in our joy at having you here. We can’t thank you enough. RICHARD EYRE was director of the Royal National Theatre (1988—1997). He has directed many classics and new plays by David Hare, Christopher Hampton, Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett, Trevor Griffiths, Tony Harrison, and Nicholas Wright. He directed Arthur Miller’s The Crucible on Broadway in 2001 and Hedda Gabler in the West End in 2006. He has won five Olivier Awards, four Evening Standard Awards, three Critics Circle Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild. He has directed many award-winning films for TV and four feature films: The Ploughman’s Lunch, the Oscar-nominated Iris (which he co-wrote), Stage Beauty, and the Notes on a Scandal (late 2006 with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett).

To hear the entire interview on podcast, visit SDCF’s Masters of the Stage series at American Theatre Wing. A collaboration with ATW, Masters of the Stage offers free downloadable podcast recordings of SDCF events. Since 2008, more than 250,000 programs have been downloaded. New programs are added twice monthly.  Please visit www.americantheatrewing.org/ sdcfmasters.

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REGIONAL REPORTS | QUARTERLY SNAPSHOTS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY SSD&C: The Early Days BY JAY

SOUTHWEST

Arizona | California | Hawaii | Nevada New Mexico SW | Members = 349 Associates = 91

RICK LOMBARDO, SDC’s Southwest Regional Rep, was curious about the longest-standing Member in his region. JAY BROAD, who has been a Member of SDC since 1963, holds the distinction. Mr. Broad first moved to the Southwest in the 1980s to teach and direct at University of Southern California, and remained bicostal until the past five years, when he finally relinquished his NYC apartment. SDC Journal asked Mr. Broad to write this issue’s Southwest Regional Report and share stories from his early days as an SDC Member.

“Eventually the Society had to recognize its union responsibilities...which led it also to recognize that the American theatre extends far beyond New York.” - JAY BROAD 44

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BROAD

When I first arrived in New York City, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers—the Union’s name up until 2009—had just been organized as a bargaining agent to deal with Broadway producers. (Organizing Off-Broadway would have been thought of as a flight of imagination.) In fact the organizers would not even admit they were forming a union, which is why they named it a society, to further working conditions and artistic aspirations of theatre directors, as someone—Joseph Anthony, I believe—said at a meeting, countering the suggestion that theatre directors could be so crass as to even consider belonging to a labor union. To further blunt the idea that we should be considered a union, a handful of us—newcomers all—were recruited and appointed as a Credo Committee, charged with defining the Society’s artistic aspirations. Our first meeting was chaired by Agnes de Mille, world renowned for having choreographed the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! Despite her reputation as an ironfisted choreographer, she was more your maiden aunt when it came to running a committee meeting. She was eventually supplanted by Aaron Frankel, who had a smaller reputation but was more accomplished at running meetings.

this was the first time any of us had had a casual conversation with more than one other director at a time. Most conversations between directors took place while waiting for an elevator or for a traffic light to change. It was a time of every man for himself, and sharing information about potential jobs was not part of the atmosphere. Someone, I no longer remember who it was, suggested we formalize the idea of getting together for casual conversation by scheduling a few meetings, which we did. Somebody with more influence than me persuaded Sardi’s Restaurant to make available the Belasco Room—a third floor space named after famed producer/director David Belasco, seating upwards of 20 or 30 people, depending upon how it was arranged.

Invitations went out by word-of-mouth and telephone (no email in those days), and, to everyone’s surprise, over 20 people appeared, including Harold Clurman, Ms. de Mille, Joe Anthony, ...we realized that this was and other notables. Seated the first time any of us had around the horseshoe table, had a casual conversation with we made liberal use of the waiters, who carried drinks more than one other director back and forth from the at a time. Most conversations bar downstairs. Lubricated between directors took place conversation became the while waiting for an elevator or key to the success of these meetings.

for a traffic light to change.”

