Browsing articles in "Director’s Notebook"

Kick-Ass

Dec 19, 2017   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers, Shakespeare

Years ago, when I had made it through the early rounds of elimination for a Fulbright, I was scheduled to have a telephone interview with the Director of the UK Fulbright Commission. I remember receiving very stern written instructions that I was not, under any circumstances, to prepare a statement …

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In the Next Room, or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl

Dec 10, 2017   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Productions

Annie (Madeline Wall) and Sabrina (Isabel Enns) in the operating theatre while Catherine (Tessa Dahlgren) eavesdrops

The cultural moment and the rehearsal process

Fall 2017 turned out to be a very peculiar moment to be working with undergraduate students on a play that is about discovering and exploring one’s sexuality. …

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The Theme of Honour’s Tongue

Dec 10, 2017   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers, Shakespeare

Last week, in our Redeeming Time weekly update, I opined at length on the myriad joys of the prison’s multipurpose room, where I delivered an introductory workshop in August before being exiled to a room with a squat column smack in the center of the space for the fall classes.…

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Redeeming Time When Men Think Least I Will

Jul 21, 2017   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers, Shakespeare

When I arrived in the Twin Cities, I discerned that there were two fallow fields in this utterly verdant theatrical ecosystem where I judged that I could make an impact: I could start a classical theatre company or I could start a new prison performing arts program. But I didn’t …

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Albee, Mamet, and the Rest of Us

May 29, 2017   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

“I am not interested in living in a city where there isn’t a production by Samuel Beckett running.”
― Edward Albee

100 or so years ago, when I was a little baby director freshly arrived in NYC, I decided to direct Waiting for Godot. I cast the play entirely …

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“He struggled and kept his guard up”: Hamilton in the Big House

Apr 1, 2016   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

“I am the one thing in life I can control.

I am inimitable,

I am an original.

Life doesn’t discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep living anyway

We rise and we fall and we break

And we make

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Desdemona by Paula Vogel

Oct 22, 2015   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Productions, Shakespeare

Iman Messado as Emilia and Demoriya Phillips as Desdemona

Paula Vogel’s Desdemona cannot outrun Shakespeare’s Othello. She cannot escape her death. Nor, at least as much to Vogel’s point, can any woman escape the restrictions and restraints placed upon her by the men who define her existence.

Desdemona: A Play

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The Kilroys: A Prequel

Aug 4, 2014   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

Some Essential Women Playwrights of the 20th & 21st Centuries

In June, the Kilroys released their fantastic and important list of most recommended new plays by women. In July, partly in preparation to teach a course entitled Women in Theatre, partly because many of them have been on …

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Ira hates Shakespeare. Or maybe he doesn’t.

Aug 4, 2014   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Shakespeare

Last week’s Ira Hates Shakespeare furor illuminated one of the dingier corners within the house of social media: lots of heated, inflated, reductivist and binary declaiming. “Shakespeare’s amazing! “Shakespeare sucks!” This strikes me as particularly unhelpful and more than a little overwrought; can an art form really be undone by …

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Stand and unfold yourself: a month at Shakespeare & Company

Apr 24, 2014   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Shakespeare

In January, I was a participant in the month-long intensive at Shakespeare & Company. Tina Packer, Dennis Krausnick, Kevin Coleman and their colleagues have been teaching the intensive for more than 30 years, and intensive is categorically one of the operative descriptors: the hours are long and the work is …

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Every Town is Our Town

Jun 11, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

I just directed Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison.

(If you’ve visited this site before, followed me on Twitter or possibly stumbled across my path on the subway, no doubt you already know this.)

Even though the play was selected by their peers, …

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They went and died about it: Staging an incarcerated cemetery

Jun 6, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

You can’t take an intermission at Sing Sing, and you cannot have a blackout.

