SDC Journal Fall 2014

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My colleagues teaching and directing in higher education have long been eager to create a directing-focused, peer-reviewed publication venue for directing professors... we are particularly interested in finding ways to deepen the conversations about the craft within the academy, and to strengthen the connection between training and the profession. SDC is also seeking ways to support its Members working in academia... This synergy seemed like a natural moment for collaboration. - Ann M. Shanahan MFA, Associate Professor Theatre, Loyola University Chicago, Former Focus Group Representative, Directing Program, Association for Theatre in Higher Education


Susan H. Schulman PRESIDENT


Leigh Silverman VICE PRESIDENT


Ethan McSweeny TREASURER

COMING SUMMER 2015 NEW PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLES SDC has partnered with leading directors, choreographers, and scholars in higher education to present peer-reviewed articles in SDC Journal. The new section will publish scholarly articles and book reviews on the crafts of stage direction and choreography beginning in the Summer 2015 issue.


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



Ronald H. Shechtman

For more info, see page 51.


ASSOCIATE ARTS PROFESSOR Department of Design for Stage and Film TISCH SCHOOL OF THE ARTS The Department of Design for Stage and Film at New York University, Tisch School

Laura Penn


Julie Arenal Rob Ashford Christopher Ashley Anne Bogart Mark Brokaw Joe Calarco Larry Carpenter Marcia Milgrom Dodge Sheldon Epps Michael John Garcés Christopher Gattelli Liza Gennaro Wendy C. Goldberg Linda Hartzell Dan Knechtges Mark Lamos Paul Lazarus Rick Lombardo Pam MacKinnon Meredith McDonough Tom Moore Robert Moss Sharon Ott Lisa Peterson Lonny Price Seret Scott Bartlett Sher Michael Wilson Chay Yew Evan Yionoulis


Published by SDC | Fall 2014 | Volume 3 | No. 2 INCOMING FEATURES EDITOR



Elizabeth Nelson


Elizabeth Bennett FEATURES EDITOR

Shelley Butler DIRECTOR

John Carrafa DIRECTOR

Olivia Clement


how to apply, please visit: NYU is an equal opportunity employer.



Seret Scott DIRECTOR


an Associate Arts Professor

search and information on

Larissa FastHorse

Dann Fink Douglas Langworthy

2015. For full details on this



of the Arts, is searching to fill faculty line beginning Fall

West Hyler


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 + ADVERTISEMENTS Call 212.391.1070 or visit 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). Purchase online at 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 Sterling Printing



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CONTENTS Volume 3 | No. 2


13 E nvisioning Change, Part II




16 Revealing the World of the Play 16

Lighting designer Don Holder on taking responsibility for what the audience sees + how they see it.



21 Partners of Change A roundtable discussion with 7 artists on greening the process of making theatre.









34 Resident Acting Companies A survey of three theatres on the state of resident companies today.




39 Steve Cosson, The Civilians + Investigative Theatre

Cosson’s thoughts on the ethical challenges of creating work from other people’s stories.







46 SDC FOUNDATION Mentorship, Matchmaking + Advocacy

Introducing New SDCF Director Megan Carter











What I Learned... Kent Thompson CURATED BY SERET SCOTT


Beth McGuire, Dialect Coach COVER Kenny


Leon + Phylicia Rashad PHOTO Josh Lamkin




SAM MENDES Now: In the Wings on a World Stage BY LAURA PAONE




1 Don Holder’s lighting design of South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater PHOTO Joan Marcus 2 Kenny Leon + Phylicia Rashad in Same Time Next Year directed by Chris Coleman at True Colors Theatre Company PHOTO Josh Lamkin 3 Austin Pendleton and Moira Harris in rehearsal for Steppenwolf Theatre’s The Birthday Party PHOTO Joel Moorman TOP OF PAGE Megan ABOVE Beth



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Carter McGuire PHOTO Silvia Saponaro


Why I Cast That Actor

DANN FINK on casting Maureen Silliman in The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival

48 FROM THE ARCHIVES Side by Side Choreographers as Collaborators



Call for Submissions of Scholary Articles + Book Reviews


THE SOCIETY PAGES TCG National Conference

+ Annual Members Only Event ATHE Annual Conference

Choreographers Cocktails

Diversity Task Force

Callaway Award Committee Sundance Institute LUMA Foundation Theatre Directors Retreat CATALYST: Moving Black Theatre Legacy Forward Covenant House Sleep Out: Broadway Edition


Founder Stuart Vaughan


am always learning what it means to be a leader. I’ve led countless rehearsals and techs; I know my role as director. In that sense, I understand leadership well. But as a leader of the Union, as a leader representing a whole Membership of leaders…well, that is something remarkably special and humbling. It’s hard to believe that nearly a year has passed since I became Executive Board President. In that time, SDC has accomplished a number of impressive initiatives. We successfully negotiated a new Off-Broadway agreement in an arena generating over $500,000 in annual fees and royalties. Negotiation Chair Evan Yionoulis was a perfect example of leadership—she was strong, collected, articulate. With the aid of her committee, we achieved all we set out to achieve and more. Coupled with the new Developmental Contract—which recognizes the hard work directors and their fellow collaborators commit to long-term projects—our work in Contract Affairs has already been a resounding success this year, thanks in large part to the excellent leadership and counsel of our dedicated Board and tireless staff. Both the Union and Foundation are consistently buoyed by their committees and the leadership of their chairs. The Callaway Awards Committee is no exception. Sue Lawless has agreed to serve as incoming Chair of the Callaway Committee, following the distinguished leadership of Linda Burson, who led for over 10 years. As part of this transition of leadership, we are restructuring the committee and working to raise the profile of the Callaway Award, which so often presents itself as a precursor to future success. Look to the Winter 2015 Issue to read more about this award and its distinguished recipients.


Our renewed relationship with the Dramatists Guild continues to grow and strengthen, and we have just recently rolled out the new Rights and Responsibilities of Directors and Choreographers, a fantastic achievement for the Member Education Committee and Board, and a valuable piece of legislature for our Members. Chaired by Joe Calarco, the Member Education Committee has embarked on a yearlong campaign to help our Members understand these rights and responsibilities, which outline a number of important working guidelines—from the right to own our work to the responsibility to respect the work of our creative collaborators. This document speaks to the rigor and care with which our Executive Board and its committees approach each initiative. Once again, another fantastic example of leadership. In regard to these responsibilities—and our deepening relationship with writers and the Dramatists Guild—I wanted to share an experience I had recently with a directing student. He was working on his thesis production and had a question about what was published as author-prescribed cast doubling. He had another idea, and though confident in his idea, he knew that he was not allowed to alter the script. I encouraged him to contact the playwright, and after a bit of nudging, he overcame his hesitation and reached out. Through the ensuing conversation, which was extremely collegial, he was given permission to make his change, and received valuable insight into why the author had made the original choices. My student learned a very important lesson, which is the inestimable value of communication. Ask. Find out. Write an email or make a call. There is a great deal of danger in the assumption that we, as directors, know better. We have to remember to always respect the time and energy that writers and lyricists have already devoted to their work. But ask. You may find that the playwright will accommodate your request or determine a better solution with you—and if your request is denied, you will know why. Sometimes the best way to lead is to ask a question. I look forward to the next few years of my term as President, the challenges that we’ll face together, and the goals we’ll reach. This first year as your President has taught me a great deal, and I look forward to sharing my and SDC’s continued growth and development with you. In solidarity,

Susan H. Schulman Executive Board President LINDA BURSON since 1988 | JOE CALARCO since 1998 | SUE LAWLESS since 1977 | SUSAN H. SCHULMAN since 1981 | EVAN YIONOULIS since 1987



com·pa·ny kəmpənē/noun: the fact or condition of being with another or others, especially in a way that provides friendship and enjoyment. “I could do with some company.” In August of 1986, I said goodbye to my friends and colleagues at Arena Stage and set course for Seattle Rep. From the vantage point of the box office, and later Living Stage, I’d had the glorious opportunity to experience some remarkable moments in the American theatre. At the time, Arena’s resident acting company was nearly 30 actors strong, working year-round under what was the NEA Ongoing Ensemble grants. Living Stage was at its peak with its company anchoring a revitalization of the 14th Street corridor. These two acting companies—Arena and Living Stage—lived side by side with many shared values yet completely different structures. Arena’s company, many of whom had been together for decades, worked with Zelda Fichandler as well as with some of this country’s—and indeed, the world’s—most exciting directors of the time. The repertoire included classic, contemporary, and new plays that would become the classics of generations to come. The company’s capacity to delve into Chekhov, Shakespeare, and Ibsen was remarkable. Their passion for the organization, its leadership, and the directors who flowed through the building was palpable. (Although not privy to the inner workings, I am sure the company could be a handful for the younger director who may have found their familiarity and strength rather daunting.) Juxtaposed to that company was the company of actors that formed the Living Stage Theatre Company. Under founder Bob Alexander’s tenacious leadership, this company was a true ensemble whose work required a depth of discipline, a shared process, and a giving over of one’s talents to a vision that was about nothing less than changing the world. One company’s work centered on great text and the other’s was born from improvisation, but in both instances, strong directors led the way.


In Seattle, I would find myself again within a theatre that for much of its existence had a strong resident company. Seattle Rep had been founded by the late Stuart Vaughan with company at its core. Following a visit to Seattle for the World’s Fair in 1962, where he performed his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight, Stuart was recruited by Seattle officials to join in the establishment of Seattle Rep. When I arrived in 1986, Seattle Rep’s Artistic Director Dan Sullivan was experimenting with ways to make a company work again for the theatre and its community. A tight collective was formed that propelled the theatre forward. From touring to co-writing with Dan, it was a time of artistic expansion for the Rep. Meanwhile, A.C.T., the Guthrie, and many others were creating opportunities for artists to live and create in a company environment. Shortly after we launched SDC Journal, Stuart wrote to share some ideas for future topics for the magazine. Resident acting companies as they exist today (or don’t) remained a passion of his. He said that a resident acting company allows a director to develop a distinctive style that enriches the work. He shared a concern that many of our leaders share: our audiences are distracted and disconnected from life beyond their smart phones. He said, “To counter all this, we must concentrate our efforts on what the theatre uniquely offers—people coming together in a space, sharing great words and ideas, participating communally in an imaginary world where universal human conflicts are fought out bloodlessly by live surrogates (the actors), pitting arguments and ideas against each other in powerful worlds.”


R. Hamilton Wright (center) with Marianne Owen + William Biff McGuire (behind Wright) in Inspecting Carol at Seattle Rep PHOTO Chris Bennion

With this issue of SDC Journal, I find that, whether it be in Doug Langworthy’s piece on resident acting companies or in the interview with Kenny Leon and Phylicia Rashad, the benefit of long-term relationships between and among collaborators contributes immeasurably to the creative lives of our Members, the success of their careers, and the experiences they offer their audiences. Certainly the ensemble Steve Cosson and his collaborators have created at The Civilians is one clear example of a company of performers and artists thriving today. I find what Sam Mendes created and orchestrated with Kevin Spacey to be equally remarkable with company at its core. And while neither “resident” nor “company,” it is clear that the long-term collaborations that exist between directors such as Bartlett Sher and Susan Stroman with the likes of lighting designer Don Holder, for example, allow directors and choreographers to reach higher. And so our Members find themselves in all kinds of company as they practice their craft. As the fall season begins, I hope that everyone will experience good company.

Laura Penn Executive Director



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STEVEN COSSON since 2000 | ZELDA FICHANDLER since 1987 KENNY LEON since 1988 | SAM MENDES since 1998 PHYLICIA RASHAD since 2012 | BARTLETT SHER since 1996 SUSAN STROMAN since 1987 | DANIEL SULLIVAN since 1971 STUART VAUGHAN d.2014 | R. HAMILTON WRIGHT since 2008


IN YOUR WORDS What I Learned... Our Members in Print Why I Cast That Actor

8 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 Include your full name, city + state. We regret that we are unable to respond to every letter.


learned about “theatre” from my father, a renowned preacher who wrote, memorized, and performed his own sermons three to four times a week. I learned about writing, editing, and giving specific, thoughtful, and sometimes hard notes from my mother, a published biographer and my father’s editor. It took me several years—through high school, college, and acting school in London—to realize that my role model was my mother (the writer, the editor, the story-shaper) and not my father (the actor). I had just arrived in England for a three-year course in acting when I was thunderstruck by Clifford Williams’s revival of Wild Oats by John O’Keefe, starring Alan Howard (and also featuring a young Jeremy Irons). It was an astonishing evening of theatre— hilarious, moving, sharply told, brilliantly acted and designed—and dazzlingly directed. I went back several times to figure out how Williams had crafted, put together, conceived, and breathed such life into this 18th-century play, which would become a West End hit for the RSC. My move from director to artistic director came naturally—my parents had instilled in me a sense of purpose and service. The theatre was more than my artistry; how could I advance it? How could I make the world better? And I had grown weary of freelance directing, traveling, losing relationships, etc. I had good luck (we all need our share in this business), but I also sought out directors that I admired the most and offered to assist. My lifelong passion at the time was Shakespeare and the classics. Michael Langham taught me most of what I know about Shakespeare—table work, verse as action, character, structure, staging as well as the need for specific “actable” direction. Because his interest in theatre began during his four-and-a-half years as a POW in WWII, Michael was driven, haunted, obsessive, brilliant, compelling, and often ruthless in his notes to actors. Mark Lamos pushed me to move beyond the traditional storytelling of text, plot, and character that Michael had taught me. He freed my directorial imagination and taught me how to engage the artistry of my collaborators to create a totally new vision of each play. Mark’s advice was cogent, wise, and perceptive about directing and artistic direction. Having had Michael Langham as his own mentor, Mark brought full circle my conceptual work, my practice of directing, and leading a company. But the people who truly helped me create a life in the regional theatre are the hundreds of playwrights, directors, actors, designers, artisans, trustees, and managers with whom I have had the privilege to work.


Kent Thompson (right) directs Mike Hartman + Michael Santo in a reading of Benediction PHOTO John Moore

KENT THOMPSON is entering his 10th season as Producing Artistic Director of the Theatre Company at the Denver Center Theatre for the Performing Arts. Two of Kent’s signature accomplishments in Denver have been the creation of the Colorado New Play Summit, quickly becoming a premier national festival for new American plays, and the establishment of the Women’s Voices Fund, endowing the commissioning and development of new plays by women at the Denver Center. The Theatre Company has produced 26 world premieres during his tenure. For 16 years, he served as Producing Artistic Director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), where he created the Southern Writers’ Project, a new play-commissioning and development program that presented 16 world premieres in Alabama during his tenure. In addition to an active career as a director, he served for eight years on the Board of Directors for Theatre Communications Group, also serving as its president for three years.

MARK LAMOS since 1986 | MICHAEL LANGHAM d.2011 | SERET SCOTT since 1989 | KENT THOMPSON since 1988 | CLIFFORD WILLIAMS d.2005





Now: In the Wings on a World Stage


Joan Marcus




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20 actors. 200 performances. One company. These are three of the most prominent elements in Now: In the Wings on a World Stage, the new documentary following actor Kevin Spacey, director Sam Mendes, and their joint collaboration, the Bridge Project Company, on their intercontinental journey to perform Richard III and to transform the way people around the world view Shakespeare. From rehearsals and performances to design meetings and company outings in exotic locales, the documentary, directed by Jeremy Whelehan, highlights all aspects of the 12-city world tour. The film features Mendes, Spacey (who plays the eponymous king of England), and the company as they embark on their journey, beginning at the Old Vic Theatre in London and concluding at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Locations of performances of Richard III vary from the lavish Esplanade Theatre in Singapore to the Ancient Theatre at Epidaurus in Greece. 2009 marked the first installment of the Bridge Project Company. Before Richard III, the company collaborated on four other productions, starting with Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in 2009, and following it up with As You Like It and The Tempest in 2010, all directed by Mendes. The company was developed through a partnership with Mendes, Spacey, and Joseph V. Melillo, the Executive Producer of BAM, with the goal of bridging the gap between American and British actors. Because Actors’ Equity Association rules state only a certain number of British actors can perform in productions in the United States and vice versa, Mendes and Spacey aimed to combine the two worlds in a long-lasting endeavor. “We were determined to create a stronger bridge between the culture in London and in New York on a more permanent basis,” said Spacey in a 2008 interview with the New York Times after the formation of the Bridge Project. The duo, who previously collaborated on the 1999 film American Beauty, also set out to dispel the myth that British actors are more adept at performing Shakespeare. “I don’t want London to feel it’s getting something from America, or America to feel it’s getting something from London,” Mendes said in the same New York Times interview. “I want to take those labels off entirely.” Although one might assume the actors in the Bridge Project are all Shakespeare veterans, that is not necessarily the case. “Everybody comes from different schools of thought, different training, different experience,” Spacey says in the film. “Some have done a lot of Shakespeare; some haven’t done a lot of Shakespeare.” Because the company, which includes American actors Maureen Anderman, Nathan Darrow, and Jeremy Bobb, and British actors Gemma Jones, Annabel Scholey, and Haydn Gwynne, involves actors from both sides of the

SAM MENDES since 1998

Atlantic Ocean, Mendes chose not to focus on accents when casting. While some critics might argue this detracts from the theatrical experience, Mendes asserts the opposite. “It’s important that the agenda is set not about how people talk,” he told the New York Times. “Theatre is not film; it’s a poetic world. If it weren’t, everyone in Cherry Orchard should be using a Russian accent.” In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Mendes emphasized the importance of company: “When you have a cast of 20, this means you have 20 other imaginations in the room with you. Use them.” Now: In the Wings on a World Stage is Spacey’s self-produced documentary, crafted with the ultimate goal of spreading theatre to all parts of the globe. Spacey’s desire to self-produce the film also stems from his observations of the recent developments in digital media. The entertainment industry is “opening up with these new streaming series, and young people are being discovered producing their own things,” Spacey said in an interview with Backstage. “That’s one of the reasons I decided ultimately to selfproduce and self-release the documentary— because I believe in it, I believe the industry often undervalues things like this, and I’d like to see how much of a crossover there might be.” Even the title of the film, the first word of which stems from the opening line of Richard III, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” is part of Spacey’s mission to spread theatre to those not accustomed to it. The word “Now” is significant; it “evoked to me what theatre is. Theatre is now; it’s at this moment,” said Spacey in an interview on “Charlie Rose: The Week.” “The thing I always try to say to people who don’t understand or get theatre or why it means so much to us is that if you wanted to compare the difference between film and theatre to me the big difference is no matter how good an actor might be in a film, they’ll never be any better. But in the theatre, I can be better tomorrow night than I was tonight. I can be better in two weeks.” Theatre’s sense of immediacy cultivated Spacey’s desire to self-produce the film and broaden the manner in which Shakespeare is viewed from a global perspective. A feat like that of the Bridge Project has never before been achieved. “Everyone in the company was having a really new experience,” Spacey told Backstage. “Nobody had done what we did and no one had gone to the cities we went to. And a transatlantic company had never been done before.” In the documentary, Spacey sums up the global goal of the Bridge Project: “What Sam and I wanted to do so much is simply saying that it doesn’t matter where you’re from and it doesn’t matter how you sound. You can make Shakespeare come alive.”




DANN FINK On casting Maureen Silliman in The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival at the New York International Fringe Festival

In 1996, back in my acting days, I was fortunate enough to be cast as Marvin in Ted Pappas’ phenomenal take on Falsettos at the Pittsburgh Public. But meeting and working with Ted wasn’t the only treasure I discovered in that exquisite company. I had the amazing good fortune to be introduced to and play opposite Maureen Silliman as Trina. I had never crossed paths with Maureen, but instantly felt like I had known her my entire life, and Ted beautifully allowed our chemistry to become an anchor point for the arc of the show. Night after night, her Trina was my True North, strong but vulnerable, powerful but frail, and filled with a humanity that utterly mesmerized me. I would stare into her eyes every show and wonder, “How is she doing this?” Happily, lightning struck a second time, and immediately following that production, Larry Carpenter cast us both in his vibrant reimagining of Company at the Huntington Theater. I was soon again amazed as I watched her, alongside Bill Parry, sculpt a Jenny that made you howl with laughter as she got high, then break your heart just enough when you saw her undeniable glint of love for Bobby. And every night, I stood in the wings in awe and watched that David and Jenny scene soar. Years later, in 2010, now on the other side of the table, a script arrived via Jonathan Warman: a gripping, direct-address testimonial play about the lives of New Orleans locals who were stuck in the city through the days leading up to and during Hurricane Katrina. Titled The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival, I had no idea what I was about to read, but early on, a character named Judy appears—a woman with two ferrets and few survival skills who chose to stay so she could be with her father, who was in frail health. The only character description was “sweet-tempered, laughs easily.” In Judy’s first five lines, you find out that she’s eccentric, caring, lovable, and she finds out her father had just passed away. Four-and-a-half pages in, the play comes to a complete halt as she steadies herself through the silent moment when she learns of his death. The playwright gives the stage direction that she almost cries...then silence. I read that and, without thought, the image of Maureen holding the stage crystallized in my mind instantly. I would need an actress who immediately upon meeting her would make you laugh, who you’d want to take care of, and who could hold that silent moment in such a powerful way as to break your heart, but not break the momentum of the storytelling—and all with only five lines to introduce her. I called the playwright and said, “I’ll do this if Maureen Silliman, someone you’ve never met or likely ever seen, plays Judy,” and perhaps because of my passion, description, or the wants of the Gods of Theatre, he agreed. I called Maureen, thinking she’d jump for joy about an offer—no audition! But she resolutely declined because she felt it was only “right” that she audition, and if we all felt she was the right actress afterward, then she’d come on board. Cindi Rush was our casting director and I told her about it all, and we decided to bring in the best actresses in town and give Maureen a run for her money. I’ll admit I was incredibly moved and enchanted by many of the actresses Cindi brought in, and we narrowed down to three phenomenal choices, all who were inspiring, and I began worrying.


Dixie Sheridan

After final callbacks, we laid out the lineup of candidates, and I stepped aside to let our playwright, my trusted stage manager, Christina Lowe, and Cindi make the first move as their thoughts were invaluable. Cindi counseled brilliantly so we were all on the same page, and we had that enviable/unenviable moment of realizing that anyone we chose would be fantastic. Everyone stared. No one moved. Minutes passed in silence until I stepped up and said, “Okay, I’ll start,” moving her picture to the middle of the empty table. “Maureen is Judy.” Like an avalanche of relief, everyone sighed and laughed and applauded, saying some form of “Oh, thank God!”



And with that, the first domino was in place, and all that is Maureen then dictated how we went with every other role, until we had the extraordinary gifts of Lizan Mitchell, Philip Hoffman, Evander Duck, and Gary Cowling surrounding her. And from the need for a single character built on frailty and vulnerability and silence, we built an ensemble of unbelievable power and grace. And every rehearsal, every discussion of biography or timeline, Maureen infused Judy with new colors, strengths, and frailties. And every performance, with only five short lines to get them on her side, Maureen made the audience stop breathing, and every night as their hearts broke and they watched and wept in complete silence as Judy’s heart quietly broke...I watched and my heart quietly soared. LARRY CARPENTER since 1981 | DANN FINK since 2012 | TED PAPPAS since 1981 | JONATHAN WARMAN since 2012

Beth McGuire PHOTOS Silvia Saponaro


BETH McGUIRE How did you get your start as a dialect coach? What made you interested in that particular aspect of theatre? I started acting when I was nine years old, and I knew it was for me. I began acting professionally when I was 22. I had a pretty active acting career until I hit 40; I wasn’t old enough or young enough. I found more work as a coach and teacher. As I taught or coached, I learned more, and my visceral, imaginative, and soulful understanding of what I was doing deepened. And then one of my wonderful mentors, Shane Ann Younts, who is the head of voice at NYU, recommended me to build a voice and speech program for the School for Film and Television here in NYC. At the same time I was working there, somebody recommended me to Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU, where they asked me to teach dialects. Over time, I grew. I got less prescriptive, more descriptive. At the same time, I took Catherine Fitzmaurice’s vocal training and met some terrific people, Dudley Knight and Phil Thompson—amazing people in terms of the speech world—and they opened up more opportunities for me. What skills are necessary to be a successful dialect coach? First and foremost, you must be able to really listen to the person you’re working with; listen on a visceral level. Then, you need a real curiosity for how sounds spoken in different ways shift point of view. You need an understanding of what’s going on with the tongue inside the mouth. Is it high in the back? Is it low in the back? Is it coming forward? Is it more bunched? Also, visually: what’s going on with the face? Is there what we call a “vocal posture” going on? Are the lip corners coming forward? Is the upper lip more active than the lower lip? You have to have a clear sense of melody and rhythm. Most important is what I call the “source” and “path of resonance” and its relationship to how the phonemes shift for a dialect. In other words, how the articulation of jaw, lips, and tongue (especially the tongue), soft palate, and pharynx shift and help shape the way resonance gets focused in the head, chest, and throat. You need to learn your International Phonetic Alphabet; understand how to use diacritics. Then you need to be able to impart that to someone else without all the science. It is important to have primary samples. Documentary samples and personal interviews are best.