We also met, occasionally, with Erwin Feldman, an aging, renowned labor attorney. He was full of colorful stories of a half-century of encounters between management and workers, and his presence gave the Society a formidable reputation as a potential labor organization, even if we denied that purpose. It was following a meeting in his office that the Credo Committee found its purpose. Six or seven of us decided to go across the street to an automat for coffee. As we sat around a table talking, we realized that

The atmosphere was casual, genial, and unpretentious, and discussions ranged from how to organize schedules and coffee breaks to jitters the night before a first rehearsal. (It happens, we learned, to even the most experienced and celebrated.) Very little talk about philosophy and character interpretation and a lot of talk about the lack of sufficient rehearsal time. One director, Bill Ross, said he already had the epitaph for his tombstone: HERE LIES BILL ROSS DIRECTOR “IF I ONLY HAD ONE MORE WEEK!”

JOSEPH ANTHONY d.1993 | JAY BROAD since 1963 | HAROLD CLURMAN d.1980 | AGNES DE MILLE d.1993 | RICK LOMBARDO since 1989 | WILLIAM ROSS d.1994


These weekly gatherings went on for a number of years and were attended at one time or another by almost every major (and minor) director or choreographer in New York, on and off Broadway. Ben Tarver, Milt Commons, Gene Montanino, Shepard Traube, June Havoc, Bobby Fosse, Gower Champion all come to mind. I don’t know when the last took place, but it’s been some time. My heart still flutters whenever I walk past Sardi’s, remembering the extraordinary conversations that took place there. Eventually the Society had to recognize its union responsibilities by organizing OffBroadway and resident theatre, which led it

also to recognize that the American theatre extends far beyond New York. But it had to start sometime, somewhere. “Places, please!” On Broadway, Jay Broad co-authored and directed Red White and Maddox; directed Goodnight Grandpa, starring Milton Berle; wrote the libretto for Play Me a Country Song (which closed in one night), and co-produced Albert Innaurato’s Gemini (the fourth longestrunning straight play in Broadway history). OffBroadway, he wrote and directed White Pelicans, starring Morgan Freeman and José Ferrer; wrote The Killdeer, produced by Joseph Papp; and

wrote and directed Conflict of Interest. He has also worked extensively with Woodie King’s New Federal Theatre. He was founder and for six years the producing director of Theatre Atlanta, the first major repertory theatre in the South. It was presented for an extended run on Broadway and was profiled on TV’s 60 Minutes for its example of political activism in the theatre. On Long Island, he served five years as Artistic Director of PAF Playhouse, producing over 20 world and national premieres of playwrights such as Mark Medoff, Richard Nelson, and Brian Friel. He has also been a visiting professor at Yale, University of Southern California, University of Washington, Hofstra University, and Arizona State University.

A Matter of Timing: Directing the Flood Effect at Tuacahn Amphitheatre BY TIM

NORTHWEST

Alaska | Colorado | Idaho | Montana Oregon | Utah | Washington | Wyoming NW | Members = 75 Associates = 27

NW Regional Rep and Seattle Children’s Theatre Artisitc Director LINDA HARTZELL joined SDC’s Board in 2009 as the first Board Member with deep roots in children’s theatre. This issue’s Northwest report focuses on using water on stage at Tuacahn Amphitheatre. NW Member Tim Threlfall writes.

THRELFALL

With 1500-foot red rock cliffs as a backdrop and a playing space close to the size of a football field, the stage at Tuacahn Amphitheatre has accommodated vehicles like a World War II vintage troop transport (South Pacific), five classic cars and motorcycles (Grease), and a frontier battle scene with horses, wagons, and a burning fort (Utah!). But since its construction in 1995, the centerpiece of the spectacle at Tuacahn in St. George, Utah, has been a flash flood special effect built into the 23 million dollar, 2000-seat outdoor amphitheatre. Of the 11 shows I have had the privilege of helming at Tuacahn, I’ve employed the flood sequence in six of them. When cued, the flood comes rushing from a Niagara-like waterfall upstage in full view of the audience. It covers nearly the entire stage with about six inches of water and then cascades off the front into a drainage system. It’s nothing short of spectacular and consistently draws both gasps and applause from the audience. Imagine Big River with a literal river! For that production, we left the system running for 45 minutes while a remote-controlled raft with Huck and Jim aboard cruised a mock Mississippi in the middle of the desert. Or Disney’s Aida with a flood at the end of act one—dubbed the “Baptism Ballet” —and Nubians dancing through the water while ceremoniously anointing one another. A fleet of crewmembers armed with squeegees and aided by the air of the desert worked through intermission to dry the surface. My fondest flood moment at Tuacahn was in South Pacific. Admittedly inspired by the iconic scene of lovers entwined on the beach in the film From Here to Eternity, a water ballet was added to “Younger Than Springtime.”