Well, this year, a blackout was not available to us because the lights never go out in the room where we presented the play and because the circuits in that space couldn’t handle the wattage of …

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Talking to George Gibbs about Grief

Apr 12, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

I recently found myself lying on the prison floor, talking to George Gibbs about grief.

[If you are new to my blog, you need to know that I am directing Our Town at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.]

Thornton Wilder’s stage direction reads, “George sinks to his knees then falls full

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It’s clearing up. The stars are coming out.

Mar 4, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

The individuals on the play selection committee all said that they wanted a comedy, or at least a story with some lighter moments in it.  Over the course of several months, my colleagues and I made almost three dozen suggestions that fit the committee’s criteria, which include having a dozen …

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This play is called Our Town: 75 years in Grover’s Corners (part III of III)

Jan 30, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

No curtain. No scenery.

Wilder wrote that he was trying to restore significance to the small details of life by stripping away the scenery, “Theatre longs to represent the symbols of things, not the things themselves.”  Elsewhere, he observed, “Moliere said that for the theatre all he needed was a …

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This play is called Our Town: 75 years in Grover’s Corners (part II of III)

Jan 30, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

First we want a little more information about the town

There seems to be a nearly universal anxiety about the potential for the play to become mawkish in production, coupled with a rehearsal room realization that it is anything but maudlin. “Lots of directors go to it without a sense …

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This play is called Our Town: 75 years in Grover’s Corners (part I of III)

Jan 27, 2013   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

 

Thornton Wilder as the Stage Manager in Our Town, 1938.

Once upon a time in October 1937, Thornton Wilder wrote to his dear friend, Gertrude Stein, “I can no longer conceal from you that I’m writing the most beautiful little play you can imagine… It’s a little play …

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Listen In

Jul 7, 2012   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers


In Acting II at Sing Sing this summer, we’ve been working on developing points of concentration, physical awareness and sense memory, discovering the dramatic action and building a character.  In this regard, our class is much like Acting 201 just about anywhere.  But we’re also looking for life skills, for …

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Action, Meet Word

Jul 3, 2012   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Shakespeare

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Peter Marks opines the demise of men in tights and the ascent of the high concept.  He writes, “It is the fashion in these meddling times — now perhaps more than ever — to put the doublets in mothballs and tie up Shakespeare in the …

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Humanity 101

Jan 5, 2012   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

Last night, we had the first session of an Intro to Acting workshop at Sing Sing. It was supposed to be for the men new to our program, but in the event, we had a nice mix of veterans and newbies, 15 men in total.

I was leading a Patsy …

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Dec 30, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Productions

Jake Mahler as Lysander and Denice Mahler as Hermia

Harley Granville Barker, a director, Shakespeare scholar and clever redhead, wrote, “Let us humbly own how hard it is not to write nonsense about art.”  He wrote this in his preface to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is a kind …

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Law & Order: Denmark

Nov 16, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers, Shakespeare

Last night, we put Claudius on trial.

Miching mallecho

If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on Twitter, you probably know that I’m teaching a Shakespeare workshop at Sing Sing Correctional Facility this autumn, that the men were curious but deeply skeptical about Shakespeare when we began.  A …

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Nay, answer me

Nov 9, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers, Shakespeare

I’m sitting in a run-down classroom as the sun slowly sets on the other side of the Hudson River.  The windows are threaded with metal, and there are metal grates on the outside of the glass.  Every so often, a corrections officer walks past the door.  Twelve men sit with …

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Putting it together

Oct 23, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Coaching Tips, Director's Notebook

Bit by bit

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” — Knute Rockne

How many hours each week are you working on your dream?  I don’t ask how many hours you temp or wait …

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And I have found Midsummer, like a jewel …

Aug 22, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Shakespeare

I just finished an exhilarating, thrilling, grueling and very fun rehearsal process, directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the American Shakespeare Center.  There was no opening night.  At least, not yet.  My production comprises one-third of the 2011-2012 Almost Blasphemy Tour, and the day after our second dress rehearsal for …