MICHAEL BLOOM since 1986 | LAURA KEPLEY since 2008

One of the things that is so important when you’re doing accent work is to do text work at the same time, or else there’s a disconnect. You need to find what the character is after, and what the operative words are in the text. A term I use that I borrowed from Catherine Fitzmaurice is “telegram.” In telegrams, words cost money. I say, “Each word is $10. Which ones are the essential words, and which ones are the modifiers?” The actors have to distill to the story. If the actor can find the telegram of a complicated dialectical passage or Shakespeare passage, he or she can clearly tell the story. What do you enjoy most about your job? I love working with the director. Collaborating with the director is always so great because they’ve worked through the text. But the most fun is working with the actor and watching them transform. I just get so excited when I watch someone own a dialect. I love helping actors connect, not with something outside themselves, but with something inside, and have it be transformational in relation to whatever role they’re playing. I love it when you don’t hear the accent; you see and experience the story, and the accent becomes part of the texture of the character. Some actors are less skilled in this type of



transformation. I help them feel confident in what they’re skilled at, and sort of customize their transformation in that particular way. That part of coaching is fascinating because every actor has a different craft. How do you balance teaching at Yale with your private coaching practice and working on other New York-based productions? A lot of skill. What I value about Yale is that they support us in our professional careers. I live in Manhattan. I teach on consecutive days in New Haven: I spend the night and then I come back. I try to keep my private coaching to one day a week. Because I really wanted to work with Emily Mann, I commuted to Princeton at the same time I was going to New Haven, which just about drove me mad, but I really loved the play The Convert. I wanted to work on the production because a) the playwright, Danai Gurira, requested me to work on it, and I think she is an important playwright. I feel she always has something unique to say and her characters are quite rich…b) I had never worked with Emily Mann and she is someone you want to work with. I think she is brilliant, humble, and a terrific theatre artist and human being…c) I very much like working with African accents. There is very little written information on them, so it requires a lot of creativity, research, and industry. I also enjoy the music and relationship to language that many African languages (and therefore the accents of those languages) have. Also, they just make me feel good. What is the most common challenge people face when learning an accent, and how do you help them overcome these challenges?

JAMES BUNDY since 1996 WARREN CARLYLE since 2000 JULIETTE CARRILLO since 2005 ELIZABETH DIAMOND since 1989 SAM GOLD since 2007 MARK LAMOS since 1986 EMILY MANN since 1980 LIESL TOMMY since 2008 EVAN YIONOULIS since 1987



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Actors often want to imitate their accent sound sample, which makes them begin to play the character of whomever they are imitating—rather than integrating the dialect with how the character they are exploring may speak and then finding that idiolect (idiolect being the specific way each person speaks). If an actor is having challenges personalizing the accent, that can be tough. I’ve gotten very good at creating crazy sentences— incorporating words from the text that have challenging sound shifts for the individual actor, which might also make sense for the character to say. I suggest they speak these practice sentences in character, and then they start getting comfortable with the transformational aspect of the accent, rather than simply being mimetic. When working on a production, what is your relationship with the director like? Can you describe your collaboration? If I’m totally transparent, it works. I’m not “the dialect lady.” I am the person who is going to collaborate with the director, offer possibilities, and listen to the ideas the director is interested in. There are many schools of directors. Some love to have a dialogue. Some don’t. There’s a handful of directors who are great at collaborating: Liesl Tommy, Evan Yionoulis, Sam Gold, Warren Carlyle. Emily Mann is terrific in terms of that. James Bundy, Liz Diamond, Juliette Carrillo. I’ve been lucky. I did a show with Mark Lamos years ago, an all-Latino-male Taming of the Shrew, and he

wanted a whole menagerie of Latino accents. It was so fluid and fun. I did have to work on intelligibility quite a bit for that production and also ask, “Do we want to pull at that rhythm a little more for this or that character?” This was, of course, because of the collision of the accent with Shakespeare’s poetry and rhythms. I tend to be collaborative; I tend to check in with the director quite frequently to see how things are going. What advice can you offer to SDC directors? Encourage us to come to the first design meeting and encourage us to offer a design. I feel really strongly about the fact that vocal and dialect work is a design element. It’s not just a coaching element. Yes, people need to be coached into it, but it’s a design element in a production. It is the same as when someone goes in for a costume fitting. The costume designers have their vision, but they collaborate with the actors. There’s a gentle give and take and play. The most successful

productions I’ve worked on are ones where I’m invited into the first designers’ meeting. When they ask where I want to be listed in the program, I say, “With the designers.” Because I am one. In collaboration with the actors, playwright, and director, I help in designing the way the vocal palate of the play will sound. You are currently writing a book. How is that process going? Very challenging and very exciting. The book has two parts; it has an audio component of interviews and a visual component of the actual accent breakdowns. I’m taking apart 11 accents from Africa. The taking apart is of a lot of things: melody, rhythm, pace, actual dynamic changes, and phonemes. Because I’m trying to reach a wide audience of actors, and not just actors like my Yale School of Drama students, who are highly trained in phonetics and transcription, I have actually constructed the book so you can follow along with sound symbols as well as the International Phonetic Alphabet. I’ve divided it up for the people who just want to go, “What do I gotta do?” and then there’s 15 pages of deep space for the people who use it in the classroom to train their students on how to do accents, or actors who want to go into deeper space. Is there anything else you want readers to know about your work? I encourage everybody, when they’re looking for accents, to please not go directly to YouTube. Look for politicians. Look for the names of musicians and dancers. Look for documentaries. You have to take into account status and socioeconomics and gender and the complexity of gender now. Race, relationship to race. That’s going to give you specificity in transformation of character and serve the playwright. I would love to see more people doing this with American dialects. People get afraid of American dialects, because they think it’s going to pull them away from the text, and we’re going to hear the dialects. When dialects are done well, it opens. It opens the world of the play or film. You don’t listen to the dialect. You get into that world. Beth McGuire has been a professional dialect and vocal coach for 25 years. On Broadway, she coached A Streetcar Named Desire and CHAPLIN. She has coached Off-Broadway for The Roundabout Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, The Working Theater, and The Public Theater. Regionally, she has worked with Yale Repertory Theatre, The McCarter Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Hartford Stage, and The Cape Playhouse. Ms. McGuire is an assistant professor of acting at Yale School of Drama. She makes her home in New York City, where she coaches privately and professionally. She has been an actress for over 35 years and is a member of EQUITY and SAG/AFTRA.

ENVISIONING CHANGE PART II Formed in April 2014, SDC’s Diversity Task Force was established to determine SDC’s position on issues related to diversity and the ways these issues specifically affect SDC and its Membership. This group of 13 directors and choreographers has been charged with determining ways in which to create meaningful change within SDC’s sphere of influence—no small task. SDC Journal asked West Coast writer and choreographer Larissa FastHorse to observe a series of the task force’s meetings and report on her observations. Following the introduction printed in the Summer 2014 Issue, FastHorse reports on the second meeting, the task force’s goals, and the challenges ahead.

SDC’s Diversity Task Force: Forming the Plan BY LARISSA


The second meeting of the newly formed SDC Diversity Task Force was held in July with participants gathered in Los Angeles, New York, and on phones around the country. I was invited to sit in with the group at Cornerstone Theater Company’s offices—the theatre graciously lent its space to us—to report on the progress over the next couple of meetings. As a new member of the Theatre Communication Group Board of Director’s Diversity Committee, I am thrilled that SDC is allowing me access to its process. “The task force has committed to keeping our Membership, Executive Board, and greater field aware of what we are doing while we are doing it. Our co-chairs Seret Scott and Michael John Garcés want to be transparent and let everyone see our struggles and thinking, and thought processes as we go through them,” said SDC Executive Director Laura Penn. For this meeting, the task force adopted three pillars to guide the agenda and vet ideas going forward: connectivity, communication, and jobs. It seems that the adoption of these pillars works well to keep the group focused on what it can achieve and what it should achieve as a Union that must walk a fine line between being accountable to its Membership while holding some of its Members accountable for change. The task force also put emphasis on recognizing the positive steps toward diversity that many of their Members are already taking. In a moment that touched all three pillars, Seema Sueko shared a transformative journey she took after the SDC Los Angeles Diversity Panel and how she worked within her position as Associate Artistic Director at Pasadena Playhouse to make change happen. See the sidebar for her story and the actions she took.


Connectivity is the area where the most action has already been taken. Michael John Garcés represented the SDC Task Force on a panel at the Theatre Communications Group National Convention in June. He was able to connect with TCG, LORT, USITT, Equity, and The Broadway League as they all spoke on their various diversity efforts. Although SDC is early in the Diversity Task Force formation, Garcés feels that by keeping the focus clearly within the context of the Union, the group is positioned well to coalesce intentions into direct action and produce change quickly. Lisa Portes attended the panel and was inspired to see SDC as part of the discussion with so many organizations: “There is a wave we are riding across the board and the time for action is now.” Garcés also stressed that the panel attendees were firm that they will no longer accept intentions from the participating organizations and will hold them accountable for changes in diversity. As such, I can see the delicate position this particular task force is in. When calls are made to diversify the “current leadership,” they are often talking about SDC Members. The task force, comprising a mix of artistic directors, freelance directors, and choreographers, expressed sensitivity to its role as a Union that serves and protects the entire Membership. It hopes to utilize its unique position to build bridges that connect all of its Membership with the various diversity efforts in the field. It is an interesting challenge for the task force. Staff reported on behalf of Joe Haj, who was unable to attend the meeting. Joe shared that he is looking forward to the LORT Diversity Task Force’s work with optimism, sharing that

MICHEAL JOHN GARCÉS since 2001 | JOSEPH HAJ since 2004 | LISA PORTES since 1999 | SERET SCOTT since 1989 | SEEMA SUEKO since 2014



LORT’s conversations have been deep and meaningful. LORT’s efforts are underway and he believes that if LORT is successful in achieving its stated goals, the result will bring meaningful changes. Everyone agreed that there are certain ways in which SDC can work collaboratively with LORT. Chay Yew is working with the SDC Foundation to hold the second Diversity Panel in Chicago at Victory Gardens. In the same way the Los Angeles panel included theatres from across Southern California, the Chicago panel is looking to connect as many attendees as possible. In addition, SDC continues to explore ways in which SDC and other Broadway unions and guilds can work with The Broadway League’s diversity initiative.


The task force reviewed mission statements from many organizations and diversity initiatives. To encourage action and accountability, the group created a “commitment statement.” There was a feeling that it is too easy to simply talk about what is right and good and that the Union needed to challenge itself to articulate what it is actually willing to commit to. The statement could then serve as a living document that can be updated as achievements are met and new goals recognized. The interesting part of this discussion to me was figuring out where this commitment statement will live within SDC. Other organizations keep diversity as a separate committee, add diversity leadership (parallel to their current structure), or fold diversity into each part of the organization. The task force decided that the best path to succeed in its goals is to implement its diversity initiatives into the current pillars of the Union as a whole without creating a separate track. Those pillars, as articulated in the Union’s mission statement, express that, “SDC Unites, Empowers, and Protects.” I know that process has been a long, ongoing initiative at TCG, so once the goals of the SDC Task Force are clearly defined in its commitment statement, I look forward to seeing how the organization and Board integrate them. One of the ways the group has chosen to broaden its communication and prevent repeating efforts undertaken by other organizations is to respond positively to a request from TCG Circle to republish SDC Journal articles about diversity online. Also, in the spirit of further increasing communication, Seret Scott initiated a plan to send SDC representatives to various meetings of ethnic-specific theatres in the coming year to encourage connection to SDC and find out how SDC can be of service to those artists of color.


The task force is quite aware that although it wants to diversify access to jobs, those efforts have to fall within the Union’s goal of protecting and creating jobs for its Membership at large. While mentorship of young artists is important, the task force feels strongly that its first priority should be to create access to increased employment for SDC Members who are currently underrepresented. Several ideas were discussed and further investigation was decided on. Partnerships with The Broadway League, LORT, and other organizations will be pursued to help the current Membership make direct connections with each other and opportunities in the field. I think the task force’s focus on impacting Membership employment rather than mentorship makes sense for a Union that must answer directly to a professional Membership. Other organizations are in a better position to focus on the next generation and are pursuing mentorship and training as their central diversity efforts. Garcés summarized the importance of the task force’s work: “Ultimately we are a Union about employment. It is essential that jobs are at the forefront of what we are talking about. We are creating access to jobs to make a healthier field by diversifying it. SDC is uniquely positioned to do those things and create actual change.” There are many challenges the SDC Task Force faces within and outside of its organization, and I look forward to following how this group of action-based personalities moves its plans forward in the months to come.



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Daniel Ezralow with USA assistants Yasmine Lee, Michael Pena + Tyler Gilstrap



In December 2013, during the panel on diversity in Southern California hosted by the SDC Foundation at The Pasadena Playhouse, Regan Linton, a Los Angeles-based actor, had just introduced herself as an audience member preparing to ask a question. “Where are you? Could you stand up, please?” “No. I can’t stand up, actually. Sorry.” Unlike the audience members who asked questions before her, Linton was in a wheelchair, due to a T-4 complete spinal cord injury from a car accident that had occurred when she was in college. “But that’s a perfect segue into the question I had.” During the discussion that evening among artistic leaders of major theatres in Southern California, Linton said that only one person had mentioned disabilities and was wondering how diverse expression of physical ability plays into the conversation. The question was much appreciated by the panelists, several of whom admitted to their shortcomings in both casting and selection of plays, stressing the need to be more conscious and make more inclusive choices in the future. For one of the panelists, Seema Sueko, it was a call to action. “I was very disappointed in myself in that moment,” Sueko says. “I recognized a failure on my own part. And then I began trying to be mindful and intentional about how I can create more opportunities for actors who are wheelchair users.” Having just begun her new role as the Associate Artistic Director of Pasadena Playhouse, Sueko recognized that she could make an immediate impact. Part of Sueko’s duties at The Playhouse include overseeing the HOTHOUSE New Play Development Program, which “provides playwrights and audience with a living lab where new scripts are rehearsed, read aloud, revised, rehearsed, and read again.” Upon Sueko’s arrival, Pasadena Playhouse announced a new direction for the HOTHOUSE series. The stated goal was to align this programming with its commitment to diversity by giving voice to historically underrepresented playwrights including women, playwrights of color, and playwrights with disabilities. Ultimately, while searching for plays written by women, Sueko found a play call An Accident by Lydia Stryk, which is a fictionalized version of an experience in Stryk’s own life when she was hit by a driver while bicycling in Berlin, leaving her temporarily paralyzed. Over the course of the play, the character moves from almost total paralysis through various subtle stages of recovery. The play premiered at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 2010 and has also been performed in Canada, but it has always been cast with non-disabled actors, due to the character regaining her ability to walk, as that was Stryk’s experience. Having participated in the SDCF diversity panel around the time she came across An Accident, Sueko thought about what might happen if the role were cast with a wheelchair user. Given the nature of the play, it would require some changes to the script. Therefore, Sueko reached out to Stryk to see if she would be

CHAY YEW since 2002

Actors Greg Watanabe + Regan Linton with playwright Lydia Stryk + director Seema Sueko exploring the stage direction “She hurls herself off the bed onto Anton... He catches her, shocked” in An Accident PHOTO Daniel Trostler

open to this casting choice, recognizing that it would likely entail changes to the script. Stryk replied, “What a powerful idea regarding an actor with a spinal cord injury, wow. I’m more than open to it,” and agreed to have the show featured in the HOTHOUSE series with Sueko directing. Furthermore, Sueko reached out to Regan Linton to ask her to participate in the workshop, to which Regan enthusiastically agreed. Following the first day of rehearsal, Sueko reports that this casting choice and its impact on the script opened up her work as an artist. “One of the most powerful things I learned was something Regan shared, that when we think of physical trauma, we often think of the outcomes as being either death or walking, and that ‘recovery’ means walking. But working with a wheelchair actor provides a whole new vocabulary for what ‘recovery’ means. Artistically, it’s really freeing to discover the opportunities this has provided the story.”

Stryk added, “As I suspected, the changes to the script have been predominantly physical in nature, very few lines have changed. But the sum total, I hope, opens the play up to include a group of artists who were previously excluded.” Reflecting back to the diversity panel, Linton says, “It would have been so easy for a theatre like The Pasadena Playhouse to get defensive, and explain away the underrepresentation of actors with diverse abilities with any number of excuses—lack of funding, lack of qualified actors, lack of plays. But instead, Seema realized an area of deficit and actively took steps to eradicate it. I know I’m just one person, but I think this play—and casting an actor like me in it—is a huge step—er, roll—toward illustrating how inclusion is completely feasible. It can make for a transformative night of theatre.”







During my time as features editor for SDC Journal, directors and choreographers have queried me about a wide range of stories they’d like to explore. The topic of the collaboration between directors and lighting designers is one of these oft-addressed subjects—with particular attention to finding common language when entering new collaborations. While I’ve had the great fortune to work with many gifted lighting designers, I have also encountered difficult moments in tech, often with a designer whose work was brand-new to me, and wondered what I might have done to better anticipate that challenge in advance. In pursuit of possible answers, I sat down with celebrated lighting designer Don Holder—a two-time Tony Award winner with a legion of Broadway, opera, and dance credits, but also a master teacher, to talk about the varied language of lighting design.



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SHELLEY BUTLER | A director said to me this year that he knows what he likes in a lighting design when he sees it, but he doesn’t have any idea how to get there. I would love to explore communication between lighting designers and directors. Where do both parties meet in understanding the world of a play? DON HOLDER | Well, first of all, I have to go back to a basic definition of what I think a lighting designer does. And to quote my mentor, Jennifer Tipton, a lighting designer reveals the world of the play and we are responsible for what the audience sees and how they see it. So I think that lighting design, beyond the obvious functions, is responsible for perception; it’s the lens through which everything is perceived. It’s crucial that the lighting designer understands, more than anything, intention. What is the intention of the director and your other collaborators? What is the overall point of view? What is the story being told? I think a lighting designer who’s been hired for a professional production should have the requisite technique and technical skills already under control. The best directors I work with, don’t necessarily talk a lot about the lighting; we talk about why are we doing the piece—what is the play about? What are we trying to say with this production? What is the overall frame in which this production lives? A

question that I often ask myself is: where is the light coming from, and why is it there? Now, sometimes it’s clear. I mean, if it’s a naturalistic or realistic moment, then those answers should be very easy to come up with. But if it’s a more abstract environment or nonlinear script and space, the question’s a little bit more difficult to answer. It’s important that every show, no matter how abstract should be created with some kind of inner logic. There should be some kind of conceptual through line for a piece. It all has to have meaning. SHELLEY | You’re one of the preeminent lighting designers, and you also taught at the School of Theatre at the California Institute of the Arts, and have a lot of experience working with emerging artists as well. Among your student directors, have you observed that many of the major missteps for inexperienced directors working with lighting designers revolve around not articulating their point of view and the story being told? DON | I think so. Somehow lighting designers are considered differently by less experienced directors. Perhaps they think that we require some sort of technical moment-by-moment feedback or description or walkthrough of what the lighting should be. It would be the equivalent if you were in a rehearsal hall and SHELLEY BUTLER since 2008

you said to an actor, “Okay, on this line I want you to cross here, and on this line I want you to do this, and this is the line reading I want for this moment.” That person will probably shut down. I’ve certainly been in situations, for example, where a director wants to go through the show page by page and beat by beat, literally put the light cues in the book and discuss what every light cue does. As a lighting designer, so much of the job is reacting to what you’re seeing and feeling in the moment. I tell my students [that] being a lighting designer is often like being a jazz musician, because the process can be quite improvisational. Now, improvisation doesn’t mean it’s arbitrary; a jazz musician follows a specific chord progression and creates something from that. So there are parameters within which you must work to create whatever it is. A lighting designer works in similar ways. You come into the process with an understanding of intention, of what you want to do, scene by scene, or moment by moment, and then you start creating. And I find that less experienced student directors feel like they have to be either very specific with their thoughts or they’re hesitant to say anything at all. And I think if they talked to a lighting designer like they might talk to an actor—for example: this is my objective for this scene or this moment—that would be more valuable for a lighting designer than perhaps anything else a director could say. SHELLEY | Certainly, I think most directors know this intuitively or have been trained to work this way, but what if you enter into a process with that approach, but when you reach tech, you find that it hasn’t been successful? DON | So then how do you do it? SHELLEY | Right. What are the next steps? DON | I think every scene has to begin with a bold gesture or some strong statement of visual vocabulary. The important thing is to first establish the look of a scene. For example, this scene might be revealed in broad daylight, with the sun coming from stage left, or this scene is revealed at the bottom of the ocean. And so you create the opening gesture, which is a big visual statement, and then you carve everything out of that. If you start working on a scene with your lighting designer and you don’t see that gesture, you don’t see a big idea that’s driving everything else, then I think you need to stop and discuss your objective for the scene. I’ve found that the farther you let things go, the more difficult it is going to be to dig yourself out of the hole you’ve created.


The Lion King on UK Zebra Tour in 2012 PHOTO Brinkhoff-Mogenburg BOTTOM

Movin’ Out at Richard Rodgers Theatre, NYC in 2002 PHOTO Jeanne Koenig



I think it’s a tricky balance because during the first day or two of the tech process, the lighting designer is trying to manipulate the lighting rig for the first time, he’s trying to figure out what works best, how the light reacts to the space, and he may be dealing with several unexpected technical issues. Lighting designers feel incredibly vulnerable during the tech; we’re under a lot of stress because unlike anybody else, we do our work while everybody’s sitting there watching us, and waiting. As a lighting designer, it’s important to understand that every choice you make affects perception, affects the success or failure of everybody else’s work. It’s a huge responsibility and you have to be sensitive to this fact. When I worked on Bullets Over Broadway, some of the color choices I made early in tech didn’t make William Ivey Long particularly happy. He talked to me about his concerns and the result was that I never used those colors again. Of course he was right, and it’s great to have collaborators who are confident and comfortable enough to say what they feel. The lighting designer has to understand that a request to change or to re-examine an idea should not be interpreted as passing judgment on his or her ability as an artist. Your collaborator is just saying, look, we’re not on the right track in this scene and we need to re-think our approach. In addition to all the other responsibilities that I’ve mentioned, a principal objective for the lighting designer is to create a threedimensional living environment, or a ‘living light’ onstage. And three-dimensional is the key. You consider the space as a series of layers and the actors are like sculpture; if you study still lifes and the work of great photographers and great painters, you’ll see that objects are rarely revealed in a flat, sort of monochromatic, uninteresting way. There’s always a sense of highlight and shadow and three dimensions. That’s how I feel light should be used in the theatre. Unless of course you’re trying to make a very specific statement that might require the opposite approach. For example: you as the director could say: “I imagine a completely blank, fluorescent-lit room with no highlight and no shadow: an oppressive, unrelenting landscape.” If that’s the objective, then obviously a three-dimensional environment is not important. But if it isn’t your objective, but that’s what you’re seeing onstage, you clearly have a communication problem that needs to be addressed. SHELLEY | With regard to control and giving attention to choices, how do you feel about research, pre-visualization, and computergenerated images? DON | Well, I think visual research is different than pre-visualization. Visual research is really useful if you’re trying to articulate a particular



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idea, if there’s a particular photographer or painter that you want to be influential in the choices that you’re making. When I worked on the August Wilson cycle for example, Romare Bearden was always an artist that we referenced. His work was very organic to August’s vision. Bearden was somebody who August was very familiar with and who he often suggested that we look to for inspiration. There are times when you’re trying to articulate an approach, like what does Southern Gothic mean in Big Fish—and what does that mean in terms of light? What does “impressionistic” mean to you? All these “isms,”—realism, naturalism, expressionism, cubism, dadaism— what do they mean in terms of the light? If you’re able to bring in something that says “This is what I mean”; see how the blocks of color or the strong angular light or the quality of the light in the painting or the photograph somehow metaphorically or visually connect with what you intend. That is helpful. SHELLEY | Did you do that on Big Fish? DON | I looked at some photographs by Walker Evans. His work definitely inspired some of the choices I made. But you know, that show was more about fantasy than it was about reality. Using pre-visualization in the lighting world means that you can literally create a virtual model of the scenery, show the beams of light, and actually render the lighting moment by moment or scene by scene. It sounds great in concept, but to be honest, I don’t use a lot of this technology in the work that I typically do. SHELLEY | Do you find it less effective in rendering the production in a practical sense? DON | Pre-visualization is a digital simulation or digital facsimile of reality. A lighting designer’s work is created in response to what he or she is seeing and feeling in the moment. The work and what we create is entwined and completely related to the emotional temperature and rhthym of a scene, the music of the language, and the way people move. And that’s really hard to pre-visualize. Now I do think there’s a place for it; for example, in Footloose, the overture featured a spectacular moving light show (created by Ken Billington) that included electrics flying in and out, lots of complex movement and many color changes, all timed to a pre-recorded ‘click track.’ I heard that the entire sequence was programmed weeks before the tech rehearsals using pre-visualization, and that completely made sense to me. When you’re dealing with a fixed idea, when there are no actors or live, spontaneous performance inolved and the music and tempos will remain consistent from show to show, then pre-visualization makes

sense because it saves a lot of precious time in the theatre. SHELLEY | Sure, you can see what is in front of you and sign off on the sequence in advance. DON | Yes. And you know, when I worked on Smash, we often lit entire production numbers from beginning to end in great detail without anybody on stage because there was no time to do it in any other way. But that wasn’t really pre-visualization; more like an elaborate and very detailed dry-tech. SHELLEY | In real time, it makes sense. With that idea of artistic vision and expectations, it’s sometimes the case that directors are paired with a designer whose work they haven’t seen. I think it’s a given that lighting designers have wildly different aesthetics—it might be a preference for saturated color or bright, bold color. If I look at how Howell Binkley lights, with cross focusing, it looks entirely different from another designer. If you’re not familiar with the style of a particular designer’s work, is there a part of the pre-production process where a director and a designer can get on the same page in how they are both approaching the project? DON | That’s an interesting question. I think that people have their techniques, and there’s not a lot you can do to change that once you get connected with a particular designer for a particular production. I mean, the only thing you can do is be clear about what you want. Hopefully they’re sensitive to the ultimate goal. The way I was trained and the way I taught was, to quote Jennifer again, there are no rules. The rules are established for each production. There’s no rule of thumb and there’s no specific way of doing anything. I think lighting designers should be like a chameleon and adapt their style to suit the needs of the production or the vision of that particular director. Now, that being said, I think lighting designers, in the age we’re living in, are often cast like actors. I believe that certain designers are hired because there is a perception that they are better at certain things. I assume that people have an opinion about what my strengths and weaknesses are, but I enjoy being stretched creatively and working outside of my wheelhouse, so to speak. I just designed a production of Faust with Bart Sher in BadenBaden, Germany, and it was a very different experience than what I usually encounter and a kind of work that I don’t typically do. I found the process to be very exciting and fulfilling because I felt free to spread my wings creatively, branch out and do something different.