Lieutenant Cable and Liat romped and sang in the water downstage, while eight other cast members climbed the upstage rocks and dove into deep ponds created by the flood system. The scene, complete with palm trees waving in the wind, climaxed with the young lovers lying in an embrace on the stage as floodwaters cascaded around them. It was magical as well as refreshing late at night, when the temperature outdoors still hovered around 90 degrees. The flood is serviced by a reservoir pumped to the stage via an underground system. Timing the flood sequence usually merits a technical rehearsal all its own. Once the sequence has been run, it takes about 30 minutes to refill and restore. Much like shooting a film, everything must be completely ready each time the sequence is rehearsed. Knowing that the roar of the waterfall will command the audience’s attention—and that the flood will take one minute 20 seconds to actually reach the stage—is crucial. Sequencing the flood around music, dialogue, animals, and pyrotechnics is challenging, and the system requires constant finesse with the nearly fivemonth run of shows at Tuacahn. A spectacular water curtain was added in 2011 for The Little Mermaid, and this past year, 3-D projections for Disney’s Aladdin wowed the spectacle-expecting Tuacahn audience. But the more natural special effect of the flood sequence is still the star of the show at one of the nation’s most unique and remarkable outdoor venues. SDC Associate Tim Threlfall is chair of the Music Dance Theatre program at Brigham Young University and staff director at Tuacahn Center for the Arts.

LEFT Brandon

Strawder + Laila Brown in 2006 production of South Pacific PHOTO Tuacahn Amphitheatre

GOWER CHAMPION d.1980 | MILT COMMONS unknown | BOB FOSSE d.1987 | LINDA HARTZELL since 2000 | JUNE HAVOC d. 2010 GENNARO (GENE) MONTANINO unknown | JOHN (BEN) TARVER unknown | TIM THRELFALL Assc. since 2001 | SHEPARD TRAUBE d.1983

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37th Humana Festival of New American Plays SDC Executive Director Laura Penn, Director of Member Services Barbara Wolkoff, and Business Representative Adam Levi attended the Humana Festival Industry Weekend II on April 5-7, 2013, in Louisville, Kentucky. They were excited to connect with so many SDC Members from around the country and experience this wonderful event for the first time. New plays directed by Members included The Delling Shore, directed by Meredith McDonough; Appropriate, directed by Gary Griffin; Gnit, directed by Les Waters; O Guru Guru Guru, or why I don’t want to go to yoga class with you, directed by Lila Neugebauer; and Cry Old Kingdom, directed by Associate Member Tom Dugdale.

CENTRAL

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky Michigan | Minnesota | Missouri | Nebraska North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | South Dakota Texas | Wisconsin C | Members = 207 Associates = 112

AMY MORTON, SDC’s Central Regional Rep since 2007, was elected to the Board in 2004. In this issue, SDC Journal reports on the staff’s visit to the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, KY.

The weekend began with Charting the Course: New Play Directors in Conversation, a panel discussion moderated by Kwame Kwei-Armah and featuring Dugdale, McDonough, Neugebauer, Waters, and Amy Attaway. This panel discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges directors face when staging the first production of a new play, and explored such topics as approaching new plays; directing new plays as a career choice; working directly with playwrights and dramaturges in rehearsal; and freeing directors from the fear of failure that comes with working on new plays. Held in the Bingham Theatre, an arena-style space, this was quite literally a roundtable as Kwei-Armah responded to a tweet asking that the directors and he rotate around the table so that those watching the streaming event—on HowlRound’s #NEWPLAY TV—could see all the panelists. To watch the streamed event, visit http://t.co/Mp1rxJYk8m. Penn, Wolkoff, and Levi also savored the chance to visit with SDC Members attending the festival, including Board Member Christopher Ashley, John C. Eisner, Valentina Fratti, Ed Herendeen, Michael Halberstam, Andrew Leynse, and James Houghton. SDC looks forward to participating in future Humana Festivals with both Members and their collaborators.