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Gimme five

Jul 22, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Coaching Tips, Director's Notebook

Once upon a time, when I was a little baby director, an artistic director asked me to name five playwrights whose work I particularly admired.  Because I wasn’t prepared, and probably also because I was a little baby director, my mind went blanker than Peter Brook’s empty space and I …

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Behind the scenes, behind bars

Apr 1, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

I used to imagine that incarcerated actors would have no schedule conflicts.  That they would be available to rehearse at any time.  That they don’t have anything else to do.  I was as wrong as I could be.  I marvel at how busy the men who participate in Rehabilitation Through …

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… like you were walking onto a yacht …

Mar 18, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Coaching Tips, Director's Notebook

You probably think this post is about you, don’t you?

Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Last Thursday and Friday, I was casting a show that I’ll direct in June. The artistic director of the theatre and I were working with two capable, consummately professional casting directors. …

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Friday night fights

Mar 17, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

Two weeks ago, I started a fight at Sing Sing.

If you don’t know Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, there is a sprawling, protracted, chock-full-o-storytelling unarmed fight between two characters late in the second act.  I was apprehensive about staging the fight because, in the playwright’s stage direction, “It goes …

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Listen to a silenced voice

Feb 9, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

I have tasked my assistant director on Superior Donuts at Sing Sing with keeping a rehearsal journal; if we were working at a theatre outside the prison’s walls, he might be writing blog posts for the company’s website regarding the progress of rehearsals.  He has started to find a nifty

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Maximum security casting

Feb 7, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

I was surprised, schooled and humbled by casting Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, which I am directing under the auspices of Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.  It was not unlike casting a grad school production in the sense that it wasn’t about casting the best man …

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Headshots: brilliant image or fuzzy concept?

Jan 22, 2011   //   by Kate Powers   //   Coaching Tips, Director's Notebook

“There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams

“”The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself.” – Edward Steichen

They’re your calling card, actors. They are your ticket through the door. Very often, they are the …

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The strip of (textual) terror

Dec 13, 2010   //   by Kate Powers   //   Coaching Tips, Director's Notebook, Shakespeare

[This post originally appeared on www.2amtheatre.com, which is a very cool place to appear.]

Collation line.  Apparatus.  Strip of terror.  Whatever you call it, it’s that somewhat inscrutable line or two of apparently Enigma code between the text and the annotations, particularly in a modern edition of, say, Shakespeare.  …

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Theatre behind the walls

Oct 23, 2010   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook, Incarcerated performers

[This post originally appeared on www.2amtheatre.com, which is a very cool place to appear.]

“Theatre inspires me.”

“Theatre teaches me about myself, and helps me to understand why other people do what they do.”

“Theatre relaxes me.”

“Theatre teaches me empathy.”

“Everyone in my life was a backstabber or …

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Like an old tale still

Oct 23, 2010   //   by Kate Powers   //   Coaching Tips, Director's Notebook

[This post originally appeared on www.2amtheatre.com, which is a very cool place to appear.]

Last week, I coached an actor who had a big audition this past weekend.  It was of the ‘bring two contrasting pieces’ variety.  She came to me a little later in her process than I …

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Talking amiss of her: speech, silence and shrewishness in The Taming of the Shrew

Jan 2, 2002   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

[I wrote this essay as part of my graduate work at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.]

“Surely we’re trying to find out at the beginning what we mean by ‘shrew’. Supposing we said ‘shrew’ equals ‘noisy one’. Along comes a man to tame the noisy one. And for almost five

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Open stage to empty space: the Granville-Barker inheritance

Jan 1, 2002   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

[I wrote this essay as part of my graduate work at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.]

Harley Granville-Barker’s dramaturgical criticism has transformed our collective perception of Shakespeare’s plays. Full stop. Once he had completed his work as a director and as an analyst, it would no longer be defensible to …

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