BARTLETT SHER since 1996

SHELLEY | I think directors would love to have the same open consideration, to defy categorization and not be defined by a certain kind of theatre, necessarily. DON | Let’s be honest, when you’re directing a show and you know it’s a certain kind of play, of course you think about certain actors for specific roles, but it’s possible you may also think about certain designers in the same way. It makes sense that a director would gravitate toward a designer with specific strengths to tackle a particular project. I think it’s less likey that one would ask: “Well, who are the good costume designers? I’ll just pick one of them, see who’s available.” That’s not the way it works. SHELLEY | Such an approach might yield some striking variations in how we seek out collaborations and the resulting work. Speaking of the nature of these partnerships, what do you think about the role of the director in terms of set and lighting interaction? What is the acceptable level of involvement from a director when finding solutions to specific trouble spots with the design? DON | Yes, that’s tricky. One of the catchphrases of my graduate school education was: “There are no problems, just solutions.” I think that’s the attitude that you have to embrace as a lighting designer. As a collaborator, you have to try your best to find a creative way to light every space, especially one that is very challenging and tricky to deal with. But you also have a responsibility as a lighting designer to make sure the director and the set designer understand how their design choices will influence your approach to lighting the show. For example, if there’s a ceiling and 35-foot walls and no way to get any light into the space except from the fourth wall, this is going to impose a particular quality to the light and therefore the scene will be perceived in a particular way. And if the director and the set designer say, “Yes, that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” no problem. But if that’s not the intention, then you should begin the conversation about what aspects of the design need to be re-examined. The absolutely incorrect way to respond to difficult design challenges would be to state emphatically that “There’s no way I can light the show with this set design”. You have to say, okay, this is where the light can come from, so these are the implications, both conceptual and technical. And it may be fine, but then again it may not. I can go back to The Lion King, for an example. One of set designer Richard Hudson’s early ideas was to reveal the musical within a massive white surround, featuring tall white panels, with holes cut in strategic locations for light to shoot through. We had been meeting for months about the show and talking in JULIE TAYMOR since 1996

detail about what the world of the play should be. Having worked with Julie Taymor, I knew that side light, or layers of light which create a great sense of depth would be quite important for her vision for the piece. So my response to the white box was: “It’s very elegant and beautiful, but we have to consider that any time you turn on a sidelight from stage left, for example, the entire wall stage right will be fully illuminated.” Julie hadn’t really considered all the implications for this kind of approach, so a completely different scenic idea evolved as a result of this conversation. Richard created an open space, framed by self-illuminated masking legs that were intended to look like a continuation of the Lion King sky. These cyclorama-light legs are just one of several innovative visual gestures that remain part of the show’s unique identity almost 17 years later. So I would suggest that the director invite the lighting designer into the process as early as possible. Not only to add his or her particular perspective to what is developing designwise, but because on Broadway in particular, overhead space (or real estate, as we call it) is quite limited and every inch really needs to be accounted for. It’s important that the lighting designer has the opportunity to advocate for the necessary territory and lighting positions to get the show lit. SHELLEY | As you mentioned, because you do have to plan ahead as early in your process as possible, who is usually proposing your practicals? DON | From my experience, the set designer usually identifies the practicals and where they’re located. Santo Loquasto and John Lee Beatty are two guys who love practicals. Because they know that they add sparkle and contrast to any room. I usually let the set designer make the intial decisions, but if the subject of practicals does not come up in the early design conversations and I think there’s a legitimate need, I’ll usually say something. Because considering practicals leads us back to that essential question: where is the light coming from and why is it there? By bringing up this subject, you’re encouraging a larger conceptual conversation: Does the light need to feel motivated by real and visible sources, or is motivated or ‘real’ light not important at all? SHELLEY | And so, as we both know, there are usually a plethora of questions to be asked to make the most of communication among the creative team. When you are teaching your design students, do you engage with the idea of speaking to the director about how staging affects the lighting? DON | Yes, absolutely. If you’re doing a show with a lot of low sidelight for example, you ask the director to stagger the actors so they’re

not blocking each other’s light. Or a lot of really good actors are aware of this and they just make the adjustment themselves. Or if an actor is spending an entire scene up against a wall and looking a bit dark, then I’d ask the director to consider pushing him downstage a little bit into the light. Now, with an accomplished director like Bart Sher, if somebody’s been staged to lean against a wall and the light is clearly not good, he’ll typically ask: “What can I do? Where should I move the actor to get better light?” It’s his way of saying, “We’ve got to do something about this moment. Tell me what the problem is and we can work together to fix it.” SHELLEY | With the designer keeping up with the director, and vice versa, how does this play into the sheer evolution of theatre technology? How familiar do you feel directors should be with these rapidly accelerating changes? DON | I’ve heard that there are some directors who are really up on the technology and others who have no concept of it. Without question, a clear understanding of what the lighting designer’s process is now, in 2014, would be really helpful. Most shows use moving lights. And they take more time to program because after you put the fixture where you want it to be and select all its parameters, you then have to create commands that allow the light to transition smoothly from one task to the next. So you’re not just determining what a moving light does in the moment, you’re also figuring out how you’re going to get it into position for its next task. One moving light might have 200 jobs in a typical show, and there may be dozens or hundreds of fixtures that must be programmed in this way. All of this requires time and patience, but the end results are certainly worth the effort. With automated lighting technology, the designer can create work that is infintely more fluid and detailed. And you know, the expectations for what lighting can contribute today in terms of telling the story and creating a complete visual landscape are vastly different than when I started working in the business in 1987. It’s like a completely different world. The technological advances have given us greater flexibility and adaptability; you can accommodate almost any last-minute change that could possibly be thrown at you. At 1 p.m. on a typical day during the preview period for a Broadway musical, an ASM or Assistant Director will hand you new script pages, which might include a new musical number, completely new staging, shuffling the order of scenes, etc. You’re often presented with monumentally complex revisions on very short notice, and they all have to be addressed before 5 p.m., when the tech tables are cleared for the evening performance.



And there’s no time to get ladders out to move or refocus lights. Almost everything must be accomplished from the tech table—automated lighting allows you to do this. So I think it’s important that the director understands that moving lights are absolutely essential in many situations. They can help the lighting designer manage the most complex of circumstances, but the time it takes to program them can slow the process down. The slower pace of tech requires patience, but everyone should understand that the payoff will be more than worth it. SHELLEY | Are there any other ways that the advances in lighting technology can impact your work of which a director should be aware? DON | Well, the push for a greener world, and a greener, more energy-efficient theatre is fantastic and long overdue. In stage lighting, the explosion of low energy and highly efficient LED technology has been at the forefront of this ‘green’ approach. I think LEDs can be incredibly exciting and useful, but they can also be very destructive in terms of perception and the kind of work you’re trying to create. LEDs look quite artificial; they can produce an unattractive and unhealthy-looking pallor on human skin if not used correctly. And although they’re energy efficient and you can mix many, many different colors, there’s something about LEDs—because they are solid-state lighting—that can elicit an unintended subliminal response. I think LED technology, although incredibly exciting and useful, should be considered carefully like any other tool in the designer’s arsenal. If you see an array of electric and vivid background colors from an LED source in a production of a Chekhov play, for example, you might say: “It’s fantastic that we can produce all these colors, but what do they mean in the context of this play?” LED or solid state lighting is not a poetic, subtle, lyrical source of light, and it certainly doesn’t feel natural or like it’s wrought by nature. SHELLEY | Even with technical considerations, it all returns to intention. And you’re making decisions about what’s in the package before you get into tech, right? DON | Yes, what’s in the rental package, or if you’re working at a regional theatre what’s available in their fixed inventory, it’s how you use what you have. We’re living in exciting times in the field of lighting design, with new tools being introduced almost every day that offer more options, more capability, more flexibility. But I think it’s important to remember that you should never lose sight of intention when making technical or creative



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decisions. All the technology in the world means nothing without a great idea behind it. SHELLEY | Exactly, and a director’s awareness of how those different kinds of light function can inform the creation of that idea. Has a director ever asked to see your lighting plot? DON | Yes, Robert Woodruff asked, and James Lapine. Maybe I was a bit offended in my youth, but when I think about it now I totally get it. They didn’t know me or my work particularly well. So of course they wanted to have some idea about what I was doing. I think, in retrospect, showing the light plot wasn’t the important thing to James and Robert: they were creating an opportunity for me talk through what I saw—and the light plot was the catalyst to have this conversation. By discussing each choice I had made, literally lamp by lamp they gained a greater understanding of my objectives, and I learned a great deal more about theirs. I recently lit a production of an Arthur Miller play in a regional theatre where the director asked me to step through my design channel by channel. We sat down before tech rehearsals and I showed him each and every lighting idea. I was surprised by the request, but certainly not offended. Every director has their own process for creating work, and it’s the lighting designer’s job to respect and support it. But let’s be clear: I don’t recommend this approach. I mean, I think if the director starts saying, “Okay, bring up channel 617 at 50—“ SHELLEY | Right, if the director interjects with, “Here’s my magic sheet and I want to bring up channel 57—” DON | I would strongly advise against that. But I think that the more you know about the technology and the process, the better you’re going to be able to collaborate and have a more detailed conversation. So I think it’s important to understand what moving lights can do. Color temperature is a very important concept. In other words, the color of the white light varies depending on the source. LED lighting has a different color temperature than tungsten lighting. You’re not threatening the designer’s process and you’re not micromanaging by reviewing a light plot or stepping through a show channel by channel. It’s just that the more you know about the technology, you can get to the point faster instead of beating around the bush. I welcome and appreciate somebody who’s really direct and really honest and to the point. And understanding the technology and how it works and how it affects the work. The more you know, the better the conversations are going to be.

SHELLEY | An informed conversation leads to a productive collaboration. Along with those words of wisdom, do you have any additional advice to impart to directors working with lighting designers? DON | I think the important thing for me is what I said very early on: what’s most important for us to understand is intention and the objectives and the director’s vision because that drives all the other decisions that we make. If you don’t like something, just say it. That’s the thing I appreciate about a director like Julie Taymor: she’s refreshingly candid and not shy about expressing how she feels. If she doesn’t like something or if I’m veering off in the wrong direction, she’ll make it known immediately. You’ll have a response from her in the first 15 seconds of the process, and I personally appreciate the feedback: I understand how Julie makes theatre and how she likes to collaborate: we’ve been working together for 20 years. SHELLEY | It’s about establishing trust. DON | You know, my early conversations with Bart Sher about South Pacific were focused on the intentions of the original creators, what was important to him about the piece and how he was going approach it conceptually. It was our first collaboration, but we spoke very little about the lighting. The most important thing he told me in those first meetings were the two simple words: “Surprise me.” DONALD HOLDER has worked extensively in theatre, opera, dance, and architectural and television lighting for over 25 years. He has designed more than 40 Broadway productions and been nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning the Tony for Best Lighting Design for The Lion King and the 2008 revival of South Pacific. Broadway productions include SpiderMan: Turn Off The Dark, You Can’t Take It With You, Bullets Over Broadway, The Bridges of Madison County, The King and I (2015), Golden Boy, Ragtime (2009 revival), and Movin’ Out. Recent Off-Broadway: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (TFANA, directed by Julie Taymor), Blood and Gifts (LCT). He has worked at many of the nation’s resident theatres including Center Stage, Arena Stage, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse, Huntington Theatre Company, Denver Center, Cincinnati Playhouse, and South Coast Repertory. His television work includes the theatrical lighting for seasons one and two of NBC’s Smash. Mr. Holder was head of the lighting design program at the California Institute of the Arts from 2006-2010, and he is a graduate of the University of Maine and the Yale School of Drama.

JAMES LAPINE since 1988 | ROBERT WOODRUFF since 1986

partners of change INTRO BY LAURA

Leadership, encouragement, and awareness are three of the most important ways director/ choreographer John Carrafa feels directors can successfully spread environmentalism in the theatre. As the leader of a production, the director establishes the mindset that sustainable practices are part of every rehearsal, not something to be feared by members of the cast and creative team. “The director can create an environment where it’s okay for people to talk about it, where it’s not an unsavory topic,” says Carrafa. As the SDC liaison to the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), Carrafa notes that by addressing sustainability at the first rehearsal, the director makes green practices a priority for the entire production. There are processes through which directors and choreographers can make a production environmentally friendly, such as “rehearsing in work light, instead of rehearsing in full production stage light,” says Carrafa. Directors and choreographers can take simple steps to reduce the energy of the theatre, ultimately taking the entire production a step in the green direction. Carrafa also believes in the power of the Green Captain initiative, the system started by the BGA that appoints a member of the production to lead the team in sustainable practices. “The Green Captain empowers somebody in the cast to be in charge [of the production’s green policies]. Every Green Captain receives a packet from the BGA outlining sustainable practices for the rehearsal period through the run of the show, everything from everyone having their own water bottle to recycling corks. And casts often bond around this cause. Every cast finds a new way to be green,” says Carrafa. There is also a public nature to sustainable practices. “One of the most important things is for productions to be very public about their sustainable practices,” says Carrafa. “We in the entertainment industry are very visible to the public. What we do can have an effect on the general culture.” On Tuesday, July 29th, Carrafa gathered six members of the theatre community for a panel to discuss the ways directors and choreographers, both New York-based and regionally, can adopt green practices. The panelists—including director Jeremy Pickard, set designer Donyale Werle, lighting designer James Bedell, costume designer Andrea Lauer, set fabricator Bob Usdin, and Vice President of Building Operations at Jujamcyn Theaters Jennifer Hershey—presented their individual green approaches for directors and choreographers across the country. Together the panelists noted that while small steps toward a green production should not be overlooked, the key to sustainability is a transformation of consciousness. “It’s about an attitude change,” says Carrafa. “A small amount of attention can raise awareness of green practices in every aspect of life.” LEFT TO RIGHT




JOHN CARRAFA | Before we talk about anything green, talk about yourself, what your work is. JEREMY PICKARD | I captain an eco-theatre company called Superhero Clubhouse. I run a few different initiatives under the auspices of this company, and all my work lies at the intersection of environmentalism and performance. For me, making eco-theatre is holistic; everything—content, process, and production—is rooted in difficult environmental questions. JOHN | That’s amazing, Jeremy. I’m going to go after Jeremy. I’m a director and choreographer. I work on Broadway, Off-, and regionally. I’m doing a show at the Roundabout right now. What’s interesting is that I have not yet done any work that has environmental issues as its subject matter—I think like most of the Membership—but come at this from it being an issue that matters deeply to me. JENNIFER HERSHEY | I’m Vice President, Building Operations, at Jujamcyn Theaters. We own a chain of five Broadway theatres. For the theatregoers, we make the theatre-going experience as beautiful, safe, and special as possible. For the theatremakers, we try to make them happy by adapting our theatres to fit their needs. DONYALE WERLE | I’m a set designer. I work 100 percent in theatre. Sustainability is a huge focus of what I do, although it’s usually not

Bob Usdin, John Carrafa, Donyale Werle, Jennifer Hershey + James Bedell

JOHN CARRAFA since 1994



Grease costumes designed by Andrea Lauer at the Muny PHOTO Allen Weeks PHOTO Phil Hamer

something I talk about with the production; it is just how I work. JAMES BEDELL | I’m a lighting designer. I grew up doing Off-Off- and Off-Broadway shows. I did a lot of industrial work, some television. I still do a fair amount of industrial work, but the bulk of my work is in architectural lighting, everything from healthcare spaces to retail environments. BOB USDIN | I’m a set fabricator. I own a company called Showman Fabricators that’s been in business for 28 years. Broadway, television, and live events are our strongest markets. We get involved in all types of fabrication, engineering, metal work, wood work, plastics, laminates, scenic artist work, the full spectrum of different fabrication for every type of event. ANDREA LAUER | I’m a costume designer, stylist, but I work in a lot of different mediums: theatre, I do some film, I do some commercial work. I actually work a lot in science. Sustainability is part of my job in that I think it’s natural for a costume designer to always look for things that have already been used and put it into a show. JOHN | Thank you. The reason I wanted to get you all together is so directors could gain a better understanding of what is already being done by designers and rock stars like Jeremy in terms of sustainability and green practices. We want to make them aware of sustainable practices and what that means. First let’s talk about what you guys have done yourselves and then make suggestions of what you think directors can do to help you and be involved themselves. ANDREA | As a costume designer, I will try to



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recycle anything I can get my hands on: used fabrics, clothing, trims, etc. It is a reimagining of things that already exist. I think it’s really important to be able to look at something and see the potential of a future as opposed to seeing a remnant of the past. I designed a ballet with the Ballet Company of the Trey McIntyre Project. I actually used costumes that I had already designed five years prior, and I did it out of necessity of budgets, but also time. I ended up making an entirely new piece. The piece had nothing to do with the original reason and concept of why the costumes were created. In the new work, I reinvented the garments by repainting and adding new materials for a layering effect. This is a case where something sat in the storage for five years, and now has a new life touring around the country. JOHN | What was the change? Were they tights and leotards? ANDREA | No, they were hand-painted body suits that seemed incredibly specific to a dancer’s body. I thought, “How can those be reused when they are made for a specific body type?” I decided to focus on them as a shape and a color, and used it as a base to add to, as opposed to being fixated on “size.” There was a big bin of scraps from when they were made. I went back through and added all the scraps that I had saved to create a new landscape. I designed West Side Story last year at the Muny. I wanted to do a version of West Side Story that felt really authentic to the period. I wanted the colors to be more subtle and for it to be almost a film version. The Muny held on to it, and then this year I was asked to do Grease. I asked the director, “How would you feel if we did a really realistic version of this?” Meaning our pink lady jackets are

actually 1950 pink, not hot pink and shiny. Can we get people in things that have a lot of pattern, but the color is more subtle and realistic as opposed to having that really bright musical theatre palette? We had all of these things I designed from West Side Story and I knew it was in the stock. I used an entire show over again, but on different people and in with different pairings. The result was an entirely new show that served the story equally well as the last time the clothes were on stage. JOHN | Both of these cases—Grease and the Trey McIntyre piece—it didn’t add an expense. It was cheaper, right? ANDREA | Yeah, I saved quite a bit of money on both pieces. JOHN | Great. Go ahead, Donyale. A couple of examples? DONYALE | I just finished Encores! Off-Center this summer. We do three shows in a really compact schedule. It makes no sense to build full scenery for these shows, although I wanted to have it as “real life” as we possibly could. I start in the studio with materials that are considered greener. I use cardboard, no foam core. I use packaging, like packaging from cereal boxes. I use that to build the model. I try not to waste things when I don’t have to. The studio is very green and we recycle everything. We produce no more than an inch of trash per day. After we have designed the three shows, I go straight to the tech director, into the shops. We start to work this out and see what we can do to make it a greener show. JOHN | Is this how you did it for this specific case? Or is this what you do for every show? DONYALE | Every show. In this case, Encores!

JOHN | Donyale and Bob, do you guys work together on that?

green your directing process

was great because they are used to reusing things. It was Pump Boys and Dinettes, and I needed to have a lot of wood, tons and tons of wood. So I went to Build It Green. We found boxes of used Pergo flooring, which worked well in our compact schedule because we only had a day to load this in. We covered the walls with the Pergo. Pretty much a full set went up within one day. Now if we had gone a different route, say, cut individual boards, had them stained, and then fabricated it that way, it would be not only more expensive, it would also be much more time-consuming. I tend not to use materials that are more expensive. We find things that work for the design as opposed to forcing the design. The design is not one way. I always change the design based on what is found in the room, at the shop, what’s available to me at the time.

BOB | Sure. When we were doing Peter and the Starcatcher, it was very much a collaborative effort. Donyale started out with her model: “This is what I want it to be. Now let’s figure out how to make it happen with the available materials and still keeping within requirements, safety requirements, fire requirements that we have to work within.” There are some things that had to be done a certain way that we had to use conventional materials. But it very much is a collaborative process, and as long as you have both sides of that collaboration working together, it works extremely well. If you’re in a situation where it has to be this and only this, then chances are, whatever is in that direction is what you’re going to end up with. That can be very stifling. JOHN | You’re doing this all independent of the director?

DONYALE | Yes. The thing is, the director wants it to look like the model. So my job is to deliver the model. How Bob and I get there, that’s our choices, as long as I stay within the budget. Really, the budget is the budget is the budget. I really feel strongly that I need to stay within that budget, and do. JOHN | Bob, I imagine there’s a whole range of how much designers are interested in this when they come to you. Donyale is very focused on it. But many designers you work with are… BOB | No interest. As a business owner, I’ve got two approaches. One is: what can I do to run my business as green as possible and

make better choices? And then what can I do to support our clients that are interested or make it a priority? Within the business there’s a lot that we can do. In terms of our energy, we use 100 percent renewable energy. We have a very high recycling rate; 88 percent of all of our waste stream is recyclable. Then, in terms of what we can do to support our customers, we’re going to try and make the greenest choices we can make, regardless of whether the designer wants it or not. Then when you have a designer like Donyale, who it’s a priority for, then we can really step it up a notch. But for the majority of our clients, it’s just not a priority for them.

small things matter First Steps for Directors in Sustainable Theatre 1. Be open and public with your green intentions. Partner with designers who make sustainability a priority. Request green options from your designers. 2. Elect a Green Captain to the cast on the first day of rehearsal and encourage the cast to follow their guidance. 3. Educate yourself on the green practices available to your designers at 4. Use non-paper options whenever possible. 5. Rehearse in work light instead of stage light in order to conserve energy and turn off the lights at the end of the day. For more ideas, visit community/sdc-green-statement/

JENNIFER | You know, there’s an aspect of set design that I see overlooked. And that is how it sits on the stage in relationship to the air movement for the actors. What I see all the time are these big boxy sets, and as soon as I see it at the load-in, I look to my coworkers and I say, “We’re going to have hot actors, and we’re going to be running our air conditioning a lot.” They’ve absolutely provided no way for air to move on the set. I try to speak up as much as I can, because sometimes a show is designed and they don’t know what theatre they’re coming into. They don’t know where the supply grills are for the air conditioning, or how the air conditioning moves. We are

constantly fighting with the sets and cooling the actors. We recently came up with a solution for all of our shows where grill works get incorporated and painted. DONYALE | Yeah, I’ve been guilty of this, because the vents, the A/Cs are not on the drawing. So it’s not communicated to most designers. On top of that, designers don’t think about it. So we’re trying to start thinking about it, start asking the questions, start requesting those types of air patterns in the drawings so that it becomes part of the design. This stuff becomes part of our lives. It’s not just something that’s added on top of it; it’s integrated. BOB | If you’re trying to take something and make it green, you’re already in trouble. It has to be philosophically the approach that the creative team is going to take to be done with better and more sustainable practices. If you hire Donyale, that’s going to be her approach, even if you’re the director and you have no interest in it. She’s driving that boat and it can only go so far. Whereas if the overall production is going to make it as sustainable a production as possible, then that’s where you can really see some better choices and real things happen. JEREMY | Yeah, it’s actually a bigger cultural question. In this country, we say the bigger, the better, I’m going to try to realize whatever I want because those are the ideals I was brought up with. This way of thinking is celebrated in the arts world, and becomes the norm, especially when people give you the resources to do it. But what if you give yourself limitations and try to meet those limitations? Limitations are my best friends. I really love what happens in the rehearsal room and in the design process when we propose a bunch of limitations and then creatively press against them. The playwright, too, might work this way: what happens if you say I don’t want my play to be long, because teching a three-hour show is going to use too much energy. My play is going to be an hour and a half. Chances are, the self-editing you’ll do while pressing against this limitation is going to create a better piece anyhow. So, absolutely it’s philosophical, as well as practical. JOHN | There’s one thing that Bob brought up for me that is the center of this whole discussion we’re having: a cultural change. That’s our job in the theatre—to be a little ahead of the curve. In a few years, people will not even think twice about not having air conditioning vents on theatre drawings.