Pittsburgh: A Fertile Place BY BOB

MOSS

At the juncture of the Allegheny, the Ohio, and the Monongahela Rivers, sits (according to a recent national poll) America’s Most Livable City—Pittsburgh! In interviews with a number of artistic directors and local artists, the following phrases cropped up in almost every conversation: Pittsburgh is a cultural revelation to first-time visitors. It’s a cool city. There’s affordable housing— half my staff own their homes. The word “community” really means something here. Per capita in the U.S., the arts are the most supported here. There’s a truly collegial atmosphere. We’re incredibly invested in the future with our educational programming. We have a great health care system. We all work at each other’s theatres. Major films are being shot here now. There’s a rich community of local actors, directors, and designers to draw upon. There’s a vibrant cultural life with an opera company, a symphony, the ballet, and so many large and small theatre companies.

NORTHEAST

Connecticut | Maine | Massachusetts New Hampshire | New Jersey | New York State Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | Vermont NE | Members = 322 Associates = 113 (Does not include NYC)

BOB MOSS has been SDC’s Northeast Regional Rep since 2011. For this issue, he writes about the common themes running through the work of artistic directors and local artists working in the Northeast.

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A powerful arts force in Pittsburgh is the Cultural Trust, a group of visionaries who took a seedy, red-light area downtown and transformed it into an arts district. They refurbished some spaces for galleries, and they now present touring shows. The Civic Light Opera is in this district, along with the Pittsburgh Public Theater. Three major foundations interested in the arts are established in Pittsburgh: the Mellon, the Heinz, and the Carnegie. There are three universities with strong theatre arts programs whose professional faculties bring their talents to bear on the scene—and many of their graduates remain in Pittsburgh to begin their professional lives. Ted Pappas, Artistic Director of the flagship Pittsburgh Public Theater, located in the downtown arts district, is able to produce big productions, recent Broadway plays, and international titles. “We’re fully unionized, which is unique in [this] town, but that doesn’t keep us from doing largescale productions with local, national, and international artists.” They recently closed a successful production of 1776. Karla Boos began Quantum Theatre 23 years ago as an incubator for the amazing, utilizing nontraditional, site-specific locations for sensory possibilities. “Our work is ever more outlandish,

CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY since 1988 | TOM DUGDALE Assc. since 2013 | JOHN C. EISNER since 1999 | VALENTINA FRATTI since 2007 MICHAEL HALBERSTAM since 2006 | ED HERENDEEN since 2010 | KWAME KWEI-ARMAH since 2012 | ANDREW LEYNSE since 2010 | MEREDITH MCDONOUGH since 2007 AMY MORTON since 2001 | BOB MOSS since 1982 | LILA NEUGEBAUER since 2012 | TED PAPPAS since 1981 | LES WATERS since 1987


because I hear a different sound.” Their latest work, Dream of Autumn, was performed in an old restaurant. Tracy Brigden, current Artistic Director of City Theatre, says, “We’re dedicated exclusively to new work, to commissions, to second productions, and [producing] nothing [that is] more than three years old.” They recently produced Breath & Imagination, by Daniel Beaty, directed by Darko Tresnjak, in a co-production with Hartford Stage. The stairwell to the second floor performance space features posters of productions from their 38-year history, a tantalizing mix of plays that have become standards and unknown titles that make one’s mouth water. David Whelan, a local actor and director who continues to work in a variety of venues in town, seems to exemplify the scene. On the board of one theatre and an associate artist at another, Whelan, who is well known by all the artistic directors I spoke with, says, “The city is coming more and more alive as more and more artists move here. It’s such a fertile place.”

Longest-standing Member in the Southeast: A Q&A with Arthur Williams

SOUTHEAST

Alabama | Arkansas | Delaware | Florida | Georgia Louisiana | Maryland | Mississippi North Carolina | South Carolina | Tennessee Virginia | Washington, DC | West Virginia SE | Members = 169 Associates = 94

SHARON OTT, SDC’s Southeast Regional Rep who lives and works in Savannah, GA, has represented the SE since 2010. For this issue SDC Journal spoke with Arthur Williams, one of SDC’s longest-standing Members in the Southeast region. Williams’ association with the Union dates back 54 years. Below, he provides a glimpse into his memories of SDC’s beginnings—and reveals how he continues to stay engaged today.

“While it is great to work and live in New York and gratifying to have done so successfully, the economics of doing theatre in the city make one’s choices of projects and productions constrained. There is great theatre going on in the country.” - ARTHUR WILLIAMS

How were you involved in the early days? My active involvement with SSD&C (the old name) was as a founding Member. I acted as Executive Secretary and member/coordinator of the negotiating team with the League of New York Theatres and was on the original Executive Committee—all of which could probably be summed up as “glorified gopher for Shepard Traube.”   You must remember in the beginning the focus was the establishment of an organizational entity for those of us who were working as directors and/or choreographers in the Broadway theatre.  The broadening of the focus to include Off-Broadway, regional, and educational theatre evolved after we secured our existence with the League, and after I attained my doctorate up at Columbia and returned to the academic theatre environment—and before I pursued a career in writing and music.   Does SDC still maintain the original values that it started with? It appears to me that SDC still speaks for the theatrical director and choreographer.  That’s what we aimed for in 1959, and judging by what I know and hear, SDC is doing that, probably to a much greater degree and more successfully than we original Members envisioned. What has been the most interesting part of watching SDC grow over the years? Although I have not been actively involved in the trenches for a long time, I have been immensely proud of the growth, direction, and focus of the Union over the years.  I am particularly pleased when I attend a play and note in the program that the director/ choreographer is a Member of SDC.  Gives me a “Big Daddy” feeling. Does theatre in Florida differ from that in the rest of the country? If so, how? Is there anything that’s universal? Tampa is a great place to do theatre.  If you want a good audience, then come on down.  Road companies who visit Tampa are fun to

TRACY BRIGDEN since 2000 | SHARON OTT since 1980 | DARKO TRESNJAK since 2000 | ARTHUR WILLIAMS since 1959

watch on opening nights.  You can see in the curtain calls that the actors are stunned at the enthusiastic standing ovations they receive.  I recommend having your company play here, although you may have to deal with very inflated performer egos afterward.   In your opinion, can directors and choreographers in other regions of the U.S. experience the same level of success and satisfaction in their careers as directors and choreographers working in New York? Absolutely.  While it is great to work and live in New York and gratifying to have done so successfully, the economics of doing theatre in the city, I think, make one’s choices of projects and productions constrained.  There is great theatre going on in the country. One need look no further than Chicago, for instance, to find examples of infinite possibilities for creative work. Professional theatre does not exist solely in Broadway-type venues; it’s the artists involved that determine the quality of the production.  I’m professionally proud of what I directed in the city, and I am just as professionally proud of many of the productions I directed in other venues around the country.  (And I’ve also had some clunkers in both sites over the years, as have we all.)    How do you continue to stay involved in SDC as a Lifetime Member, 54 years later? By avidly following the doings of the Society as reported in your communications to me and by financially supporting the SDC Foundation, of which I am particularly fond and which I think is a great benefit to the profession.   As a director today, do you do anything differently from what you’ve done in the past? I do what I have always done.  Look for a good script and someone who wants an excellent, talented professional to direct it. Arthur Williams is a Founding Member of SDC and currently lives in Tampa, FL.

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THE SOCIETY PAGES SDC Members + STAFF @ work + play

On June 3rd, Marge Champion was honored with the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award at the 31st Annual Fred and Adele Astaire Awards. SDC Executive Board Officers Oz Scott + Leigh Silverman attended the event along with Board Member Marica Milgrom Dodge + Members Susan Stroman + Jeff Whiting. ABOVE LEFT Marge Champion accepting her award ABOVE RIGHT Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Oz Scott, Grace Pavloff + Leigh Silverman, Scott Taylor, Susan Stroman, Chris Peterson + Jeff Whiting PHOTOS David Dupuy

Tony Nominees Scott Ellis (Best Direction of a Musical) + Bartlett Sher (Best Direction of a Play) + Board Member Marcia Milgrom Dodge with Billy Porter at the June 7th Tony Toast, hosted annually by SDC in New York City