Peter and the Starcatcher set designed by Donyale Werle PHOTO Deen van Meer

JAMES | What we’re all talking about here is that, when we think about sustainability, it’s this big problem. Whenever you walk into an individual production, there’s a tendency to say my one little production can’t really affect this big problem. My job is to get this project finished and I’m not going to really think about it. We think about this in terms of short-term cycles. The reality, though, is that we got here because of a bunch of short-term thinking. You’re talking about air conditioning. Lighting loads in a theatre contribute tremendously to the HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] load both on stage and in the house. It’s something that you don’t think about and it becomes a problem in tech. You start to realize that the HVAC can’t handle the lighting loads that you put in the ceiling. I was asked to do an industrial for Wire Magazine. We did a 60,000-square-foot pop-up store, and the run was going to be six weeks. The conventional way of doing that is you fly a tress and you hang 600-watt source scores and you light the space and you move on with the project. Instead, we did an 80 percent LED rig for white light, which was not really done at that point. We found that we were able to reduce the power draw by a whole panel, which is 600 amps of three 200 phase poles to the building, essentially cutting our entry load in half over six weeks. JENNIFER | That’s a lot. Just to put that in perspective, I think Book of Mormon, that whole show uses 800 amps. So if you cut 600 amps, that’s a big number. JAMES | Then there’s a multiplier effect, because you’re cutting a lighting load, which cuts your heating load, which cuts your A/C load. But the design benefit was not even that



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I was able to save this electricity. The benefit became the day of tech when the producers walked through. They hadn’t been there for the entire load-in period. At every design meeting, it was about the icy blue color they wanted to create in the space, but no one could define for me what “icy blue” meant. Traditionally, I would have had a crew of seven or eight guys with their rolls of gel go in and try different colors. I was able to go to the light board and shift with an LED. We dialed in until everyone liked the color and that was it. It was done. There wasn’t, however, many dozen hours of man labor that would have cost to do that. Plus you get into maintenance. Now you’re not re-lamping lights every 400 hours. You’re never doing it because they’re LED. So there are savings built into it. If I’m coming into a production that’s being designed completely by scratch, there’s really no cost added to do it in a more sustainable way, at least from a lighting perspective. It’s just a mindset and making sure you’re picking the right tools for your job. This mindset is growing within the larger culture. The trick is going to be applying it to short-term projects that we have to deal with day in and day out. DONYALE | One thing I just want to add— people might think, “I don’t want to do that, the time, the effort, that’s one more thing.” I think James and I and probably everyone at the table looks at this as innovation. It is 100 percent the future, and it is the way things are moving. It’s not ever a pain in the ass, because you feel enlightened. JOHN | Creatively challenged, too, right? DONYALE | Definitely creatively challenged. But, to me, being innovative is the key. And that’s what moving forward is about. It taps

into a lot of our desire to move forward and be innovative as people. JOHN | I know the Peter and the Starcatcher story, but I feel like it would be good to get that on the record because I don’t know how many directors even know about that set and what you did. Want to give us that one? DONYALE | This is a show that started up with a piece of rope, Alex Timbers and Roger Rees directed it, and Rick Ellis wrote it. It was very much about your imagination, and this rope became the entire basis of the show. We just took that concept and built the world around the actors out of as many found materials as we possibly could. We had a giant proscenium and Bob’s shop, Showman Fabricators, built the entire thing. The base of it was built traditionally, and then all the detail was created out of things that we found: primarily toys, bottle caps, corks, ropes, telephone wires, and Q-tips, hundreds of things. The entirety of Act II was recycled. It was materials that we found from Disney. Disney was a co-producer on the show and they had a giant warehouse in Rochester. We tapped into a Little Mermaid set that was sitting in the warehouse. We used two rear projection screens and the swatches for the costumes. We had so much of those little scrap swatches that we passed them onto four other productions, totally different shows. They’ve gone onto regional productions, films, and high school productions. We do these case studies. So every show gets documented relentlessly. We break every scenic element down and see how many things we were able to salvage, how many new materials we were able to use, and then write it all down. So we can really put a price on each scenic unit to say how much less or how much more that ROGER REES since 1997 | ALEX TIMBERS since 2006

unit cost compared to traditional scenery. At this point, all of them are cheaper. Every single scenic element is cheaper. JOHN | Wow. James, you kind of addressed it. The thing I think a lot of directors will hear when they look at this article is it’s a very good point to make to a producer to say that the set is going to reduce the air-conditioning bill. JAMES | Right. Here’s the big challenge with lighting. Regardless of anybody’s feelings about sustainability, LED is becoming the norm and by its nature [it’s] less energy-intensive than traditional sources. If your theatre has an 800-amp service, for argument’s sake, now you’re using half of that energy. You now have 400 free amps to play with. The temptation is going to be “I have all these free amps, the producers are used to paying for it,” and you know everyone’s used to seeing it. So why not fill it up? The mindset has got to shift toward what can I do in queuing, what can I do to collaborate with the director to create new looks that don’t necessarily need another 200 lights in the grid? JENNIFER | From a theatre operator’s point of view, a lot of challenges we have with the sets, lights, and sound is when a director says, “I don’t like the way the curtain is billowing right now. Can we see this scene without the main house fan on?” They’ll try to get us to turn the fans off. From our point of view, to shut down an air-conditioning system in the middle of the show for 15 minutes, 10 minutes or 5 minutes is a disaster. It takes so much time to get back up that now you’re going to lose your audience, you’re going to have a lot of miserable people. I wish, as a theatre operator, directors had a better understanding of what it means when they ask to shut it off for 15 minutes. It’s a tremendous amount of energy. It’s not about the money; it’s about the carbon footprint. DONYALE | This is what I think we’re tapping into: communication. It’s us actually sitting around and talking to each other so we have a better idea. I don’t really know that much about facilities. How many designers know anybody in facilities? We don’t understand what goes on in this world. We’re all so into our little compartments that there’s this breakdown of communication in theatre. We’re trying to change that. JOHN | Jeremy, you’re doing that in your theatre, aren’t you? JEREMY | I think this, again, is a wider problem. In the arts or in the sciences or wherever, we’re used to functioning by saying this is my department, this is what I do; when I’m done, I go home and my life starts. Breaking out of our isolated job descriptions for the purpose of coming together over a larger purpose is

rarely prized or even possible in the U.S. How do we shift this within the arts community? How do we innovate such that our ways of working are continuously broken wide open? How do we make time to get in the room and talk about big things together? Maybe it means we need to prioritize these larger collaborative conversations when we’re making our meeting agendas and scheduling our production and rehearsal processes. The lab my company hosts every other month is about collaboration across science, policy, and theatre. It’s the same thing. We have different ways of working, we have different vocabularies, we have different agendas and jobs. But, really, what we’re all doing is trying to figure out how to be better stewards of the earth, better citizens of the world, and partners of change.

important, but it is also tricky to offer “the top 10 things directors can do” and then leave it at that. It’s just like going greener in your personal life: it’s not about updating your laundry soap; it’s about updating your consciousness. That requires you to make choices about everything, even if it’s not necessarily going to make a quantifiably big impact. It’s about all of us shifting the cultural mindset. How can we adopt that idea as we’re making work? So that directors, beyond ticking a box, can look at everything as a whole?

JENNIFER | How do we make it cool? How do we get people on board?

JOHN | I get what you’re saying about the list, but I also feel like if we set a practice, it’s like a foothold for change. Let’s shift it toward what we feel directors can do. I would say that maybe the most important thing is be conscious, open, and public about their support of sustainability in their productions.

JOHN | What I keep thinking about as you’re all talking is the director/producer relationship because that’s such a key relationship for the director. You can go to the producer with a way of putting a production together that saves energy, is more sustainable, and saves a tremendous amount of money for them, but also allows you to do something that you never would have been able to do otherwise. I’m trying to put together a top 10 list of what directors can do. One of the things is not rehearsing in show light, those basic tech principals. JAMES | There are some basics that I feel we’ve gotten away from, just in practice. When I was learning how to do this, I was taught the concept of relative brightness, so that when you’re the lighting designer, you start off in the theatre world in a black box. There’s no light anywhere. You decide how bright “bright” is. You set that bar, nobody else, no other production, no other light source. I’m always kind of amazed when I see these big theatrical productions, and even small theatrical productions, where an immense amount of light is the base coat for bright. So if you need to get brighter than that, for a special moment in the show, you have to use an inordinate amount of light to get there.

JAMES | You’re absolutely right. It’s not about how big the things are. DONYALE | Baby steps actually do mean something.

BOB | If you, as a director, choose to partner with people who have it as a priority, then it becomes a priority for everybody. If you choose to partner with people who it’s not a priority for, then it’s only going to be little things here and there. Not to say that those little things here and there are not good. Those are good. They’re better than nothing. But you could really be doing so much more by saying this is a priority for me as a person, for me as a citizen of the world, for me as a director— just like if you were an avid nonsmoker, you wouldn’t marry a smoker. JEREMY | I would add, in addition to encouragement, the ability to calm anxieties related to this kind of consciousness. JOHN | How so?

JAMES | It’s a savings, but it’s also about thinking more about how many resources a designer has to use to get the show to look the way it needs to look.

JEREMY | When we produced our first show in New York, the theatre we could afford to rent had very old, dusty, inefficient lighting instruments. I was very proud of the show, despite the fact that the lights seemed hypocritical to our mission. Afterward, a friend who had seen the show, the first thing he said was, “You can’t do green theatre with those lights.” I was heartbroken, because we had been so conscious, had had so many conversations that most artists weren’t having at all, and that theatre had been our only option. Since then, I’ve gotten better at making our green actions (both the successes and failures) more visible to our audiences. But also I feel like my take on eco-theatre has evolved: now I’m not so hard on myself or my collaborators if we don’t tick all the boxes.

JEREMY | I think the list is helpful and

BOB | I think Jeremy touched on a great point

JOHN | So, set your base level a little bit lower? JAMES | Right. You can decide what bright means for your production. Our eyes are capable of adjusting to it. JOHN | Is that a huge savings?



about calming anxiety. You can be the director who’s the tyrant, in which case everybody who reports to you, which is essentially everybody—except for the producer—is going to be fearful they’re not delivering, or their job’s on the line, or the director’s not going to be happy. Or you can be the collaborative director, saying this is a priority, but we wanted to do this, and we can’t do this, so now we can do this, and we can make this happen. Then it becomes a very healthy and successful relationship. JEREMY | Giving time for evaluation at the end is also something that could be added to our list. Sitting down at a postmortem and evaluating the sustainable goals we started with, what we were able to achieve and what we did not achieve, and how we can do it differently the next time we work together. DONYALE | Yeah, that’s something that we do on every single show. It makes a big difference. When you’re in the heat of it and you’re working, you don’t know what kind of mistakes you’re making, what’s actually really great, what’s not. Keeping track of things, and then talking about them and looking at them. BOB | Some kind of sustainability postdiscussion. BOB | Right, and that’s rare. The only time I’ve ever been involved in a postmortem on a Broadway show is if it’s inevitable that you’re going to do a touring production of it. Everybody’s just moved on to the next project. But if you took the time to capture that, there’s

a lot that translates to the next production that you are involved in, even if it’s with a completely different set of people. JOHN | You guys are so right. It’s all about applauding any little thing. JAMES | Everybody that works with a director knows they set the tone for the production. As a lighting designer, we would love that because it saves resources in tech. Are you getting out in front of the production and really talking it through and working as a collaborator ahead of time? JOHN | How many set designers do you think share your consciousness about this? Or lighting designers share it as a concern? DONYALE | There are a lot of set designers. A lot of them are in film, and a lot of them are younger, so they’re doing Off-Off-Broadway shows, or regional shows, but there are definitely a lot. It’s changed tremendously in the last five years. JOHN | How about clothes, Andrea? ANDREA | There’s a lot of people who are thinking about it in terms of being conscious. People are using what they have, because costume designers have pretty limited resources, especially in Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. The younger generation certainly is thinking about it more in terms of a process they can adapt in the beginning stages, like allowing new, innovative technology to help us cut down on our waste.

Are there ways you can communicate visually without having to make so much waste? If you think about that at the very beginning, you can carry it all the way through the end process, even through tech. I can Pinterest all the way through, so I don’t have as much waste at the end. The flip side of this is the movement for costume designers to be conscious is really limited to our own practices. We have no real collaborators to help us move through a design more economically in terms of materials, as costume designers are really their own shop. I find this part of design frustrating. I can be positive, but it would help things a lot if, as costume designers, we had more of a community with our builders and production managers. Unfortunately, we are often left to our own devices and end up working on everything from ideation to conception as a limited number of people. This also means we often do all the sourcing and budgets. It can be a lot to consider green practices when there are already so many other limitations due to workload, but as designers, we are stubborn enough to never give up. DONYALE | Andrea’s idea about Pinterest— she’s not printing all of her research out; she’s showing it online. Directors go directly to her Pinterest page. JOHN | How about your peers? Is it starting to be accepted practice now? BOB | I would say no. JOHN | Really?

about the partners in change JAMES BEDELL is a lighting designer based in New York City. Over the last 10 years, he has designed lighting for a wide variety of clients and organizations including Tirschwell Architectural Lighting, Pace University, and Abercrombie and Fitch. James designed lighting for Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatre and dance companies including the critically acclaimed Brick Theater, ShakespeareNYC, Origin Theatre Company, the Looking Glass Theater, and many others. His work combines a passion for creating immersive and evocative environments, a love for collaboration, and a deep commitment to sustainability. JOHN CARRAFA directs and choreographs for theatre, film, and television. He is the two-time Tony-nominated Broadway choreographer of Urinetown and Into the Woods. He’s also received an Obie, Lortel, Dora Award, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk nominations for his work, both on and Off-Broadway and in regional theatre. In film, he’s received the 2005 Media Choreography Award for innovation in the use of motion capture technology to



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create choreography for The Polar Express and recently the 2012 World Dance Award for feature film. His upcoming film work includes If I Stay, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, and Let’s Be Cops, starring Damon Wayans, Jr. and Jake Johnson. He stages all the musical performances for the ABC television show Nashville. He is committed to the development of new musical theatre and musical film and is proud to serve as the SDC representative to the Broadway Green Alliance. JENNIFER HERSHEY is the Vice President of Building Operations for Jujamcyn Theaters, which she joined in 1989. In her tenure, she has been involved with the complete historic restorations of all five theatres. She has enthusiastically supported the BGA since its inception and heads up the venue committee. Her passion for the Broadway Green Alliance has motivated her to make many choices in the ways in which Jujamcyn operates their theatres. She continues to find methods to lower Broadway’s carbon footprint that are readily achievable and affordable. Jennifer is an

avid cyclist and encourages fellow employees to join her—she installed bike racks at all of her theatres, making Jujamcyn the first major theatre chain in NYC to have them. Jennifer is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. ANDREA LAUER is a costume/set designer and stylist as well as a multimedia artist working with clothing and interactive, responsive technologies. Her recent design credits include Broadway’s Bring It On, American Idiot (Broadway and touring productions), STREB’s: Forces, and the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad in addition to theatre, dance, and opera productions in New York and around the country. Lauer is also a stylist for various artists, musicians, and publications. Her work can be seen in Rolling Stone, Vogue, Interview, OUT Magazine, the 52nd annual Grammy Awards, the Tony Awards, red carpet events, music videos, and promo shoots. Honors: Baryshnikov Fellow (NYU), NYSCA Grant 2011 as a STREB innovative collaborator; clothing design inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame;

BOB | I mean, Donyale obviously works with more shops than I do. JOHN | She’s shaking her head definitely not. Okay, what about in your community? JENNIFER | The theatre operators are pretty much working together. Shubert, Nederlander, Jujamcyn— we’re sharing ideas, which is something that never, ever happened before. We have meetings and we talk about challenges we have. Everybody’s got a different style. DONYALE | I love this, because learning so much about the facilities will really help inform choices we can make. JOHN | What I’m getting is that, in general, it’s about directors becoming conscious, supportive, encouraging, public about their support, gentle about what they’re asking people to do, and applauding any step in the right direction. The example of don’t rehearse in performance light is a good one.

BOB | I think it’s to work with the designer and ask what are the choices that we can make in designing this set that are the best possible for the environment. JAMES | Ask for paper tech, and nowadays, ask for pre-visualization. JOHN | For the directors who don’t understand this, we are talking about pre-visual advising on a computer, such as your lighting plot. Before you even go into tech, you can see your hues. JAMES | Yeah, and you can do that to any level of specificity you want. You can just talk about the big six or seven moments in the show, and work through those, or if you want, you can go cue by cue. The savings in terms of efficiency in tech is tremendous. Tech is the most energyintensive portion of the lighting project.

JOHN | How can a director impact that?

JENNIFER | The director sets the tone. Now we have a lot more shows that open in August and September. Teching a show in September is a killer. When you have a nervous director who needs the theatre cold because they’re thinking if it’s warm, people are going to fall asleep, they make sure it’s 70 degrees in the theatre. But they’ve also teched the show for 12 hours, so it’s hot. The director should say, I know the theatre’s not as cool as it’s going to be closer to opening, but we’re going to get it worked out. So the director sets the tone.

DONYALE | You could request your set designer not to use traditionally sourced lauan.

JOHN | Anybody want to throw in the last word?

nominee for the 2012 Lucille Lortel Awards and the NAACP Theatre Awards for costume design.

organization that is stocked with eager and talented professionals, the best equipment available, and resources to fulfill the demands of virtually any client on Broadway, television, live events, and themed/environmental design. In its 28-year history, Showman under Bob’s leadership has taken a leading role in creating some of the most iconic entertainment events including scenery for the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CNN Morning, Little Mermaid on Broadway, the NBC Experience, and scores of corporate events. All of Showman’s projects have unique challenges, but shared a common thread of nearly impossible deadlines, tight coordination with construction trades, and permanent installations that are significantly more elaborate than conventional scenery. Bob graduated with a BFA in technical theatre from SUNY Purchase in 1984. He is certified as a LEED AP, which has provided inspiration for running Showman as an environmentally responsible company that can provide better alternative to its clients while practicing best methods in its own production.

DONYALE | Can I give one other? We’d love to see switching over from building sets out of lauan, traditionally sourced lauan, which comes from rain forests in places like Malaysia, to a scenery that’s an American-produced wood source. There are a lot of different options.

JEREMY PICKARD is the captain of Superhero Clubhouse, a collective of artists and environmental advocates working at the intersection of science, policy, and theatre. Since 2007, Jeremy has been at the helm of a number of eco-theatre initiatives including Big Green Theater (an annual eco-playwriting program for Brooklyn fifth graders), Climate Collaborations (multidisciplinary performances and sci-art labs created in collaboration with climate scientists), and The Planet Plays (a series of nine ecological allegories that together form a new mythology for our changing world). More information on Jeremy’s work can be found at BOB USDIN is President and CEO of Showman Fabricators, Inc., New York City’s largest and most creatively diverse scenic shop. Bob takes tremendous pride in creating an

JEREMY | This speaks more to directors who are working not with a script that’s handed to them, but in a more collaborative or devised way, which certainly is becoming more and more prevalent at all levels of theatre: look at what you have first and then play with limitations. Maybe don’t start by dreaming as big as possible, but the other way around: what do you already have, and what parameters can you give yourself based on what you have? ANDREA | Or dream big and take a step back and say, “We have this dream, but what do we have to start with?” Because that’s what costume designers do. I dream big all the time and I don’t ever stop. But I’m used to taking a step back and recognizing I have a budget and I have a specific amount of time. What do I know? What do I have that might already work? Who do I know that has something I can start with? JOHN | Nobody wants to dream small, so I think we’re redefining what dream big means. Dream big about the most amazing, huge, spectacular, sustainable events you can create. JEREMY | I love that, redefine dream big. That’s great. BOB | I’d agree, because at the end of the day, we want the piece to be interesting and captivating—that’s the priority. But there’s so many different ways of getting there, so just choose the better path. JOHN | Yeah, it’s not about ticking boxes, it’s about a change in consciousness.

DONYALE WERLE is a Brooklyn, NY-based scenic designer and sculptor. Credits include: Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher (2012 Tony Award); Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2011 Tony nomination). Off-Broadway: the upcoming production of Brooklynite (Vineyard), Encores Off-Center: Tick, Tick…Boom!, Faust, Pump Boys and Dinettes (City Center), Too Much Sun by Nicky Silver (Vineyard), The Explorer’s Club (MTC), Broke-olgy (Lincoln Center), The North Pool (Vineyard), BARE (New World Stages), Taming of the Shrew (Theater for a New Audience), Jollyship the Whizbang (Ars Nova), Public Theater and New York Theatre Workshop. Regional: Somewhere (Hartford Stage), Once on This Island (Papermill Playhouse), The Legend of Georgia McBride (Denver Center), Allegiance, and Rocky Horror (The Old Globe). Awards: Tony, Obie, Lucille Lortel, Hewes Design Award, and Drama Desk nomination. Ms. Werle is co-chair of the Pre/ Post-Production Committee for the Broadway Green Alliance. She speaks nationally and internationally on sustainable design practices for theatre. FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL



Josh Lamkin






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Kenny Leon + Phylicia Rashad in Same Time Next Year directed by Chris Coleman at True Colors Theatre Company PHOTO Josh Lamkin

When Blues for an Alabama Sky was produced at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 1995, the production marked a number of firsts: the world premiere of a new play, a breakthrough production for playwright Pearl Cleage, and the first collaboration between then-Alliance Artistic Director Kenny Leon and Emmy Award-nominated actress Phylicia Rashad. Almost 20 years later, Leon and Rashad have since collaborated on eight projects together, including the 2004 Broadway blockbuster production of A Raisin in the Sun that earned Rashad the Tony Award for Best Actress and set Leon on a path to winning the Tony for Best Director in 2014. Their work together spans American classics such as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; popular favorites such as Steel Magnolias; challenging new plays by Thulani Davis and Marcus Gardley; and, perhaps most notably, works by their friend and fellow collaborator, the late playwright August Wilson. Leon and Rashad both started out as actors, but over the years have embraced directing as a calling as well. To date, their work together has always put Rashad on stage and Leon in the director’s chair. But in July 2014, Atlanta audiences flocked to Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company to enjoy the unusual treat of watching Leon and Rashad on stage together for the first time. Returning to acting, Leon took his place on stage alongside Rashad in a production of the romantic comedy Same Time Next Year directed by Chris Coleman. Amid a process that sounds full of the artistic inquiry, laughter, and closeness that has marked their work together, Leon and Rashad took time to speak with SDC Journal about how they found the lasting artistic kinship and friendship that brings them back to each other whenever possible. CHRIS COLEMAN since 2000 | KENNY LEON since 1988 | PHYLICIA RASHAD since 2012

So how did you two meet and first end up working together? KENNY LEON | I was the Artistic Director at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and we were doing a new play, Blues for an Alabama Sky, by Pearl Cleage. And I had to go up to New York and meet with this famous person…Phylicia can tell the rest of that story. PHYLICIA RASHAD | [laughing] Oh, no! My agent at the time said, “There’s this young director up from Atlanta and he’s casting a play written by a playwright named Pearl Cleage.” And I said, “Well, I know her very well. We were students together at the Howard University College of Fine Arts in the department of drama.” I hadn’t met Kenny before and I didn’t know anything about him, but I went to meet him and I liked him right away. He was very polite, very mannered and charming in the most disarming way. He said, “I know you don’t know anything about me, but you can call…” and he gave me the names of about five different people, “and you can ask them and they can tell you about me.” And I just looked at him and I said, “It’s okay. I don’t have to call anyone.” I wanted to do the play, but it was in Atlanta. My daughter was eight years old and it meant that I would have to leave her. I had never left her before. So I said to Kenny, “Well, I have to get my daughter’s permission to go. I’m very serious about it.” And when I asked her, she immediately said, “You should do it, Mom, you should go for it, you should go.” And neither of us understood at the time what that was going to mean for us because we really missed each other terribly. FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL


So, during her spring break, she was able to come down. She loved being in the theatre. We were going into our tech rehearsals downstairs in the studio theatre and getting ready to go into our preview performances. During rehearsal one day, Kenny asked, “What is that I’m seeing in the blackout? Something is coming out on the stage and going back.” And, well, it was my daughter. In the blackout, she would crawl out and then she would crawl back. [Laughs.] Of all the things Kenny could have said once we discovered that was her, and she confessed, he said, “Somebody get her a big, black t-shirt. Now you can crawl out and back and nobody will see you.” And I so appreciated that. I so appreciated that because it meant that I didn’t have to compartmentalize myself as a human being to work. That just endeared him to me in a very special way. KENNY | I’m crying. PHYLICIA | No, you’re not. KENNY | Yeah. During that first collaboration, did you sense that you had found an artistic partner? Did you know that this would be someone you would work with for life? PHYLICIA | Well, I certainly hoped that it would be so. You never quite know how things are going to unfold. George C. Wolfe called me one day and he said, “We’re going to do this play called Everybody’s Ruby and we need an African-American director. Who would you suggest?” A second didn’t pass. I said, “Well, Kenny Leon.” Now, nobody talked to me about being in the play. I was just asked who would direct the play. And Kenny, you tell the rest. KENNY | I was grateful to George for that opportunity. Thulani Davis wrote a great play and it was a great time to be in New York and do that play with that cast. And Phylicia was the beauty and grace and strength that she always has been. I think I always hoped we’d get a chance to work together after Blues but after Everybody’s Ruby, I had the feeling that I would die to work with this woman anytime. Those roles were very different from each other. I think after that we did Medea. So to have her do Blues for an Alabama Sky, then Everybody’s Ruby, and then Medea…those are very different colors. That’s one actress doing all of that. Selfishly, it makes the director’s job easy because a lot of actors don’t understand that it’s not just your talent and flexibility that you bring, and how many different choices can you Illinoison Shakespeare muster that stage,Festival but also how does the PHOTO fit Lyndsie Schlink person in with the ensemble. How, just with



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their being, does it create greatness from those around her? That was something I noticed with Phylicia very early on. Any play that we’ve done together, it seems as though everybody else in the ensemble raised their game. That’s what you want, especially in a celebrity artist/actress. People follow that lead. Phylicia has always been a person that sets the standards. She walks in a certain way or she demands that the other artists walk the same way. And if they don’t, they look silly or stupid or selfish. And I’ve always appreciated that about her. She’s always about the work. She’s always about the text. She’s not into actors getting over here in a group trying to say things a different way or coming into conflict with the director. She’s always trying to say, “What does the director want? What are the intentions of the writer? How can we give him that or show him that that idea he suggested does not work?” So I guess that was the beginning of really knowing, hoping, that we’d get a chance to work in all of these different projects. You both started out as actors who turned to directing in the evolution of the work that you were doing. Can you walk me through what your initial impulses were when you turned to directing? KENNY | I had been in a company, Academy of Music and Theater, for eight or nine years. Several members of the company got the opportunity to direct and I directed a play called The Wishing Place. The joy that I got from that experience was incredible in terms of looking at the whole instead of a singular way of diving into a piece of art. But at the time, the artistic director—who was a dear friend—said he didn’t think I had the skills to direct. He just wanted me to act more in the company. And not to direct. So, of course, I used that to decide to leave that company. I felt like I was curious about this directing thing. As I started directing more and more, I had to act less and less, especially when I took over the Alliance Theatre. I kept getting so much joy from it and I thought this is my calling—“This is what I’m supposed to do.” I got a greater sense of myself as an artist by watching actors become bigger than they were and I love that. I loved when Sean Combs did A Raisin in the Sun and he had never done a play before. I loved seeing him grow. I love watching Phylicia Rashad and knowing I had a little thing to do with her navigating her way through a certain performance like Everybody’s Ruby or the beautiful work she did on A Raisin in the Sun. That was a greater joy for me than actually being in something.

But then I realized over time that I have to act every so often to be in touch with the instrument so I can better articulate to the actors I’m working with that “I know what you’re going through.” So I don’t want to go too far away from it. Before this show, I did Fool for Love with Jasmine Guy about three years ago. Two years earlier, I did Blood Knot with Tom Key. I hope to act every couple of years so I can stay in touch with it. It really helps my directing a lot. Acting is something that I love to do. But I think—I believe in my soul—that I’m called to direct. But either way, it makes me a whole artist, whether I’m acting or directing for the stage or directing for television. I think all of that, including my teaching and my public speaking, all that makes Kenny Leon the artist. But I am most happy when I am in a room of actors as a director, helping them navigate and find the truth. Phylicia, your turn to directing happened somewhat recently, and took place amid a very successful career in Broadway musicals, in plays on stages all over the country, and in television. What prompted you to turn to directing? PHYLICIA | A call from Constanza Romero. The widow of August Wilson. PHYLICIA | Yes, August was her husband. Seattle Rep was going to do a production of August’s play Gem of the Ocean, and she asked if I would direct it. I think she had called Kenny first and Kenny was working on the film of A Raisin in the Sun and was not available. So, she called and asked if I would direct it. And I told her I haven’t directed anything before. She said, “I know, but I think you can do this. And I think August would think you can do it, too.” So I did. [Laughs.] Just before leaving to direct the production, I had a meeting with Kenny. And we walked out to the car when I was leaving. The car was from a company and the license read GEM9. And Kenny saw that and he said, “Oh, look at that, you’re gonna be great, you’re gonna be fine.” That was a good sign. It was quite an experience for me and from it I ascertained a couple of things about directing. That directing really involves a great deal of problem solving of who and what goes where, how, and when. But more than that, what I began to see and would articulate is that directing is holding a vision. Holding a vision and galvanizing all of the creative energy to move in alignment with the vision while leaving room for those energies to contribute things that were unexpected and great. I found that it’s a wonderful way to work. It fosters a collaborative environment. Everyone feels GEORGE C. WOLFE since 1984

ownership of the work and when people feel ownership of the work, people want better and work very well together.

inside and trying to see how my specific role or my specific participation in the storytelling contributes to the whole.

to when we opened. But it’s fine. This is what it is. But theatre takes time. It really just does take time.

KENNY | I want to say that Phylicia is a hell of a director. I saw her production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Taper in L.A., and it was just so beautiful, a beautiful production. I felt the collaborative nature that she’s talking about with the cast she put together. I felt everybody was in the same world. And it was just visually stunning.

But when I’m a director, I’m seeing all of that: how does composition fit, does it go along with the tone that the actors are setting, does it work together? With the lights, am I helping the emotion or feeling that the actors are delivering? It’s important for me to be outside where they are to help paint this whole picture.

KENNY | I have to say that I don’t think I can recall any production where I felt I hadn’t gotten the most out of it, hadn’t gotten what I wanted out of the production. Usually, if I keep working as a director [or] as an actor, by the time that we close, I would have gotten as close to the truth as I can get.

And you, Phylicia?

Sometimes I want more time on the front end in terms of previews. For me, being in the room four, five weeks—that’s about as much as I want to be around actors in a room. And then when we get on stage, sometimes I want to have weeks and weeks of previews. I don’t want to have three previews or a week of previews. I want to have four or five or six weeks of previews. And then I want to run the show. But usually by closing, I have gotten there. And once you get there, the rest of it is just performing for that audience.

For me as a director, I try to understand in that first week or so how actors process information. Everybody’s trained differently and then I navigate how to get them all in the same world. Then, I want to be surprised over and over again by what they bring to it. I have in my mind what it looks like, but it’s just like Phylicia said: it’s not so specific as to be my singular vision. Even though I am the chief artist in presenting this singular vision that everybody collaborates on and puts their two cents in. So I’m always in search of the truth based on who the actors are. Always build a production around the cast. When I did Fences, I didn’t approach that saying, “I want Denzel Washington to be like James Earl Jones.” No. It was trying to find Denzel’s truth of Troy Maxson as related to that production. I’m always trying to set the tone and the texture of what I believe the piece to be and I try to navigate and help the actors discover how to get there together. My greatest gift, I think, is building ensemble, which I take a great deal of pride in—building ensemble, getting folks to work together to tell one truth that they all contributed to. Kenny, I read an interview where you said, “More of me is used in directing.” Are there skills that each of you are using in directing that you don’t use when you are acting or vice versa? KENNY | Well, for me, absolutely. I’m looking at it in a different way. As the director, I’m looking at it from the outside. I can take a moment to experience what the actor is experiencing from the inside, but basically I’m looking at it from the outside and I’m responding to them like, “This is what I’m getting, this is what I’m feeling, I don’t know how you’re getting there, but this is what it relates to, me out here.” So, they’re very different. When I’m an actor, I’m looking for a great director because I want someone to be outside the work because I’m inside the work. As an actor, I’m trying not to look at it from any other point of view except my character’s point of view. I’m not really looking at other things, like at color except how the character might see color—or furniture or light. I’m really just

PHYLICIA | Pretty much the same way, although I don’t consider myself as a director on the outside of the work. I consider myself very much on the inside of the work, very much at the center of it. What I’m seeing is the whole of it as it unfolds in its planning and in its execution. I guess in a way that is being on the periphery of it from one point of view. But I really understand actors pretty well because I am an actor and I’ve been an actor for a very long time. As a director, though, I see actors differently. [Kenny laughs.] Yes, I do. I understand things when I see them. I understand people’s tendencies and proclivities. I understand when an actor is, let’s say, so technically astute that they would work from that level alone and I can see through it and ask for more. Ask for much more because I’m looking for truth as well. I said that once, and an actor said to me, “You want truth, you go to Dr. Phil.” I had to laugh at that actor when she said that. KENNY | An actor said that to you? PHYLICIA | Yes. I was on a panel with some pretty well-known actors, and one said, “If you want truth you go to Dr. Phil.” She said acting was lying; she said, “I’m lying.” I have worked with very challenging actors and I’ve also decided that among the things that I do well, problems are not one of them. I have a pretty good way of looking at people in the casting sessions and seeing, “Well, this may go that way and I don’t need to deal with that, and as far as I’m concerned, no one is that gifted or talented, and I don’t want to deal with that.” And I won’t. I just won’t. I put it out there and say it: I don’t do problems well. If you have that, if you’re coming to a casting session with me, you might as well leave that someplace else because it’s not going to work. I’m like that. There’s too much to be done. You see, our rehearsal process is so brief in this country. Oh my gosh. And theatre takes time to unfold. Even the work that we’re doing right now on Same Time, Next Year. We are coming to things now that I really wish we had come

I’m a process person. I like process better than actual performances, anyway. I like the process of discovery and the evolution of how you get there. We do one project and then we take the energy from that and what we learned from that, and we go onto the next project. And then to the next project. So it never ends, and you have an extended family from project to project, and you know more actors and you know more about yourself as a human being. How has your artistic process with each other changed over the years? You’ve talked a lot today about trust, which is sometimes an instinct and in other cases has to be learned or built. PHYLICIA | When we were filming A Raisin in the Sun, there was a scene that involved the three women—I don’t remember the exact one—but there were two choices. So Sanaa [Lathan], Audra [McDonald], and I were working on this scene with Kenny. And one of the actors said, “Well, it could be this or it could be that.” And Kenny looked at me and he asked, “What do I want?” And I said, “You want THAT.” And he smiled and walked away. And the two women looked at me and they said, “Do you realize that the two of you talk in shorthand?” And one of them said, “And how is it that you always know what he wants?” I wasn’t thinking about it at all; I was just functioning the way we do. How does your working process together change when you work in film or television? KENNY | I think it’s the same. It moves quicker, but I think it’s still truthful. I think that our work FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL


Kenny Leon + Phylicia Rashad in Same Time Next Year directed by Chris Coleman at True Colors Theatre Company PHOTO Josh Lamkin

in the theatre helps us in that area. Maybe we’ve got a shortcut to help us get to the truth. For me, it’s about careers and not just jobs. With me, because of my trust with Phylicia and because of the things we have done together, I think we’re able to have the shortcuts we need when we do film. A big part of acting and presenting great work is that trust. I would not be doing the Same Time, Next Year, a two-character play, after three years away from acting with anyone else right now other than Phylicia Rashad. It’s about that trust, and because of our experiences from the past. We’ve done almost 10 projects together, but we hadn’t acted together; it was the one thing we hadn’t done before. But we come from the same world in terms of understanding acting and it seemed like a great idea. Phylicia probably can add to that. PHYLICIA | Yes, it made it easier. Awkward at first, but getting better every day. We’re crazy, you know? Neither of us had really read this



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play. Our former mutual manager suggested we do this one. I hadn’t seen the film, I hadn’t read the script, Kenny hadn’t read the script. We knew that it was a story about two people who met at the same time every year. But when we read it, it was like, “Oh my goodness, how’m I going to do this? I can’t do this with Kenny, we can’t be carrying on like this.” [Both laugh.] It was so weird. But we’re having fun now. Yeah, we’re having fun. KENNY | Like I said, I couldn’t imagine too many people that I would even do this with. And it grows every day, but it’s able to grow because of the respect and trust that we have with each other. It’s like an educational tool for me; I’m actually learning things about acting and I’m learning things about directing as we’re doing this play every night, because every night I have to grow. So by the time we close, I will have gone from A to Z. It’s exciting every night. It’s like going to a class every night that you really like.

I really like this scene study class. What am I learning every night? And I don’t think I could do that at this level with another actress. With both of you being both directors and actors, what was it like for you to be directed? KENNY | I always like being directed. I just finished directing a film and then two Broadway shows, and all of that was back-toback. If I was going to do this, I was looking forward to just sitting back and thinking about my role as an actor and how I fit into the whole as opposed to worrying about the acting and the directing; I couldn’t do both at the same time. Whenever I act, I’m looking for a confident director that I can really trust. Were you nervous at all, Kenny? KENNY | Yes. [Laughing.] I had to be out of my mind. It’s like I said, two Broadway shows, a movie, and then the Tony Awards and all

that stuff. So I probably had one day off from October until we started this play. I was very nervous. I hadn’t been on stage in years. So I was very nervous. But what gave me confidence and trust was to look into Phylicia Rashad’s eyes and to know that she had my back. So it’s been a good thing. But I can’t wait to go on vacation August 5. PHYLICIA | Soon coming, my friend. Soon coming.

I think if she hadn’t gone into directing, we wouldn’t talk the same way about it. And that’s great. When I do a play that she’s not in, the first person I call is Phylicia. I say, “Come by and see this play I just opened and then we can have a conversation about it.” So I really depend on her as an artistic friend to really give me the truth because I know she will always understand where, what I’m trying to get to.

And our work is not the same. What she did I’m curious whether the two of you ever with Joe Turner is different than what I did get together and compare notes about with Joe Turner. What she did with Raisin was some of the plays you have been a part of different, you know? But they all are versions of but haven’t worked on together. Do you the truth and that’s always exciting to me. And ever sit down and compare notes on Gem also to understand, on the deeper level, what of the Ocean, which you both directed and, Lorraine Hansberry was after, what August of course, Phylicia starred in, or Fences, Wilson was after. I which you have both think only another directed, or A Raisin Even after I have director I could have in the Sun, which you directed something, and that conversation with have both directed and get to that level of and both won Tony then Phylicia is directing understanding. Awards for? something, and then we

PHYLICIA | We talk about it sometimes. We talk about approaches and how things seem to, or maybe how things compare to one another thematically or in terms of character development. Or mirroring. If they’re parallel, if not.

have a conversation, I have discoveries about plays that I have directed in the past... It’s always great to have a colleague [with whom] you can talk about the depth of the work. I don’t think there’s any other person that I can sit down and talk with in terms of the depth and the contribution of August Wilson’s work.

I remember being so excited about discovering something in A Raisin in the Sun and sharing it with Kenny. Prior to directing Joe Turner, I remember talking with Kenny about my impressions with having read the text and how I felt about it and what I was seeing in reading the text that I had not seen in any production of it that I had seen before. And I find those discussions with him very helpful.

KENNY | Even after I have directed something, and then Phylicia is directing something, and then we have a conversation, I have discoveries about plays that I have directed in the past and it’s a great conversation to have. It’s always great to have a colleague [with whom] you can talk about the depth of the work. I don’t think there’s any other person that I can sit down and talk with in terms of the depth and the contribution of August Wilson’s work. Phylicia and I can sit down and talk about the tempo, the words…how he never makes a mistake with dates and times…we can talk on that level just as a part of being friends.

Do either or both of you feel that you have a responsibility to August and his work? PHYLICIA | I think our responsibility is to continue to explore the world that he’s presenting us with and to continue to explore his intention in presenting it.

KENNY | And I would add to that, I think, August has touched KENNY LEON so many of us, not just me and Phylicia, but so many of us, so many people that don’t even know they’ve been touched. I feel he wants me to be a successful African American artist who is demanding my place on the planet as a director. This is a country that belongs to all of us. So I think he would be as proud of my production of Holler If You Hear Me as he would in directing another one of his plays. I think he wanted that for us. He wants us to dig down and say something about the country through art. And he doesn’t want us to be lazy about that. I remember one time when we were doing Gem of the Ocean and he wanted me to do Radio Golf. This was right before he passed away. And I had a conflict with Toni Morrison’s opera and August Wilson said, “No, man, you gotta do Toni Morrison’s opera. That’s Toni Morrison’s opera! Toni Morrison, man!” And I thought about that and thought, how many playwrights would say that? That’s

the kind of man he was. He wasn’t selfishly thinking about his 10th play, which was a major thing, and being a part of that. But he said, “You have to go and do Toni Morrison’s opera.” It worked out for me: I did the opera and then I came back to do his play. But that’s the kind of person he was. So I think he would want us to dig down deep and explore all the parts of ourselves to be the best artists we can be. Are there times that you find material you think would be right for the other person and suggest it to them? KENNY | I think more often than not—Phylicia, correct me if I’m wrong—but I think about what can we do together. Phylicia had this wonderful idea for a movie and she said, “Wow, let’s do this together. We don’t know who’ll do what, but let’s do this,” or “Here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about.” And if something comes up in my world and I know I can’t do it or I’m not available to do it, I think Phylicia’s the first person I think of. I say, “I can’t do it, but here’s a great director...” Stuff like that. But I’m always selfishly looking for ways that we can work together. Do you have any particular titles that you’d like to work on together? PHYLICIA | We can’t talk about it in this interview. You’ve got this whole thing you have to hold in so the energy is contained. You want something to happen; the surest way is to not talk about it too much. Phylicia, I have to ask you: do you want to direct Kenny in something? PHYLICIA | Oooh, chile. [They both laugh.] KENNY | If there is any person I would want to act for and have direct me, absolutely I would want Phylicia Rashad. I think it would be an honor. That’s a lovely compliment. PHYLICIA | It is. Thank you. Phylicia, would you be nervous directing Kenny? KENNY | Hell no, she would not be nervous. PHYLICIA | No, I would not be nervous. I would tell him, “Get your little self over here, do this, do that, shut up.” [They both laugh.] KENNY | She’s directing me every night.



Resident Acting Companies


he establishment of resident acting companies at so many of the regional theatre movement’s founding stages was an act of tremendous hope. On an artistic level, there was hope that these in-house acting ensembles would foster the best art, much as their European forbears had, by working with an artistic director to create a unified style. Actors would hone their craft by working steadily and taking on a wide variety of roles. They would help build audiences, who would be captivated by the versatile actors, whom they would come to regard as their home team. As Stuart Vaughan, founder of Seattle Repertory Theatre, put it, “Founders of not-for-profit theatres understood that a company of actors who worked together under the leadership of an artistic director capable of articulating high standards was the best way to establish an artistic home for both actors and audiences.” There was hope that theatres could offer actors a living wage from season to season, creating a kind of financial stability that until then had only been illusory. Kent Thompson, Artistic Director of the Denver Center Theatre Company, refers to this as “a middle-class lifestyle.” Another benefit of having actors in long-term residence would be forging a real connection to the community they lived in, where they would buy houses, raise families, put down roots. The acting company would form a recognizable link between the theatre and its audience by performing and living in their midst. As the dream took hold, it was championed by funding agencies, which offered grant support to the fledgling companies. And over time, a generation of highly skilled, flexible actors emerged from these resident theatres. But eventually, the high cost of paying seasonal salaries and the ever-changing environment in which the ensembles existed began to apply selective pressure, causing many to shrink, dwindle, or vanish from the scene. The increased emphasis on diversity and new plays, which often required very specific casting not available within the companies, coupled with the financial squeeze theatres faced to put on smaller-cast plays in shorter seasons, stacked the cards against permanent acting companies. As the winds shifted, foundations withdrew funding and instead got behind “individual” residencies. But has the dream truly vanished? Or have some resident acting companies morphed, adapting themselves to face the brave new world? Zelda Fichandler, founder of Arena Stage, who helped invent the regional theatre movement, urged the field toward change as early





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as 1969: “Company membership must be defined more by artistic point of view and shared experiences, and less by uninterrupted geographical residency—although, of course, there is no reason why a company nucleus cannot be held together in one place over a considerable period of time.” So what’s going on with acting companies today, especially in regard to the residency requirement? A survey of three distinctly different theatres revealed a wide range of answers. In this article, Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), shares his perspective on his resident acting company, the largest and most robust in the country, while James Bundy, Artistic Director of Yale Repertory Theatre and freelance director, talks about recently guest-directing the OSF company in Richard III. Kent Thompson, Artistic Director of the Denver Center Theatre Company, speaks of his theatre’s evolution from having a strong stable of resident actors to now hiring favorites on a show-by-show basis. And, finally, Austin Pendleton, director and company member at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, describes its thriving collective of actors and other artists that are actively encouraged to come and go, working outside the company, often in other media, and then returning to their artistic home in Chicago.

ABOVE Ensemble

members Helen Sadler, Molly Regan + Austin Pendleton in rehearsal for Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Tribes premiere PHOTO Joel Moorman

JAMES BUNDY since 1996 | ZELDA FICHANDLER since 1987 | AUSTIN PENDLETON since 1972 BILL RAUCH since 1999 | KENT THOMPSON since 1988 | STUART VAUGHAN d.2014

In terms of surviving resident acting companies, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is clearly the exception that proves the rule. With an acting company that this year numbers 111 (that figure includes acting trainees and young performers), no theatre in this country comes close to OSF in size and diversity of its resident ensemble (of which 45 percent are actors of color). How is this possible, especially in this day and age of bottom lines and downsizing? Rauch attributes it all to the repertory system. To begin with, OSF is unique in being “destination” theatre, with large segments of the audience traveling to southern Oregon over great distances (primarily from the Bay Area, Seattle, and Southern California, but even farther afield), to come and spend a few nights to see multiple plays. The theatre maximizes audience visits by rotating its repertory, offering different shows on multiple stages in each performance slot. The rotating rep is made possible by having a very large company of actors who do multiple shows. “So, you take away the acting company,” Rauch points out, “and you take away the rep system, you take away the rep system, you take away the audience, and the whole thing collapses. So they’re completely interdependent.” The acting company plays a critical role in maintaining its audience over time. “Audience members come back year after year to see the acting company stretched in new ways and to see actors in multiple shows,” says Rauch. The centrality of the acting company to the festival is reflected in the theatre’s budget, where it is the largest line item. While this is certainly not an inexpensive way to run a theatre, OSF is blessed with high house capacities and vigorous ticket sales. The heart of the company remains the longterm actors who return season after season. Roughly 33 percent of the actors have been in the company for more than five years, some for decades. But as each season has different casting requirements, anywhere from a quarter to a third of the company turns over each year. Rauch likes the mix of a solid core of returning actors “mixed with the fresh perspectives that new company members bring.” There are also opportunities for the actors to work on new plays within the company structure, with a laboratory for new work that puts actors in the center of the play development process. “There’s no public component, there’s no performance component,” Rauch adds. “It’s all about actors and writers in a room together, developing new work.” Rauch muses that it’s not that different from when Shakespeare was writing for his own resident company: “You read Shakespeare’s texts and you just feel the fingerprints of that original company all over them. You can just tell this funky thing

dramaturgically is so that so-and-so can make a costume change, or this clown had this particular skill and they used it and allowed the clown to riff.” The success of recent new plays developed at the Festival has offered the company opportunities to transfer productions to other theatres, and the vast majority of them have moved with their OSF casts intact. In fact, many of the receiving theatres have been able to schedule the runs during the festival’s downtime, in November and December, so the actors could still take part in the regular season. When it comes to selecting a season, Rauch says he keeps the company central in his thinking: “Some years, an actor may be precast in a project, or a project is selected with an actor in mind. The plays I’m commissioning do impact who is in the acting company. Doing more musicals has meant that we have a stronger need for actors who sing. Or when we’re doing a play that has really strong racial requirements in its casting, that will mean we’re introducing more actors of color of that particular ethnic background into the company. I pick plays with the company in mind, and then sometimes projects that we pick will lead to changes in the makeup of the acting company.” Because of the size and diversity of the acting company and the repertory structure of OSF, Rauch takes care to orient first-time directors. An outside director often begins by wanting “perfect casting,” getting precisely the type of actor he or she envisions for a given role. “I think the glory of rep casting is what people bring, even though they may or may not be the exact type you have in your head,” Rauch points out. “So I say to guest directors, trust the rep actors, and trust what they’re going to bring. The shorthand and the history and the depth of experience, the relationship with one another and the audience, the ability to transform—that is all worth its weight in gold. And often worth much, much more than a relationship that a director may already have with an actor who’s outside the company.” Recent OSF guest director James Bundy embraced company casting from the start for his recent production of Richard III. For example, Bundy seized the opportunity to cast deaf actor Howie Seago in the role of Hastings which led him to reevaluate his approach to the play. “Thinking about working with an actor like Howie,” he explained, “who brings extraordinary gifts as an actor and who also signs his performance, made me think a lot about how the interpretation of the play would be framed differently, particularly in a play where the title character’s disability is a key subject of the play.” In this case, one of the solutions Bundy found was to take a

minor offstage character, Mistress Shore, and incorporate her as Hastin’s’ interpreter. Rehearsing with the company was an eyeopening experience for Bundy, who was directing a company of resident actors for the first time. “There’s tremendous generosity in the rehearsal hall. I think the company functions in an exemplary manner in that regard. What there isn’t is a sense that the long-term company members are the incrowd, either protecting their status or withholding information from people who are newer to the company.” Bundy found those long-term company members, which made up about half of his cast, particularly well equipped to tackle a big Shakespearean history: “Their experience gives them a tremendous ease with the repertoire, particularly in the Shakespearean canon.” Since the play was going to be performed on the outdoor Elizabethan stage, Bundy had many conversations both with the cast and members of the artistic staff about how to manage the transition from rehearsal hall to outdoor stage. “Everybody relayed to me experiences of things that had been great in the rehearsal hall,” says Bundy, “but that had died a terrible death when they went outdoors.” Moving outdoors proved a bit less daunting because of a new amplification system installed this past summer (before then, the actors had to rely solely on their vocal chops to reach the last row of the balcony). But Bundy felt the size of the theatre was something he still had to master: “There’s something about the scale of the outdoor theatre and the distance from one actor’s body to another actor’s body that still puts a real responsibility of linguistic fluidity and energy on the actors. Dan Donohue [long-term company member who is playing Richard] was very thoughtful and attentive to it throughout the rehearsal process.” Guest directors often have a hard time adjusting to the unique rep schedule. Bundy says his biggest adjustment as a director was to understand the rhythms of the rehearsal hall, in which people are working on two or more shows at the same time, and, because of the added downtime between rehearsals, the first run-through comes after six weeks, while there are still five weeks left to go. “That’s just a different rehearsal rhythm,” reflects Bundy, “and it means that people’s characters and performances are shaped in a different arc. And so it requires a kind of patience and the kind of interest in what’s the best work that can be done right at this moment. I actually think that is very good because it makes you more observant about actors’ processes.” Bundy also finds that the close, supportive relationships between the actors made for quick and creative problem solving: “The speed FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL