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Tony Award winners Pam MacKinnon (LEFT) for Best Director of a Play + Diane Paulus (RIGHT) for Best Director of a Musical at the 2013 Tony Awards PHOTO

Joe Marzullo

MARGE CHAMPION since 1988 | MARCIA MILGROM DODGE since 1979 | SCOTT ELLIS since 1991 | PAM MACKINNON since 2001 | DIANE PAULUS since 2001 BILLY PORTER since 2007 | OZ SCOTT since 1991 | LEIGH SILVERMAN since 2001 | BARTLETT SHER since 1996 | SUSAN STROMAN since 1987 | JEFF WHITING since 2011


O

n May 9th, SDC Executive Director Laura Penn was honored, along with Jujamcyn Theaters’ Executive Vice President Paul Libin, by Encore Community Service’s Annual Heart to Heart Awards Benefit for her commitment to and awareness of community service.

The mission of Encore Community Services is to provide care and service to the elderly of the Clinton/Times Square/Midtown communities, and to any elderly person who comes to us; to assist those who are vulnerable and frail, poor and homeless, homebound and lonely, frequently desperate, most often ignored; to help them with their daily needs that they might live as independently as possible, with dignity and decency, in a non-institutional manner, in a safe and caring environment. www.encorecommunityservices.org ABOVE LEFT Joseph

Benincasa, Executive Director of The Actors Fund, Elizabeth Hasselt, Encores Executive Director, Sr., Laura Penn + Kathryn Fisher, Project Manager at Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development ABOVE RIGHT Pat White of Theatrical Wardrobe Union, Local 764 + Ms. Penn

Deputy Director of Business Affairs Randy Anderson attended the 2013 TCG Conference in Dallas, Texas. While there, he hosted an SDC Member event at the Mason Bar. TOP LEFT Joseph Haj + Executive Board Member Christopher Ashley BOTTOM LEFT Jasson Minadakis, Jon Tracy + Tom Quaintance RIGHT Andrew Volkoff + Loretta Greco CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY since 1988 | LORETTA GRECO since 1994 | JOSEPH HAJ since 2004 JASSON MINADAKIS since 2008 | TOM QUAINTANCE since 2010 | JON TRACY since 2011 | ANDREW VOLKOFF since 2005

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Kathleen Marshall + Pam MacKinnon participated in the June 13th One-on-One Conversation, part of a series of discussions hosted by SDC Foundation. On June 17th SDC Foundation hosted the Emerging Artists Symposium: Plays featuring a number of directors who discussed topics ranging from directing with technology and multimedia to collaborating with members of the creative team. TOP Symposium

participants discuss the morning sessions during lunch break LEFT TOP TO BOTTOM Tony

Speciale, Shelley Butler + Benjamin Endsley Klein after their session on making the transition from assisting to directing Daniel Sullivan on directing Kathleen Marshall + Pam MacKinnon at the One-on-One event BOTTOM RIGHT Symposium

participants during the final Q&A session at the end of the day

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SHELLEY BUTLER since 2008 | BENJAMIN ENDSLEY KLEIN since 2008 | KATHLEEN MARSHALL since 1994 | TONY SPECIALE since 2012 | DANIEL SULLIVAN since 1971


“Hanging out in the barbershop was akin to sitting around the fire while the tribal elders talk. It was a combination of discussion, storytelling, and a kind of civics education.”

Tony Award-winning LLOYD RICHARDS, a revolutionary director of the 20th century, is known for inspiring truthful portrayals of African American life on stage and for cultivating the talents of playwrights like August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry. He served as the director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut, providing new plays a haven in which to experiment and grow. In 1979 he became the dean of the Yale School of Drama and the artistic director of Yale Repertory Theater, and in 1993 he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, celebrating his history of barrier-breaking theatrical achievement. Richards was President of the SDC Executive Board from 1970—1980. Lloyd Richards with his “Mr. Abbott” Award in 1996 C/O SDCF Archives

PHOTO

1919—2006

c/o Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theatre SUMMER 2013 | SDC JOURNAL


SDC MEMBERS...Jason Hale · Daniel Haley · Douglas S. Hall

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Summer 2013