Bill Rauch with playwright Robert Schenkkan, assistant Nicole A. Watson + actors Jack Willis + Kenajuan Bentley in a rehearsal for The Great Society PHOTO Jenny Graham

and flexibility, and utmost professionalism and camaraderie, with which actors were able to solve problems in rehearsal because they had worked together so much, was both amazing and utterly joyful to behold. It’s an extremely empowered company, who are very, very trusting with each other. And so something would come up in rehearsal and they’d sort it out incredibly rapidly, or they’d sort things out backstage in tech. It was very heartening to see and I think a real advertisement for the value of company over time.” But despite his positive experience in Ashland, Bundy emphasizes that OSF is anomalous. One of the reason the Festival functions so well, while still allowing for diversity in casting and plenty of new work, is its size. Most of the resident companies that have disappeared were much smaller—10 to 15 actors—and didn’t have the resources to grow that OSF has. Bundy admits that there have been some positive outcomes from those smaller resident theatres having to let go of their acting companies: “The positives may be outnumbered by the negatives, but they deserve consideration, which they will not get in an environment where we frame those dissolutions as a loss from the get-go. “All other things being equal, if we had a bunch of resident companies today that looked like the ones in the ’60s and ’70s, were as well



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capitalized, relatively speaking, and that did the same kind of work, a great many people would be saying, ‘Why haven’t we changed this model? It’s not ideal for playwrights, it serves artists of color really poorly, and it drives many of our finest actors entirely out of the theatre because they cannot afford to commit to such long contracts.’” In addition to playwrights, Bundy maintains that directors are another group that may have benefited as well: “Resident companies that do not maintain acting companies have been able to invest more significantly in the vision and artistry of directors and/or playwrights whose work might not have been shown to advantage in resident companies.” For these reasons, Bundy suggests that even if the shrinkage in capitalization that underlies the disappearance of so many acting companies could be reversed, “it’s not a foregone conclusion that the best thing for all of them to do would be to return to the permanent acting company model.” But Bundy acknowledges one clear disadvantage he finds in the current scenario. “In spite of everyone’s best efforts,” he says, “as large permanent companies have disappeared, all theatre artists have lost opportunities to work on projects of significant scale on a regular basis. The company I worked with at

OSF, with 24 actors, was the largest I have ever directed, and I’ve been an artistic director for 16 years.” The Denver Center Theatre Company typifies the struggle that many resident theatres have faced to hang onto an acting company. When Kent Thompson left the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and its resident company in 2005 to become Artistic Director at the Denver Center, he inherited a company of more than a dozen actors. At that time, the theatre was producing an 11-show season and, for a time, there seemed to be enough roles to go around. The acting company was featured each season, and large head shots of the actors were hung in the theatre lobby. But Thompson also brought with him a few new artistic priorities, among them a desire to produce more African American and Latino plays, and a revitalized commitment to producing new work, all of which often requires the kind of specific casting that can be hard to find in a preexisting acting company. Then came 9/11, which shrunk audiences, eventually reducing the Denver Center season from 11 shows to 8. All these factors meant a perfect storm was closing in on the resident company. Yet Thompson has found a small awning under which to shelter himself from the wind and the rain. He is trying to hang onto the vestiges of the company by recasting it as what he calls

James Bundy in rehearsal at OSF PHOTO Jenny Graham

a “frequent flyer” program. “These are people who simply work with us regularly,” he explains, “and that is a much larger pool of actors in Denver and around the country than what we would have traditionally called our ‘resident acting company.’ These are people who have an intense commitment to working here, and enjoy working here.” So audiences will continue to see familiar faces on stage—just not with the same frequency. But change never comes easy. Thompson admits that the loss of the resident acting company “is incredibly sad for me, because I’ve spent the past 25 years as the leader of major theatres with resident companies. When I left Alabama, I knew this would be something I would have to fight for, because I was watching it disappear.” Thompson also thinks that the shift away from resident companies is having a profound effect on the field, especially for the actors: “It makes it harder and harder for people to make a middle-class living. And I think, over the long term, that unfortunately takes many people out of the community. I think it tends to send actors back to Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, where they know they can get a variety of work that will sustain their career.” This is exactly what recently happened at the Denver Center when John Hutton, one of the

veterans of the acting company, packed up and headed for New York. As a director, Thompson is going to miss the benefits of working with a company: “I think you work in a different way because you have a language that you both understand, you have some shortcuts. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I also think that if you have actors of really remarkable talent, it allows them to do many different things, which I think is one of the most exciting things about being a resident actor or a resident director.” But aside from the super-sized repertory acting company in Oregon and the frequent flier program in Colorado, where does the impulse for a company still burn bright? In addition to OSF, there are a handful of other U.S. theatres that are still organized around resident acting companies, including Trinity Repertory in Providence, RI, Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, FL, Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, Hedgerow Theatre Company in Rose Valley, PA, Commonweal Theatre Company in Lanesboro, MN, and Repertorio Español in New York City. There is also another type of model that shares many traits of a resident company: the ensemble—a group of devoted actors working together led by a visionary director and/or a signature aesthetic. Examples include

SITI Company, the Rude Mechs, Elevator Repair Service, and, of course, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, one of the largest and most decorated ensembles which has been delivering its brand of visceral theatre for some 40 years. Director and actor Austin Pendleton’s first encounter with Steppenwolf actors was lifechanging. A producer wanted to mount a play in Chicago that Pendleton had just successfully directed in New York—Say Goodnight, Gracie by Ralph Pape—at the then-fledgling Steppenwolf ensemble. Pendleton, whose wife was about to give birth, reluctantly agreed to direct as long as he could simply remount his original staging and hurry back to New York after the first preview. But when he started rehearsing, he soon realized he really liked the Steppenwolf actors, which included Joan Allen and John Malkovich. By the second rehearsal, he was a believer. “Within 20 minutes,” he says, “I threw the book out and just started over. I was so excited with the interactions that were happening on stage, I changed the way it was staged, I changed the rhythms of it—I changed everything. It was one of the most exciting nights I’ve ever had in rehearsal.” And he stayed on for all of the previews (the baby having arrived by then).



Kent Thompson in rehearsal PHOTO John Moore

For Pendleton, there was something totally unique about these actors—“raw Midwestern,” as he puts it. Something he wanted more of. “It was that absolute interdependence of all the actors with each other.” Pendleton was smitten. When he was invited to join the company shortly thereafter, he did so enthusiastically. Since then, he has frequently directed and acted for the company—recent Steppenwolf directing credits include popular new plays like Tribes by Nina Raine and Detroit by Lisa d’Amour. Since by then the company had no residency requirement, Pendleton could remain based in New York. The company has, in fact, turned its open-door policy into an advantage. As their ensemble members become successful in television, film, and Broadway, they retain their membership, lending their cachet to the Steppenwolf brand and, on occasion, returning to perform with the company. Back in Steppenwolf’s early days, ensemble members selected seasons in rowdy late-night sessions fueled by beer and pizza. Now, Artistic Director Martha Lavey is in charge of selecting the plays. She starts by conferring with the company, processing any ideas that come up. Gradually, she shapes a season that, according to Pendleton, “makes its own sense for the good of the theatre.” And then she works out



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the casting. “She thinks about every role that could conceivably be played by someone in the ensemble,” Pendleton continues, “especially if the role represents a stretch for the ensemble member. I’ve played roles that I would never be asked to play anywhere else.” If Lavey can’t find a company member right for a role, she’ll go outside the company, focusing mainly on the deep pool of local actors in Chicago. Steppenwolf’s identity is indivisible from its company of 44 actors, directors, and playwrights. Their website gives pride of place to their ensemble, each member getting equal exposure. Likewise, the Steppenwolf identity cannot be separated from that “raw Midwestern” thing, a singular in-house style that would have made many of the early resident theatres jealous. The spirited discussion sparked by Brian Bell’s recent HowlRound article (“Repertory Is the Answer”) proves that there is still a good deal of interest in resident acting companies—or, at the very least, a good deal of interest in talking about them. Nonetheless, for economic and artistic reasons, the days of resident acting companies are for the most part a thing of the past. But, as Zelda Fichandler urged over 40 years ago, have theatres found ways to reimagine them? Maybe it’s ensembles with open-door policies. Maybe it’s bringing in

frequent fliers. Maybe it’s letting familiarity and relationship trump “perfect casting.” Shakespeare worked with a resident company, and ever since, visionary artists have gathered actors around them at regular intervals: Molière, Chekhov, Brecht, Bogart, and the list goes on. In the early days of the regional theatre movement, the compelling reasons for establishing resident acting companies were many: shorthand in the rehearsal process, building an audience, steady income for the actors, artistic unity. And there are equally compelling reasons why they’ve been disbanded. But if one characteristic of those early companies could survive, what if it were the notion of preserving productive working relationships? Although always working with the same people could feel stagnant, in this fickle art form that demands the most intimate collaboration of all artists involved, who wouldn’t want now and then to build on existing relationships rather than constantly forge new ones? Douglas Langworthy is Literary Manager at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Some of the material in the section on Kent Thompson was taken from an interview by John Moore posted on the Denver Center blog.


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The Civilians are one of the preeminent American theatre companies producing devised work. The company often begins a project by interviewing specific communities before transcribing the interviews into powerful dramatic productions. They boldly explore the intersection between fiction and nonfiction, between theatre and reality. On the eve of opening his new show at the Public Theater, West Hyler sat down with Founding Artistic Director Steve Cosson to discuss the ethical challenges involved when creating work from other people’s stories. WEST | I realized when I was thinking about doing this that you’ve interviewed tons of people in coffee shops all over the place. I’m actually playing a part that you’ve played many, many times. STEVE | Yes, I do it a lot and I teach people how to do it, but I still perpetually feel that I’m not actually that good at interviewing people. Sometimes I have a particularly good one, and sometimes I have a terrible one. I would never go out into the world and try and be a journalist. WEST | I want to start by giving this a context, because I feel like “devised work” is this huge umbrella term that can cover everything from interactive political theatre, to ensemblecreated work, to docudrama. But you seem to have a particularly specific way of working, what you call “investigative theatre.” Where do The Civilians lie on that spectrum of different types of devised work? STEVE | Oh yeah, that is always a tricky question. It’s not like there are truly set definitions of these different ways of working and methodologies. I choose to call our work investigative theatre to emphasize that it is theatre that’s primary purpose is artistic. I wanted to steer away from the word “documentary,” because I feel that the primary purpose of documentary theatre is to communicate information. WEST | In the Footprint is a great example. It was a dramatic piece of theatre first and foremost, but, of course, it also presented both sides of the very real Brooklyn [Atlantic] Yards development battle. STEVE | One thing I can say about In the Footprint is that it was founded in the pursuit of a question. It may be that the initial impetus was the Atlantic Yards project, which I personally had a fairly strong opinion about and that opinion didn’t really change, but I’m only going to make a work of theatre if there’s an important question and an unanswerable question ultimately in the center of the story. If you’re going to go out into the world to talk to people and do interviews, it’s only worthwhile if you have an actual need to listen to people and to discover something. There’s no point going out and doing this work to just confirm what you already know. This idea goes all the way to the heart of why I like this kind of work and why I started the



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company. I felt like I was seeing a lot of theatre that was what I call a theatre of confirmation. You go to the theatre to have your feelings or beliefs about the world confirmed—or if they were maybe disrupted a little bit, they were disrupted so that the disruption was resolved by the end of the play. WEST | Right, it always ends with answers. STEVE | I also found that the scope of what theatre was about, what aspects of life on Earth you might encounter in the theatre, it’s smaller than I would like it to be. WEST | You mean the types of classes, the types of people, the types of characters you see on stage? STEVE | Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot that is important and going [on] in the world that is not on stage. There are these huge empty spaces that we don’t tell stories about, that we just don’t engage.

Just like a photograph of a person, which is the truth of that moment as the camera perceived it, is a different thing than the actual person. So there are those shows like In the Footprint and Tales from My Parents’ Divorce where the characters are real people and everything that they said came from our interviews and we were trying to really be authentic as to who those people are and what their points of view were. But there’s other projects where the investigative part of the show leads into more of a fictionalization, and characters are made up that might borrow aspects from real people. In Pretty Filthy, most of the characters have made-up names. WEST | Is that to protect the people whose stories you’re telling? STEVE | No, it’s because of what sort of show got written. Pretty Filthy is set in the world of adult entertainment and certainly everything that’s happening in that world is the story, but it’s a character-driven fictional story. And I think the primary story of that play was inspired by lots of stories that we heard.

WEST | Let’s talk about some of the people you’ve presented on stage. You did Tales from My Parents’ Divorce, where your company is interviewing their family members, people who are going to see the show, ...if there is a real whom they have long relationships with. person behind a character,

WEST | Often the ensemble writes the show?

STEVE | No. Our plays for the most part are not then I feel like the authored by the ensemble. STEVE | Yeah, in the I think it’s a common majority of work we do, a responsibility is to at misconception about our character is being made least represent truthfully work. We certainly have from an interview. The some shows you could interviewer might just what we experienced in probably say are fully know them from that the interview...Just like a devised, like Tales from My interview or they might Parents’ Divorce, where know them very, very photograph of a person, there are four actors who well, like in the case of which is the truth of that did the interviews and Tales from My Parents’ then worked with Anne Divorce, where the actors moment as the camera Kauffman and Janice were interviewing their perceived it... Paran to write it, but a lot own parents. So they of times the majority of knew their parents and our work is ultimately written by a writer or a they were implicated in their parents’ story, writing team. because it’s about their children. Just to clarify, I was just artistic director for that project… WEST | So how is authorship defined and final the company wrote that and Anne Kauffman authorial control decided when you’re creating directed it. work that way? But I think if there is a real person behind a STEVE | We know going in, so it is set when character, then I feel like the responsibility the project begins. And sometimes something is to at least represent truthfully what we shifts along the way because things change, experienced in the interview. Which isn’t to say but we usually start with a design for what that we are fully representing the truth of who the project is going to be and then that that person is, because that’s something else. STEVE COSSON since 2000 | WEST HYLER since 2009 | ANNE KAUFFMAN since 2005

design usually decides who’s writing it, what the relationship is of the interviewers to the project. So in Pretty Filthy, we did those interviews in Los Angeles; we weren’t building that show with a company. That show started with me and Michael Friedman. And I want to just direct and not get involved in the writing, and so we invited Bess Wohl to come in as the writer. And then when Michael and Bess and I all were in LA doing interviews, we also put together a small company, a couple of actors and a friend of mine who’s a film director, and they did the interviews with us. WEST | The interviewers aren’t always the writers or members of the company? STEVE | No. And they might not be actors in the show, they might not be actors in life; they might be writers or dramaturges, or filmmakers. There’s no set system for it; it’s ultimately what the show needs. There’s a show we’re developing with the Goodman called Another Word for Beauty. It’s about a beauty pageant that takes place in the Bogotá women’s prison. And the interviewing team was all Colombian theatre people, and the interviewers spent a whole month in the prison. And then José Rivera, who’s writing it, and Héctor Buitrago, who’s doing the music, came in for the latter part of the research period and were there for the whole pageant. And those interviews were there as José’s material, but he’s writing a show that is also fiction. WEST | What do you think the responsibility is toward the communities that these stories are coming from? Is it a situation where you gather material and you present the show and move on, or do you feel like you still have a connection to that community? STEVE | Well, with This Beautiful City, about… WEST | Religious evangelicals… STEVE | Yeah, the show in Colorado Springs. We did a very early version of that show before we even knew what we were doing, for the community. WEST | Before you went to rehearsal for the actual production? STEVE | Yeah, before the thing existed. I mean, that was the first time we did it and it seemed insane at the time, and it really came about because Colorado College wanted us too, because they had supported us and because we had a bunch of students from Colorado College who were part of it. So in the last week of our residency we wrote a show over three days. I mean, Michael had been writing songs

along the way and certainly the actors had been doing interviews and performing them in rehearsal. And Jim Lewis, and I, and Michael, wrote a two-hour show in three days and then I staged and tech’ed it at the same time. WEST | Did you make an effort to invite the people who had been interviewed? STEVE | Yeah, everyone who we’d interviewed. We did four performances at Colorado College and a few hundred people came every night and we did a talkback after every show that would go on for an hour-plus. WEST | Were they ever controversial, those talkbacks? STEVE | Oh, you know, they got very heated. But usually the audience between itself, with us kind of moderating. But it was very exciting, because I think it was a rare time in which all these different groups were in the same room and talked to each other, but having this other thing—our show—to bounce the conversation off of. And that was a huge learning opportunity for us to do the show and see not only how an audience reacted, but to have these hour-long discussions after the show. And then also to have follow-up conversations with people that we’d been interviewing and to learn how they experienced the show, what questions they had, what they felt was missing, and what really surprised them, what moved them. From that moment on, from that project on, we’ve tried to do that with every community-engaged show. WEST | So you felt a responsibility in that show to capture the truth and honesty of all viewpoints within that community. STEVE | Yeah, I would say that wanting to capture different viewpoints and to give voice to different experiences, different potentially conflicting points of view, for me is still about playwriting. Just because there’s a real story involved and there’s a real community or there’s real people, all the same rules of dramaturgy still apply. There should still be a dramatic conflict, there’s a protagonist; that protagonist needs to have obstacles. The “Playwriting 101” stuff is still in play. Like In the Footprint, even if I have a point of view about the process behind the Atlantic Yards development and the way that whole thing went down on a political level, figuring out what the play is is about discovering where there is conflict in the story and where that conflict is most complicated, where an audience is going to have the hardest time to make choices about their allegiances. WEST | Right now you’re directing Pretty Filthy, which is a devised work, and let’s say in the same season you’re asked by a regional theatre to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Excerpts of seven productions as described by The Civilians’ website. Learn more at www.

Another Word for Beauty

The Project: The Civilians is developing an original musical inspired by the real-life annual beauty pageant in El Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, the national women’s prison in Bogotá, Colombia. This September, a team of Colombian artists, led by The Civilians’ Artistic Director Steven Cosson, will spend four weeks on-site in the Bogotá prison conducting research and interviews with the participating and non-participating inmates, guards, prison staff, judges, and various professionals who come into the prison to coach the contestants. The Plan: This material will be used to shape a new musical developed in partnership with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro en Bogotá, written by Obie Award-winning playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter José Rivera, with music by Héctor Buitrago of Latin Grammy Award-winning rock band Aterciopelados. This project marks the largest-scale theatrical collaboration between U.S. and Colombian artists in history. The pageant consists of folk-dance, evening-gown, and question-and-answer competitions. Each cellblock enters one woman to compete in the pageant. The competition occurs in the prison’s atrium, which takes on the spirit of a soccer arena during the event. Each cellblock comes together to fiercely cheer on its contestant. In spite of the competitive atmosphere, prison staff cites competition season as the most peaceful and hopeful time of year in the penitentiary. This pageant is quickly garnering countrywide interest and enthusiasm. Judges of the prison pageant are often national celebrities, local journalists, or members of the military. Contestants from the traditional national pageant (the reinado) lend their expertise to the process of preparing for the contest. The traditional pageant is a nationwide obsession that dominates the entertainment news annually for the month leading up to the event, which adds to the public’s excitement surrounding the prison’s reinado. The information found in the research phase for the play will create an intimate understanding of the pageant’s impact on both the prison system and the inmates. The pageant is a recent innovation and is indicative of a shift in public policy that increases support of rehabilitation for the incarcerated. The reasons for the CONTINUED P. 42 FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL


Do you think there’s a different consideration in directing those two projects, or do you think they both live in the same world because you’re essentially trying to do good theatrical storytelling, whatever you direct? STEVE | Really the question is: what’s our ethical responsibility when it comes to representing human beings for other human beings? If the work, whether it’s fictional or whether it’s based on a real person or whether it’s somewhere in between, if the work is confirming some sort of stereotype about a certain type of person, or reinforcing a received idea about some aspect of our society, then that is not interesting. That is not challenging and I would not be growing as a human if I were to watch that. So what I want for my imagined audience member is to be surprised in the right way. WEST | I love that. Let’s talk about Michael Friedman, who you brought up earlier. When you add songs into the shows, when you have Michael building a song out of interviews, how faithful is he to the interviews in his lyrics?

So Michael set that to music and because it was a song, it could then represent a huge piece of real estate in the play; you know, that whole point of view could be, in a sense, input into the world by that one song and that one woman. WEST | What surprised me about In the Footprint is that it was a community in the midst of decision-making and you captured them and then presented that show to them during the decision-making process. Do you think it affected the community? Do you think it changed the trajectory of the event? STEVE | No. I don’t think the show could have had any impact on what actually happened. I mean, all of the political activism and that long, many-year story was much more important than our show and that’s where the real stuff happens. I am not doing In the Footprint because I want some particular outcome to happen in this particular development in Brooklyn. My play’s not going to have any impact on the outcome of the development in Brooklyn.

“If I was going to

define devised theatre in its pure form, I would think that it would mean a work in which there was a group of people who had collective authorship of the work and were really making it all together.

STEVE | Oh, it all depends. You know, in many cases it’s verbatim; he’s really only using words from the interviews. In other cases, the lyrics are purely invention, and depending on the show, it’s pretty evident; you can feel when a character shows up and speaks through a song. For example, in In the Footprint, we didn’t have, outside of the politicians who supported the development and the stadium, there wasn’t much in the show that was sort of pro-development. Most of the people who were supporting the development were about the unions or the jobs, or about affordable housing, but there wasn’t really anybody who was like, “I just think it’s awesome—the whole thing’s awesome.”

But we had this one interview and she didn’t have a stake in one side or the other, but was somebody who lived in Brooklyn and, you know, it was one person who said, “I just think it’s beautiful; it’s such a beautiful arena. And for all those people who were opposed to it because of everything that will be torn down; you know, in a few years, when anybody walks by, they’re not going to remember what was there and nobody’s going to care.”

What’s more important to me is that the audience that comes and watches the play will hopefully carry away a different understanding of their place within the city that they live in, have an understanding of what’s happening now in our culture when political power and corporate power are one and the same, and what that means.

It’s more about the future, really, than it is about the present; it’s more about when the next thing comes along. Ultimately, I’m going for the lasting impact. WEST | I love what Bill English says, that the theatre is a gym where we go to practice our empathy. STEVE | Yeah, certainly I think empathy is part of it and I want to connect that empathy to a larger phenomenon. I want to make that empathetic connection and then actually push that empathy into the real world where it gets more complicated, where it gets more difficult. The Atlantic Yards stories were really interesting, you know, the public’s empathy was very effectively manipulated and the corporate entity at the center of the development was very smart in building its allegiance, in building alliances with the


contestants’ imprisonment—which range from drug trafficking to murder—will inspire examination of larger social and political issues in Colombia, including poverty and the decades-old violent conflict among paramilitary, government, and guerrilla political groups. The stories collected in the interview process will illuminate authentic voices that provide models of hope for those on the difficult path toward healing and transformation.

Gone Missing

Devised by The Civilians from interviews with real-life New Yorkers, Gone Missing is a wry and whimsical documentary musical about things that go missing—keys, personal identification, a Gucci pump…or one’s mind. The show is a collection of very personal accounts of things lost and found, creating a unique tapestry of the ways in which we deal with and relate to loss in our lives.

In the Footprint

In the Footprint, a new play with music, tells the story of Brooklyn’s largest development project in history. The play examines the conflicts that erupted in the case of Atlantic Yards through to its current resolution in an attempt to discover how the fate of the city is decided in present-day New York and what can be learned from this ongoing saga of politics, money, and the places we call home. The play is constructed from interviews with real-life players in this Brooklyn epic, including local residents, business owners, Daniel Goldstein, political leaders such as Letitia James and Marty Markowitz, activists, union members, and community leaders.

Mr. Burns

What will endure when the cataclysm arrives—when the grid fails, society crumbles, and we’re faced with the task of rebuilding? Anne Washburn’s imaginative dark comedy propels us forward nearly a century, following a new civilization stumbling into its future. A paean to live theatre, and to the resilience of Bart Simpson through the ages, Mr. Burns is an animated exploration of how the pop culture of one era might evolve into the mythology of another.

Pretty Filthy

The Civilians’ artists were out in Vegas and California’s San Fernando Valley, talking to directors, performers, agents, and producers about the ins and outs of the dirty movie biz: how they do it and what it takes to make it. These insiders got down to the nitty-gritty of how they started in the porn industry, how to become a star, and how technological advancements have affected the genre.




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groups like Acorn, who could then be the public face of the project and say, “This project is about homes and jobs for people of color in Brooklyn; this is what the project is all about: it’s about affordable housing and jobs and opportunities.” And that is a very effective empathetic tool. But the story’s more complicated than that; the reality is more complicated than that. WEST | Do you ever think about the fact that these shows one day will be licensed and this interview of a parent, or a politician, or porn star will be performed by actors somewhere in the world who’ve never met them? STEVE | There have been certainly other productions of Civilian shows. You know, Gone Missing is the one that’s probably done the most—lots of schools do Gone Missing. Tales from My Parents’ Divorce is published and somebody just inquired who might do it, This Beautiful City. Just like any play that is published and licensed, you can pick them up and ultimately they will be different. WEST | Yeah, and the character will become more and more fictional than the original presentation, when the actor presenting it was able to interview that person, hear their voice, hear their vocal rhythms, to try to actually portray the truth of that person. STEVE | Yeah, one thing I’ve certainly noticed in having done this kind of work for a while is when I’m casting to replace somebody and using text from the show. Particularly with This Beautiful City, actors would come in with preconceived ideas about who these people are that might be kind of distant from who they really are. I’ve certainly seen actors come in and audition and take the same speech from a show and really reduce the scope of the character and make it much less interesting, because they kind of cast an idea over what it is. Whereas another actor might take up the same text, still not know who the real person was or hear the recording, but has the instincts to make more authentic and complex choices, and the character in there will come to life again. And in a sense it makes it very easy to audition sometimes, because you learn a lot about the actors’ sensibility and where they start from. WEST | Before we finish up, I want to talk just a little bit about Mr. Burns, which is a bit of an outlier in The Civilians’ oeuvre. With Mr. Burns, was there a part of it where it was ensemblecreated, or was it all playwright-driven?

STEVE | Well, there’s a big part of it that came from the company, which is the piece of the first act where the characters in the play are remembering the “Cape Fear” “Simpsons” episode. The majority of those lines came from a workshop we did at the beginning, which was like four days long, I think, in which those same actors who did the New York production got together with me and Anne in a rehearsal room and tried to remember “The Simpsons” “Cape Fear” episode, and the other piece was that as Anne wrote the rest of the play, she knows those actors and has worked with those actors—you know, it’s that company relationship—even though the real words were just a piece of the first act, she has Matt Maher in mind as the character Matt goes into the second act and then even in the third act, where those original characters are all gone. She has Sam Wright in mind as she’s writing the character of Mr. Burns in the play within the play. I try to make the case that this way of working is the theatre norm; but it’s not the theatre norm in America, because of the way we created institutional theatre in this country. When we talk about theatre companies in America, The Civilians are always like the different thing, like the interesting different thing. Because in our norm we’ve created, everyone’s a dependent, you know; the theatre is this institution with its management and its artistic director and the play is the work created by the playwright and then the production is assembled by the people who make the production, who are assembled by the producer. I think that what’s lost in that model is that theatre is the production inherently; theatre happens when it’s actually all happening. If I was going to define devised theatre in its pure form, I would think that it would mean a work in which there was a group of people who had collective authorship of the work and were really making it all together. WEST | Can you talk about some future projects for The Civilians, what’s next on the calendar? STEVE | We’re gearing up to premiere Pretty Filthy by Michael Friedman and Bess Wohl. Another big new thing for us is being the first ever theatre company in residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’ve been invited to engage the ideas of the Met’s collection and create a number of events that will take place in the galleries. I’m particularly excited to be directing an incarnation of our show about death and dying, The End and the Beginning, in the Temple of Dendur, which is a 2,000-year-old Egyptian temple. It’s all quite wonderfully intimidating.


Tales from My Parents’ Divorce

Crafted from interviews the cast conducted with their own parents, Tales from My Parents’ Divorce is a heartbreaking and hilarious account of the parents’ marriages and their subsequent divorces. These delicate parentchild conversations have yielded unique insights into falling in love, falling out of love, and rebuilding a life after the complex experience of dividing a family. The show explores each couple’s first meeting, the ups and downs of their marriage, their split, and the surprising perspectives on life after divorce. In these alternately funny, devastating, and revelatory performances, the four actors—each playing his or her own parent or parents—are the conduits of their parents’ stories and, inevitably though sometimes inadvertently, also of their own experiences of family division. This provocative show reveals the stories behind the statistics of one of the most prominent social phenomena of our time.

This Beautiful City

This Beautiful City is a play with music, created from interviews with actual persons, that explores the Evangelical movement and its unofficial U.S. capital. Because of the presence of several national Evangelical headquarters, the influential mega-church New Life (formerly led by Ted Haggard), and numerous and diverse churches, questions surrounding religion and civic concerns are brought to the foreground of everyday life in this city. The Civilians’ project looks at Colorado Springs as a microcosm of issues facing the country as a whole—the shifting line between church and state, changing ideas about the nature of Christianity, and how different beliefs can either coexist or conflict within a community. The company completed its investigative phase in 2006, compiling hundreds of hours of interviews over the course of 10 weeks in Colorado Springs. Every leading church in the area participated in the project, as did numerous civic organizations, progressive activists, and individuals from all walks of life. An initial presentation took place at Colorado College in February, 2007 with the title “Save This City.” The company premiered the play in 2008 at the Humana Festival for New American Plays and This Beautiful City has since been seen in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in New York.





Established in 2011, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards is a 10-year initiative that recognizes artists in theatre, jazz, and contemporary dance for their exceptional, enduring work in the field. Named after Doris Duke and presented by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the awards aim to honor, celebrate, and support the arts and theatre professionals the way Duke did during her lifetime. Born in 1912, Duke played piano, composed music, and even studied dance with Martha Graham. Not only was she an advocate for the arts, Duke was also an environmentalist and philanthropist, donating millions of dollars to causes such as AIDS research, child welfare, and medical research. In her will, she created the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which, since her death in 1993, has bestowed over $1 billion in grants supporting causes such as the performing arts, medical research, and environmental conservation. The Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards is divided into two distinct honors—the Doris Duke Artist Award and the Doris Duke Impact Award. While the former recognizes generative artists who create and produce new work, the latter highlights both generative and interpretative artists who strive to understand and explain the work of others. In April, recipients of this year’s Artist Awards were announced, including Members John Collins, Bill T. Jones, Nancy Keystone, and Annie-B Parson, all of whom the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will support both financially and artistically in their future endeavors. SDC was thrilled that the Doris Duke Performing Artists Awards recognized its Members. The following are the recipients’ thoughts and reflections during the early months since receiving the award. BY




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DIRECTOR It’s a great honor. I was flattered and humbled by the recognition. It also means joining some incredible company. Just to be a part of this roster of current and past recipients is itself hugely flattering. A director’s primary skill is collaboration. To be good at your job as a director means being able to work well inside a group of artists and to know when the collective effort, or even the effort of one actor or designer, needs to supersede your own ego and your own ideas. I work exclusively with an ensemble, and this need to be a collaborator and a part of a team is paramount. So it is incredibly meaningful to be singled out in this way. The award is geared toward me as an individual, and it’s rare for me to receive that kind of attention, separate from the company with whom I collaborate. The award is meaningful for my whole organization, Elevator Repair Service, and not just for me, since it is recognition of the work we’ve all done together and not just for something that I’ve done in isolation. But, for me personally, it is still a great honor to receive an award that will give me personal opportunities as well as opportunities to support my company.” John Collins founded Elevator Repair Service Theater in 1991. Since then, he has directed or co-directed all of the company’s productions. John is the recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2011 United States Artists Donnelley Fellowship. In 2010, John received the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Director and the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director for ERS’s production of Gatz. Recent ERS projects include Arguendo (The Public Theater and The Woolly Mammoth Theater) and The Select (The Sun Also Rises) (New York Theatre Workshop). His writing about theatre and sound design can be found in two recently published books: Theatre Noise: The Sound of Performance (Cambridge Scholars, 2011) and Encountering Ensemble (Methuen Drama, 2013). John was born in North Carolina and raised in Georgia. He holds a combined degree in English literature and theatre studies from Yale.


DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER Receiving this award is an imprimatur like no other in the beleaguered performing arts world that I have given my entire career to. Attending the orientation sessions, answering the very exacting and challenging demands of the program made me feel as if I had gone back to school in a certain way. I thought I knew everything about my field and how it does and does not intersect with the art world and the “business of art.” Sitting around a conference table with artists at many stages of their careers, I was humbled and inspired to be reminded yet again that there is a community of creatives, and, though I often fall prey to feelings of alienation, this award has reminded me that I am also a working member of this community.” Bill T. Jones is the recipient of the 2013 National Medal of Arts; the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors; a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography of the critically acclaimed FELA!; a 2007 Tony Award, 2007 Obie Award, and 2006 Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation CALLAWAY Award for his choreography for Spring Awakening; the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2007 USA Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship; the 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography for The Seven; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2005 Harlem Renaissance Award; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award. Mr. Jones choreographed and performed worldwide with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before forming the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. He is Artistic Director of New York Live Arts, an organization that strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting, and educating.

JOHN COLLINS since 2008 | BILL T. JONES since 2006 | NANCY KEYSTONE since 2000 | ANNIE-B PARSON since 2009


DIRECTOR Winning the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award is far and away the most significant accolade I’ve ever received! I’m still trying to wrap my head around what it means and what the impact will be on my work and career—it’s such an incredible acknowledgement. It is particularly meaningful amid a culture, which does not generally place a great deal of value on the arts and artists. In this climate, it is very difficult to garner support—both financial as well as moral—and so the Doris Duke Award feels like a signal to me to keep going, to keep making the work. I don’t expect that the making will get any easier, but for instance, I know that I now have the funds to finish Ameryka, the piece I’m currently creating (which, prior to receiving the award, was not a sure thing), and that is an enormous gift and relief. Beyond that, I’m still in the process of planning for the next five years and how best to rise to this miraculous occasion.” Nancy Keystone is a director, multidisciplinary artist, and Artistic Director of Critical Mass Performance Group, a Los Angeles-based ensemble committed to collaborative development of multi-layered theatrical performances (named 2013 “Best Theater Company” by LA Weekly). In her roles as chief investigator, writer, director, and designer, Keystone has recently helmed Apollo (2001–09), a theatrical collage juxtaposing the U.S. space program and the Civil Rights Movement; and Alcestis (2013), a deconstruction of Euripides’ play about love and sacrifice. The company is currently developing Ameryka, which explores democracy and freedom through the lens of the U.S. relationship with Poland. As a freelance artist, she has directed and designed dozens of theatre productions around the country, as well as opera and film. Keystone is the recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a USA Fellowship (2011), the Alan Schneider Director Award (2003), among many honors. She is on visiting faculty at UCLA, a frequent guest lecturer, and instructor in arts-in-education programs nationwide.


CHOREOGRAPHER Winning the award was a great day! It was raining and I got a cell phone call; I ducked under an awning, dripping wet, answered the phone from an unknown number expecting nothing but a wrong number at best, heard the astonishing news, and wept in the rain. This award is a validation of your body of work; it is a validation that you have made a small nudge in the sensibility of the city; it is a nod to your strange sense of beauty, which many at first found ugly. I am not interested in validating how movement has been constructed and used in the mainstream of theatre; in fact, I have little patience for much modern dance and most choreography in plays. Neither the conventions of hip nor the conventions of musical theatre interest me. This award served as an affirmative response to the dances I have put into the world, which in a sense have always been a disturbance of dramaturgy.” Annie-B Parson co-founded the Obie Award-winning Big Dance Theater, creating over 20 works that have toured nationally and internationally. Big Dance recently toured a Chekhov work starring Mikhail Baryshnikov to many theatres in the U.S. including Berkeley Rep, MCA/Chicago, and Shakespeare Theater. Other commissions have been from such theatres as Le Chaillot National in Paris, The Japan Society, The Walker Art Center, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. This fall, Big Dance premieres a new work at BAM after performances in Lyon and Berlin. Outside of Big Dance, she choreographed David Byrne’s Here Lies Love, currently running at The Public Theater. Parson choreographs for rock concerts (David Byrne and St. Vincent 2008, 2012, 2014), for opera (Nico Muhly); theatre (Orlando); MTV: (Salt-N-Pepa, Laurie Anderson). Awards: Doris Duke Artist (2014); Guggenheim Fellowship (2007); USA Artist Award (2012); Bessie Awards (2000; 2010); Foundation for Contemporary Art Award (2014); Jacob’s Pillow Award for visionary work (2007). FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL





Dramaturge, producer, and former singer in a rock band are all ways to describe Megan E. Carter, and now a new title can be added to the list: Director of SDC Workshop Foundation. On May 27, it was announced that Carter would take over as Director at the end of June, bringing new leadership for the first time in nearly 10 years. “It’s an honor to be able to continue and build on the exceptional work of the Foundation, and I am eager to focus my energy on elevating the visibility of the craft of directors and choreographers,” says Carter. Before joining SDCF, Carter worked as the Associate Artistic Director of Women’s Project Theater (WP) for seven years, where she collaborated on all aspects of producing and programming. “I was involved in bigger-picture conversations about the theatre: where we were going, who our audience was, telling the story of that theatre—in addition to the day-to-day administration,” she says. Carter was also the resident dramaturge at Women’s Project. “I read scripts, attended a lot of readings and workshops, and spent a great deal of time in the rehearsal room. The job was kind of everything, and, of course, the mission of that theatre is so amazing and important; advocating for women and producing and



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promoting women theatre artists is something that I wanted to do.” During her tenure with Women’s Project, Carter worked on ten world premieres, six New York premieres, countless readings and workshops, and three site-specific pieces. Created by the WP Lab, a residency for directors, playwrights, and producers, the site-specific pieces were performed at the World Financial Center, where Carter and the team encountered obstacles such as sound pollution from high ceilings and traffic. “Because the World Financial Center is so large and has a variety of foot traffic, part of the challenge—and the fun—was figuring out which spaces really worked for something theatrical to happen,” Carter says. “A piece that was text-heavy and highly narrative wouldn’t be effective, so the directors, playwrights, and producers really had to work together to figure out how to tell the stories they wanted to tell and create physically dynamic pieces that were cohesive.” Ellen Lauren, the CoArtistic Director at SITI Company with whom Carter collaborated as a dramaturge and as an instructor with the SITI Conservatory, recognizes Carter’s ability to solve problems in collaborative endeavors. “Megan Carter’s quiet confidence comes from her intelligence,

her understanding how collision is necessary to create theatre, and her ability to constantly innovate solutions. She has an uncanny ability to perceive and respond to the world with a clarity that sees its finite realities and feels its infinite possibilities,” says Lauren. On top of determining how to respond to the space, the creative team comprised more than 20 people—a crash course in deep collaboration. This sense of collaboration is something to which Carter is accustomed. Although she appreciates many types of theatre, she is most drawn to pieces that highlight the power of teamwork. “I really admire productions that are able to pull together all of the elements— movement, text, sound, lights, objects—in a way that’s completely unified, fully creating a new world on stage,” says Carter. “I love theatre for being the collaborative art form that it is, and I think directors and choreographers lead the way for that to happen.” As the resident dramaturge at WP, Carter worked with a variety of directors, noting the many ways directors have affected her craft. “Daniella Topol is an extraordinary dramaturgical director. She’s lets the text lead, but knows when to ask questions of the playwright. She’s unbelievably rigorous, but also generous.” She continues, “Being in DANIELLA TOPOL since 2007

SDC FOUNDATION the rehearsal room with Anne Bogart is a great treat—she allows actors to be creative in a way that allows for big surprises on stage. There are really too many to describe all of them and their unique approaches, but I could wax poetic about Lear deBessonet, Tea Alagić, Gaye Taylor Upchurch, Jessi D. Hill, Pam MacKinnon, among others. I’ve been very lucky to be in the room with so many excellent directors.” Carter’s experiences and perception of the purpose of theatre has allowed her to successfully give a voice to women, a group traditionally not given prominence in the industry. “As theatremakers and artist advocates, we have to be more aware and more open to the people who are not automatically in our circles,” Carter says. “I saw over and over again very talented women with real experience [in] Off-Off-Broadway and in small regional theatres get passed over as they try to get to the next level.” Through working with a mission that focused on an underrepresented group, Carter developed a desire to expand her awareness of the greater theatre community. “I’ve begun to broaden my circles in terms of who I’m making theatre with and what shows I’m going to see to make sure that I’m hearing as many different voices as I possibly can. That’s going to make me a better advocate.” She continues, “It would have taken me longer to come to that awareness if I hadn’t been working exclusively with a group that is not fully represented on our big stages.” Through collaborating with Carter, Lauren witnessed Carter’s support for this cause. “Her commitment to the future is reflected in her advocacy for new voices and ideas. Passionate, funny, courageous—Megan is an artist of such great integrity,” says Lauren.

Carter’s past experiences will help her as she transitions into the role of Director of SDC Workshop Foundation. Her previous act of balancing administrative work with being in the rehearsal room will benefit her work with SDCF. “I have a grand history of having my hands in everything. So the Foundation’s combination of programming, fundraising, networking, and storytelling is a perfect fit,” she says. Through working with the Foundation, Carter hopes to raise awareness about the craft of directors and choreographers. “Because of my time in the rehearsal room, I know what directors do, but I also know that it changes so much depending on what the thing is, if it’s a Broadway musical, if it’s a small devised piece, if it’s a new play versus a revival. There’s so much variety in what they do,” Carter explains. “Trying to tell a cohesive story about the importance of what the director does is something that I’m super interested in. And I’ve not had the opportunity to work with very many choreographers, so that’s a whole new world that I get to explore.” Carter understands and values the work the Foundation does for directors and choreographers. “I’m thrilled with how strong the Foundation is. I’m coming into this robust organization with brilliant programming.

The observerships are incredible,” she says. “I think part of my mission in my first year or two is to really make sure everybody in the wider world knows about the Foundation’s programs. How can we let the entire theatre community know even more about what the Foundation is doing, about what SDC is doing, about what directors in the American theatre are doing?” More specifically, Carter hopes to assist not only up-and-coming directors and choreographers, but also those at all stages of career. Tessa LaNeve, the Director of the Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages, where Carter teaches, says working directly with artists is the type of environment in which Carter thrives: “Megan’s beauty stems from a genuine enthusiasm toward nurturing and developing artists at all levels. She shines at mentorship, matchmaking, and advocacy.” Adam Greenfield, the Director of New Play Development at Playwrights Horizons and Carter’s longtime dramaturge colleague, echoes this sentiment. Megan is “an asset to any organization wise enough to get her, but—it seems to me—particularly an artistdriven organization like SDC Foundation. Like any good producer, Megan has a deep understanding of artists’ preoccupations and pursuits; her career to date is happy proof of this,” he says. A large part of Carter’s goals concerns expanding communication between Members and finding out their concerns. “How can we further connect directors and choreographers around the country and create conversations from L.A. to Chicago and New York and everywhere in between?” she asks. “I’m really excited about getting to know the Membership of SDC.”

I know that when I need advice, support, an ear, or a laugh, I go straight to her. Her strategic guidance, wit + Southern charm lift all weight from my shoulders. She’s a rock + the SDCF is enormously lucky to have her. Sort of makes me want to be a director. - TESSA LANEVE TEA ALAGIC since 2007 | ANNE BOGART since 1990 | LEAR DEBESSONET since 2007 JESSI D. HILL since 2011 | PAM MACKINNON since 2001 | GAYE TAYLOR UPCHURCH since 2011




SIDE BY SIDE Choreographers As Collaborators FROM SPRING/SUMMER 2008 THE JOURNAL, VOLUME 20, NO. 1 Choreographers Liza Gennaro, Christopher Gattelli, and Dan Knechtges met with SDC Members at a Director/Choreographer Network to share their insights and expertise on the choreographer’s role as a collaborator. We asked them about their ideal creative team and what they look for in a successful collaboration. LIZA GENNARO | Every collaboration is completely different. It really depends on the production and what the team is bringing to that production. The ideal team is hard to describe because it’s so particular to the piece. Having said that, I think that what is necessary for a choreographer is to share an aesthetic sensibility with the director so that when you do approach a project, you’re on the same page. Musical theatre is essentially a collaborative art form, but I think that the director is the person who has to man the ship. He’s got to lead the way, and he’s the one who’s ultimately making the final decisions. As the choreographer, my role is to bring to that table what movement can do for a production. I want to bring a movement lexicon that matches whatever that production requires. Whether it takes place in the 19th century or in the 1940s, I need to be able to find how the characters move. I’m also walking into a situation where the environment is predetermined. I have to immediately collaborate with a bunch of different situations. The music department is my closest collaboration besides the director. There’s the dance arranger, the orchestrator, the composer, and the musical director. Collaboration is best when you find people with whom you can really communicate and people who will remain flexible enough so that when things change, which they do in the musical theatre on a daily basis, everyone can head in whatever direction we’re being asked to go. If you can stay flexible and stay open to what’s happening in the room, that’s the happiest situation. That often comes from the environment that’s been set up. I like a safe, comfortable, nurturing environment. That’s very rare. CHRISTOPHER GATTELLI | The main thing I was thinking about when we were asked this question is how important it is to have an open collaboration with everyone, including the director, performers, musical director, and also an assistant or associate who may be working



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with you. I really consider that an important part of the collaboration, finding someone you can trust and work with as a really good editor on your work. I also look for the director to be an editor with my work. I say, “This is what I’m thinking about the show and this number could be this and that and the other thing.” And the director replies, “Oh, that’s too much, too little, just right.” But before I even get to that level with the director, I prefer to do pre-production with someone there at my side [whom] I can ask, “What do you think?” I find it very helpful to have a sounding board before I ever present the work to another source in the room and beyond. I tend to work best in a very open, “never say no” kind of situation. DAN KNECHTGES | I’m the same way. I use my associate as an editor and certainly the director as well. The model collaboration that I have is with my friend, Kevin Moriarty, who I’ve worked with so many times that it is now second nature. Often he uses me like the co-director. There is never any decision made without us being there together. He equates it on a musical to I’m the mom and he’s the dad in a healthy marriage where there is equal say. Kevin and I did a production of The Sound of Music, where he choreographed a number and I directed a scene because the scene had some elements to it that he felt that I understood more than he did. He said, “Why don’t you take the lead on that and I know exactly what I want on ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen.’” After an hour, we switched rooms and we went back and forth. Then we brought them together and conferred. Collaboration is hard. I have a healthy ego and it’s hard to have that taken down a little bit when your ideas aren’t loved the first time out. Being a good collaborator is feeding the ego from time to time, but also critically being able to say, “Listen, I like what you did, but what about this?” They need to be honest, but not hurtful. I respond much better to that. Most directors who I like working with are really good editors. James Lapine is one of the best in that regard. He would give me things that he did and vice versa, and that was healthy. It’s good when you get to that point. But it can take a long time to be a good collaborator with someone because you’re trying not to offend and you’re feeling them

out. The sooner you can get over that, the better. LIZA | You’re thrown into a situation where you immediately have to connect with the person. You go to an interview and meet the person. You decide if you like the project or if you think you can bring something to the project. Then that person decides if they want to work with you. But at the same time, you have to ask yourself, “Can I work with this person?” Sometimes you think you can and you can’t, then sometimes you think you can and it’s glorious. The work happens so quickly that you have to bond with each other. Elements of trust are really essential in that process because you can really get cut off at the knees. In Agnes de Mille’s book Dance of the Piper, she writes about being fired from a show. Robert Alton, who was a well-known, popular choreographer in the 1930s, replaced her. He pulled her aside and made a list for her of what she should do in rehearsals in the future in order to protect her work. One of the things was: do not let anyone see your work until it is completely finished. Don’t let anybody in the room. That’s not something that I’ve ever quite been able to pull off. But I wish I had because many times I’ve been in the situation where the director has come in when something was really early on in the process of developing and they look at it and say, “Well, that’s…” You get cut off at the knees and it can paralyze you. DAN | Do you ever have the director in the room while you’re working? LIZA | Yes. That can be very hard. CHRISTOPHER | I’ve found out lately that I can usually tell that some directors get movement and some don’t. I’ve been able to tell in an audition setting and that’s really keyed me into, “Oh, they’re actually listening to me and who I want. Fantastic!” I’m doing South Pacific with Bartlett Sher, whom I’m loving already, and at the audition he said, “But they’re going to have to move for you and they’re not very coordinated. I want you to be able to work with them.” It’s nice to know that I’m going to be able to walk into the first day of rehearsal and be able to have the freedom to try different things and to create. It’s a huge weight removed.

AGNES DE MILLE d.1993 | CHRISTOPHER GATTELLI since 2000 | LIZA GENNARO since 1991 DAN KNECHTGES since 2001 | JAMES LAPINE since 1988 | KEVIN MORIARTY since 1998 | BARTLETT SHER since 1996

Some directors don’t want to see the actors dance in the audition because they don’t think it’s necessary for the show. Immediately you see where they don’t understand this. DAN | With the way musicals are constructed now, it’s very rare to have the opportunity to work on a show with a dancing chorus that only dances. Back in Agnes’s days, you could take the dancers to the lobby and work for four weeks without ever seeing the director. LIZA | Then they came in and changed it. DAN | How do you deal with taking notes from the director about your work? CHRISTOPHER | I think it is individual because you have healthier relationships with some than with others. With some directors that I know, I wouldn’t be offended at all if they said, “You have to cut that.” It’s in the way they say it and how the relationship has developed to that point. LIZA | That’s when craft really has to kick in because you have to be able to disengage emotionally from being told that something’s not working, which maybe you are devoted to and think is working. But I’m all for throwing out. I like the challenge. Besides the fact that I grew up in the family that I grew up in, one of the reasons that I choreograph for the musical theatre as opposed to ballet or concert work is that I really enjoy the challenges of walking into a situation that’s all set up and finding ways to utilize dance that will support the dramatic intent, the text, and the character, and layer in another narrative language. I find that process fascinating. The more I choreograph, the more I like the environment of being able to try anything. You can throw it out if it doesn’t work and try something else. If you can be quick on your feet and really open to what’s in the room, that’s when it’s really healthy. DAN | I find that’s really helpful and has also helped me with endearing a collaborator. If a good idea comes up that wasn’t pre-planned, I’ll throw out my pre-production to do it. That’s another question. When I’ve worked with other choreographers, they’ve had everything pre-planned. “You’re going to take five ball changes, you’re going to do this next, and then you’ll smile on this.” That’s what it is. I physically, mentally cannot do that. But I’m wondering what your process is. CHRISTOPHER | When I first started, I was very “this is what it is” when I walked in the room. The number was done, top to bottom. Then, when I worked on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, it changed everything. I had never worked in TV before, so it was a completely different animal. CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY since 1988

At first I went about it the same way. I would say, “Rosie’s going to enter here. This camera’s going to pick her up, etc.” Then I would find out that Rosie couldn’t enter there and that the camera would be over there and so on. All of a sudden it had to change. Everything I had planned was out the window and on the spot, because of time and money, I had to redo an entire number. But that experience, as terrifying as it was at the time, really altered how I approach my work. Out of that came openness for the next job that I took because I knew that I didn’t have to go in knowing everything. I could be open about it and not locked into anything. Now my process is mainly that I will do a lot of pre-production and research, but walk into a room with about 50 percent—enough to get me through a day or get the ball rolling, knowing that the director can say, “Oops, we have to have everything face upstage.” Then you have the resources in your head to say, “Okay, we can do this.” You take a 10-minute break, regroup with your assistant, and then you go to Plan B. It’s being open, but having enough behind you and supporting you to get through to creating that template. You can end the day with confidence in the actors, confidence in that sketch, and confidence from your director that you can tell a story and know what you’re doing. Then you go home that night and regroup. LIZA | It’s a safety mechanism. If a moment comes when you’re stuck, then you can always go to your notes, pull something out, and just get it moving again. But I used to do the same thing. When I was first choreographing, I went in and it was done! I would go in and put the thing on its feet. And now I do all the research and preparation and I barely ever look at my notes. DAN | I videotape a lot of my pre-production. My assistant and I document it and oftentimes we’ve done a full number three or four different ways. But when we go into rehearsal, we don’t really look at it. If we get stuck, we’ll get out our video camera and look at what we did. Sometimes I use the video to show the director sketches of numbers to see if we’re on the right track. CHRISTOPHER | Go in at least having sketches or knowing your research enough to know why actors are doing something. You can read from the actors immediately if you have their confidence or not. And that’s huge. If the actors feel that they are working with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, they immediately go to that place of insecurity because they are the ones who are out there. That taught me really quickly to just do something if you are stuck and to do it

with confidence. You can always change it, but to me the most important thing is the actors having that trust in you. As soon as you have them on your side, you can do anything and try anything. LIZA | You want to go with the mistakes, too. The mistakes are sometimes where the gold is. CHRISTOPHER | I say it point-blank when I start a project: “Just so you know, I have no ego. I’ll take an idea from anyone.” It’s being open and creating that environment in the room so that people will feel comfortable trying new ideas. DAN | Is the director usually a part of your preparation, your pre-production? LIZA | With some directors, I’ve really painstakingly gone through every number. It also depends if you’re going to work on something that the director has done before and you’re coming in as the new choreographer. That’s a different animal. If you’re working on a revival or recreating something, like I have had the opportunity to do with my father’s work, that’s also a very different situation. DAN | With Xanadu, Chris Ashley was with me for most of the pre-production. I would spend a few hours with my associate, then Chris would come in, we’d talk some more and throw out some more ideas. He actually would get up and dance with us at times and talk through the structure of the numbers. AUDIENCE | How do you deal with not having the final say on your work, on letting go of that authority that you might have if you worked as a choreographer in the ballet or concert world? CHRISTOPHER | You have to know when to pick your battles. If I know this one thing is going to kill, I will let five other things go that I like a lot. It will make me think of other options, but I’ll really fight for this one thing. I’ll hold onto one or two discussions about things that I’m really passionate about. I’ll wait to play those specific cards when I really need to. DAN | One powerful thing that I constantly keep relearning is that it can come back. You can have a good idea, try it out, and know that it works. But if the director doesn’t like it, you can come up with another idea. Then you have choices. You can say, “Well, actually, I don’t think that worked as well. I think this worked better and this is why I think that.” The way the director presents it is one thing, but the way you present it is another, too. I’ve found that being strong about a concept doesn’t work unless you’re articulate about it.



CHRISTOPHER | The first thing out of your mouth has to be, “It supports the story because…” If you say something like, “A whole group of people doing fan kicks will look amazing,” that’s not going to help you make your case. LIZA | If you’re coming from the concert world and into the musical theatre world, you have to really consider why you are doing that. What are the elements of musical theatre choreography that are of interest to a ballet choreographer or a modern dance choreographer? Use the example of Bill T. Jones, who successfully choreographed Spring Awakening. He found a way to use a very sophisticated method of choreography within that show. He did something that I don’t think anybody’s ever really done before, which was to create from the beginning to the end a through line of movement that serves as a metaphor for the libretto. I think the great thing about the musical theatre is that it can absorb just about anything. Think back to Hair. Julie Arenal, who choreographed Hair, was doing postmodern, Judson Church choreography in the midst of a Broadway musical. It’s up to these choreographers to come into the genre and bring what they understand of dance and what they appreciate and love about dance and reinvent the form. Why do we have to stay with what Agnes de Mille or Jerome Robbins did or what any of these people down the pike have done? Keep reinventing it. Keep pushing the envelope. DAN | If choreographers initiate pieces, that also helps. There are several modern dance choreographers whom I would love to see do a Broadway musical. But it’s the exact thing that we were talking about—letting go and being able to work under a time constraint. I think we’re not just for hire; we can be creative stimuli as well. Tying it back to collaboration, the audition situation is a really telling thing. You have to be perceptive of the people that you’re working with because they’ll give you clues of how it’s going to be with them and where you should and shouldn’t go with them. CHRISTOPHER | In an audition, I can watch and read them. I can see if they’re interested in what I’ve done and what the dancers are doing in front of them. Are they just eating their sandwich and talking? I pick up on if they’re really watching how I speak to the dancers in the room. LIZA | This goes to your point about the choreographer as an equal player and being involved at the inception of a project and helping to build a project. It’s about finding the collaborators.



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AUDIENCE | How much acting direction do you tend to incorporate when you’re choreographing? DAN | I always do acting. Always. All the good music directors direct the actors. It’s something that I think actors want. CHRISTOPHER | And that comes from that preproduction period. I don’t do pre-production in the room dance-wise with directors normally. But I will talk with them for hours before so I can get in their head, get what they’re thinking about the piece and what they feel each character’s role is. And that’s why I feel at the point when I’m teaching a number, I’m able to be on the same page with the director. I know he’s going to say the same thing eventually anyway, so I might as well let them start getting it in their body now and tell them why they’re moving this way. AUDIENCE | Do they ever come in and absolutely contradict what you’ve given them acting-wise? CHRISTOPHER | Sometimes. DAN | But I think most actors know that that’s the process. I usually give the caveat of saying, “This is what I think. It might change, but let’s try it.” LIZA | Often I think my instinctual physical impulse to something, how I attack it, will also crack something open for the actor. I try to use the terminology of the actor and find ways to say things to them, but at the same time, if I can find it physically for them, that’s very helpful. DAN | If you’ve done your work physically in terms of what the character should be doing at that point, sometimes you don’t even need to say why you’re doing it in a certain way; they just get it. LIZA | Remember, we’re embodying character. I’m trying to move the way that woman in 1904 in her particular costume and her particular occupation would move. A lot of my work is researching the period, the time, and the costuming. Is she in a corset? What are the elements that would affect the physical appearance and the way the body moves? That’s a big part of the work. It’s characterspecific movement. AUDIENCE | If you’re working with a director who’s very movement-heavy, how do you communicate with them in a way that you know who’s doing which job and you’re not stepping on each other’s toes? LIZA | You definitely want to try to develop a style. You want to develop an arc of movement

for the entire piece and hopefully that will come out in the pre-production period. AUDIENCE | And how would the director speak about it, because so much of what they do is with the bodies in the room? LIZA | It would depend on the person. DAN | I worked with Joe Calarco once and we had a great time working together. He does a lot of Viewpoints and creating movement in the room. I waited three days before I staged anything, and I watched what he did so I could absorb his style a little bit. That was very helpful. AUDIENCE | He would rehearse in front of you, and then you would talk about it afterward? DAN | Sometimes we wouldn’t even talk. I would just observe to see where he was going with the characters and how he was responding to individual actors and their movements. We did a great My Fair Lady together, and we had an Eliza Doolittle who could really dance. He actually did the first draft of “Loverly,” which has a dance break in it. Then I improved upon it after I watched what he did. AUDIENCE | When you are doing a revival, you want to give it your own stamp, your own sense of newness. In pre-production, when you are going through the book scenes and you come to the music break, how do you manage the integration of both the book and the music? LIZA | The way I was trained, it needs to be a seamless connection. It goes back to: how would those people move at that moment? With a revival, you don’t always get a dance arranger, and you likely won’t get new music. If you work on a Jerome Robbins production, the dance arrangement tells you exactly what to do. It’s like a map. It’s very hard to work on his shows. How do you do a production of Gypsy and do something that’s different from what he did? AUDIENCE | Are you able to branch off? Does it allow you to change what came before it? CHRISTOPHER | It depends. With South Pacific, we have to do the exact orchestrations, arrangements, charts, everything. But for Sunday in the Park with George, James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim are reworking some things, and Stephen is rewriting some music. AUDIENCE | I’m really interested in the phenomenon of the director/choreographer and assuming both those roles on one project. What do you feel that you gain and you lose in a situation like that?

JULIE ARENAL since 1968 | JOE CALARCO since 1998 | BILL T. JONES since 2006 | JEROME ROBBINS d.1998

DAN | I think you lose a collaborator. I love collaboration. It is a support system for you in the rehearsal room. However, it is thrilling to have everything under one vision. When doing both, I found it was harder for me to be receptive to the room because I felt like I had to have more prepared and I wasn’t going to be able to just concentrate on the dance. CHRISTOPHER | In my experience as a director/choreographer, I did find it difficult, not having that collaboration. But at the same time, there are moments that you can throw a dance in that you know certain directors would never let you try. That is freeing. AUDIENCE | When you’re working as a director/choreographer, does that affect how you use your assistants? Do you use the other people you’re working with more and give them a little more freedom? CHRISTOPHER | When I directed and choreographed Silence, the Musical, I had two assistants—one for direction, one for choreography—but normally I have one. Having both helped a lot. It goes back to having strong collaborators. At any point, I could turn to them and say, “What did we do?” I felt very protected in that situation. LIZA | I’ve never directed. I’ve been asked to direct. I’ve always run the other way. My interest is in dance. That’s my language and I just never was interested in directing. AUDIENCE | As a director, I think the most fun is to have the whole creative team in the room. But how challenging is it for you, if you have the whole team in the room, to express yourself to a costume designer, so that they won’t inhibit your movement, or get your thoughts across to the lighting designer so that they’ll know where you want to go and have enough lights for you? LIZA | Your primary relationship is to the director, but you have to have a relationship with everybody else on the team. You have to meet with them, be open with them, and tell them what you like and what you don’t like. Develop relationships with them so that when the time comes and the dancers can’t dance in the shoes, you can say, “You know what? That shoe doesn’t work.” Or you can take the shoe and say, “Yes, the shoe can work,” and support the designer. It just depends on the team. Has the director created an environment where everybody feels they can talk to each other? That’s key.

SDC CALLS FOR SUBMISSION OF AUTHORS + BOOK REVIEWERS FOR NEW PEER-REVIEWED SECTION OF SDC JOURNAL SDC is excited to announce the creation of a new peer-reviewed section of SDC Journal, featuring academic articles and book reviews on the crafts of directing and choreography. With editorial support by leading directors, choreographers, and scholars representing the range of institutions of higher education across the country, SDC Journal will publish one academic essay and one book review per issue, beginning in Summer 2015. The peer-reviewed section will be co-edited by Anne Fliotsos, PhD, Professor of Theatre, Purdue University, and Ann M. Shanahan, MFA, Associate Professor of Theatre, Loyola University Chicago, with an editorial board of scholars, directors, and choreographers from around the country, several of whom are members of SDC and/or the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Directing Program. Submissions are now being accepted for the first issue with a deadline of December 1, 2014, though early submissions are encouraged. The editors are seeking scholarly essays about directing and choreography with a focus on practice, in keeping with SDC Journal’s mission statement. Studies might examine the relationship of theory to practice, the education and training of directors and choreographers, the relationship of academia and the profession, and how new directions in performance and production impact directors and choreographers.

of subject matter. Submit electronic queries to both co-editors: Anne Fliotsos PhD, Professor of Theatre, Purdue University

Ann M. Shanahan MFA, Associate Professor of Theatre, Loyola University Chicago,

People interested in submitting a book review should submit queries electronically to both book review editor and associate editor: Travis Malone PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Theatre, Virginia Wesleyan College

Kathleen M. McGeever MFA, Professor and Chair of Performance, Northern Arizona University SDC JOURNAL PEER REVIEW EDITORIAL BOARD CO-EDITORS

Anne Fliotsos, PhD, Professor of Theatre, Purdue University Ann M. Shanahan, MFA, Associate Professor of Theatre, Loyola University Chicago BOOK REVIEW EDITOR AND ASSOCIATE

Travis Malone, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Theatre, Virginia Wesleyan College

Kathleen M. McGeever, MFA, Professor and Chair of SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Performance, Northern Arizona State University

• Essays: approx. 4,500 words (inclusive); book reviews: approx. 1,200 words (by invitation).

Anne Bogart, MA, Professor and Head of the Directing

• Double-spaced document in MS Word with no identifying author information.

Joan Herrington, PhD, Professor and Chair of Theatre,

• Separate cover sheet with author name, affiliation, and full contact information. • Style: MLA or Chicago; endnotes should be kept to a minimum. • Separate files for illustrations (photos, tables, etc.) with placement of illustration and caption indicated in document. Photos are encouraged but not required. • File names for photos should be clearly labeled: author’s last name-fig1, etc. The author must obtain photo rights via a signed permission form. Please contact the co-editors for the form and specific photo requirements. • No simultaneous submissions will be accepted. Submissions will be acknowledged within one week and distributed to two readers to be blind refereed. Response time is approximately three months. Criteria for evaluation includes: the strength of argument, clarity of methodology, use of evidence, quality of writing, originality of thought, contribution to the field, and timeliness

SENIOR ADVISORY COMMITTEE Concentration, Columbia University Western Michigan University

James Peck, MFA, PhD, Professor of Directing, Muhlenberg College PEER REVIEWERS

Donald Byrd, Choreographer, Artistic Director, Spectrum Dance Theater

David Callaghan, MFA, PhD, Professor and Chair of Theatre, University of Montevallo

Kathryn Ervin, MFA, Professor and Chair of Theatre Arts, California State University San Bernardino

Liza Gennaro, MA, Assistant Professor, Musical Theatre, Choreographer, Indiana University

Ruth Pe Palileo, PhD, Current Theatrics, Centre for Immigrant Resources and Community Arts (CIRCA), Chicago Pintig Theatre Group

Stephen A. Schrum, PhD, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Scot Reese, MFA, Professor of Performance, University of Maryland ASSISTANT EDITORS

Thomas Costello, PhD, Instructor of Speech and Theatre, SUNY Dutchess

Emily Rollie, PhD, Assistant Professor of Theatre, Monmouth College




The 2014 Theatre Communications Group National Conference was held in San Diego on June 19 -21, 2014. The three-day conference explored the theme of “Crossing Borders” and boasted SDC Members present in almost every room, leading panels and contributing to breakout sessions. On June 20, 2014, SDC held its fourth annual TCG Members Only Event, hosting more than 60 Members.


Members Allison Bibicoff + Leigh Silverman LOWER LEFT

Members Jennifer Bauer-Lyons, Carol Becker, Matthew Earnest + Tamilla Woodard

The Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s (ATHE) Annual Conference took place July 24-27, 2014, in Scottsdale, AZ. SDC Counsel Ronald H. Shechtman, Executive Director Laura Penn, Executive Board Member and Southeast Regional Representative Sharon Ott + Executive Board Member Paul Lazarus attended the event. SDC hosted a panel, “Whose Work Is It and Can You Use It?: Intellectual Property of a Stage Production” and a happy hour, both of which were cohosted by the ATHE Directing Program. LEFT

Laura Penn, Sharon Ott, Ronald H. Shechtman + Paul Lazarus (speaking)



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JENNIFER BAUER-LYONS Assc. since 2004 CAROL BECKER Assc. since 2007 | ALLISON BIBICOFF since 2012 MATTHEW EARNEST since 2009 | PAUL LAZARUS since 1981 SHARON OTT since 1980 | LEIGH SILVERMAN since 2001 TAMILLA WOODARD since 2014

On July 21, 2014, the second Diversity Task Force meeting was held with Members participating in Los Angeles and New York. LA-based Members met at Cornerstone Theatre Company, where Executive Director Laura Penn joined Michael John Garcés + Seema Sueko to discuss the Task Force’s three areas of focus—connectivity, communication + jobs. Writer Larissa FastHorse was also in attendance; read her report on page 13 for more details. ABOVE

Michael John Garcés, Laura Penn, Larissa FastHorse + Seema Sueko On Monday, June 23, 2014, Executive Board Member Dan Knechtges hosted Choreographers Cocktails, a diverse gathering of SDC Member choreographers at Hurley’s Saloon in midtown Manhattan. UPPER LEFT

Gabriel Barre, Josh Prince, Jonathan Cerullo + Art Manke MIDDLE LEFT

Jonathan Cerullo, Tony Parise, Wendy Seyb, Barry McNabb, Edie Cowan + Dan Knechtges LOWER LEFT

Jim Cooney + Maria Mercedes Torres On August 29, 2014, outgoing Callaway Award Committee Chair Linda Burson received a special gift to acknowledge her 10 years of leadership. LOWER RIGHT

Linda Burson + Laura Penn GABRIEL BARRE since 1995 LINDA BURSON since 1988 JONATHAN CERULLO since 1994 JIM COONEY Assc. since 2014 EDIE COWAN since 1982 MICHAEL JOHN GARCÉS since 2001 DAN KNECHTGES since 2001 ART MANKE since 2001 BARRY MCNABB since 1991 TONY PARISE since 1990 JOSH PRINCE since 2006 WENDY SEYB since 2001 SEEMA SUEKO since 2014 MARIA MERCEDES TORRES since 2000 FALL 2014 | SDC JOURNAL


In 2013, the Sundance Theatre Institute began a program to exclusively support theatre directors. This year, the event—Sundance Institute | LUMA Foundation Theatre Directors Retreat in Arles—was a 12-day artist retreat in the ancient Roman city of Arles, France. The program, in partnership with the LUMA Foundation, provided directors with the opportunity to exchange ideas and practices with other mid-career, freelance directors. Artists are selected by invitation only. Sundance Theatre Institute Artistic Director Philip Himberg, Producing Director Christopher Hibma + Program Associate Anne Kauffman led the Retreat which took place July 30-August 11, 2014. ABOVE

Ralph Pena, Philip Himberg, Mark Brokaw, Anne Kauffman, Les Waters, Leigh Silverman, Christopher Hibma + Juliette Carrillo On August 7, 2014, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre (NBT) hosted a public summit called “Is Black Theatre Sustainable? From Sustainability to Collectivity,” which culminated NBT’s event CATALYST: Moving the Black Theatre Legacy Forward. Panelist included director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, producer Alia Jones-Harvey, NBT CEO Sade Lythcott, Center State Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, Catalyst Co-Core Founder Carmen Morgan + producer Bridgit Antoinette Evans.

On the night of August 17, 2014, 70 Broadway stars took to the sidewalk with only a bit of cardboard and a sleeping bag to raise money for the second annual Covenant House Sleep Out: Broadway Edition. Together they raised nearly $250,000 and sent an important message to hundreds of homeless youth. Participating Members included Jeff Calhoun (who also served on the Executive Committee), Lisa Peterson, BT McNicholl + Jack Cummings III. BELOW LEFT

Denis O’Hare + Lisa Peterson



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MARK BROKAW since 1991 JEFF CALHOUN since 1992 JULIETTE CARRILLO since 2005 JACK CUMMINGS III since 2001 PHILIP HIMBERG since 2001 ANNE KAUFFMAN since 2005 KWAME KWEI-ARMAH since 2012 BT MCNICHOLL since 1998 LISA PETERSON since 1992 RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON since 2006 LEIGH SILVERMAN since 2001 LES WATERS since 1987

One learns to teach by being taught, and to direct by being directed. And from watching other directors direct. Too, life provides the material of which theatre is made. Theatre touches on everything, and uses everything you can bring to it. If you can speak, can write a decent sentence, can move, can draw, are musical, can work with others, the theatre will usually find a way to let you do it.”

STUART VAUGHAN With a career spanning over half a century, Stuart Vaughan will be remembered as a true veteran of American theatre. The Drama Desk and Obie Award-winner directed over 200 productions in his life-time and also won a Tony Award for having served as a Founding Artistic Director of the legendary New York Shakespeare Festival. Following a stint of acting and stage managing on Broadway, Vaughan received his directorial break when approached by famed producer Joseph Papp in 1956. The duo collaborated to launch the New York Shakespeare Festival, which officially began that summer. Vaughan directed Julius Caesar, its inaugural production, and the festival has since become a tradition, bringing free outdoor Shakespeare to New Yorkers every year since its inception. He returned to the festival 30 years later to direct Al Pacino and Martin Sheen in another production of Julius Caesar. Vaughan was also the Founding Artistic Director at Seattle Repertory Theatre, where he directed three shows for the theatre’s opening season, including King Lear in 1963 and received critical acclaim. He then went on to serve as the Founding Artistic Director for the Repertory Theater New Orleans and the Artistic Director of New York’s Phoenix Theatre. Along with Vincent Curio and his wife, Anne Thompson Vaughan, he founded the New Globe Theater in order to bring theatre to underserved schools and communities across the country. He was awarded two honorary doctorates for his work as a pioneer of American regional theatre. Also a playwright, adaptor, and teacher, Vaughan cultivated a reputation as not only a director dedicated to the classics but as one of our most prolific theatre artists. Stuart Vaughan passed away on June 10 of this year at age 88. He is survived by his wife Anne who he cited as his “greatest luck, accomplishment, decision.”

1925-2014 AL PACINO since 1999



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| FALL 2014

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