Wish list

I have a little bit of a ‘champion of the underdog’ in me, and look forward to producing and directing some of the great writers who have fallen, if not into the dustbin, at least onto the floor adjacent to history’s dustbin: writers such as Thomas Middleton, Rachel Crothers and Georgia Douglas Johnson, perhaps Eugene Walter and Anne Devlin.  I also have a passion for language-driven plays that explore issues of social justice and that dig deeply into what it means to be human. With those passions as a foundation, here are a few of the plays I want to direct.

Thinking in Ballyvaughn

Whatever You Will by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare particularly excites me because he reveals so many facets of a relationship with just a few words: at the end of Much Ado about Nothing’s IV,i, Beatrice and Benedick, in the wake of Claudio’s humiliation of Hero, are finally able to tell one another of their love. Their punning, playing and provocation are set aside by the gravity of the situation and the intensity of their true feelings for one another. Having seen her cousin shamed by Claudio’s accusations, Beatrice turns to Benedick, immediately on the heels of declaring her love for him, and demands, “Kill Claudio.” Less than forty lines later, he agrees. In this brief exchange, we see the playfulness as well as the competitiveness between Beatrice and Benedick, the intensity of the love that they share, their need to give it voice after the brutality of Claudio’s denunciation of Hero, and the depth of their commitment when Benedick promises to challenge his friend at Beatrice’s request. Certainly there are many other playwrights who can do this. But Shakespeare is, through this combination of the beauty of his language and this specificity and intricacy of character, the fragment as well as the pane. His work is the prism through which I begin to see.

Among the plays I want to direct soon are Titus Andronicus, Henry V, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, The Two Noble Kinsmen. I am also particularly interested in directing the Q1 Hamlet (1603) — taken on its own terms, and even within the canon, this unloved and almost never produced text offers a different and more visceral, muscular set of responses to murder and revenge than does the play we think we know.

2am theatre playwrights

I am thrilled to have found a community of artists through www.2amtheatre.com and the #2amt conversation on Twitter.  As a freelance director, one can sometimes feel as if one is toiling in a vacuum — a visiting artist who is at, but not of, the companies for which I work.  In part, this has lead to my keen desire to become the artistic director of an institution, so that I may cultivate relationships with artists, with administrators, with engaged Board members and with a community.

In the interim, I look forward to directing plays by Gwydion Suilebhan, David J. Loehr and Mariah MacCarthy, to name a few of the smart, provocative and talented writers with whom I am in near daily discussion about the state of the art.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma by David Edgar

This play is Stoppardesque in its intensity, the precision of its wordplay, the intellectual demand it makes upon its audience.  The characters are richly, densely drawn and intensely focused on their own interests.  It also conducts a conversation we desperately need to be having in the United States about the nature of terrorism, the sometimes precipitously thin line between terrorist and freedom fighter and the nested complexity therein. The Prisoner’s Dilemma explores the idea that peace can be made over and over between two people; it is to do with actually seeing who ‘us’ is and who ‘they’ are, instead of just polarizing, reducing.

I am very good at making heady stuff emotionally available; I excel at helping actors to find the humanity within.  I tell complex stories well, digging with the actor into the text to find the character’s emotional need to make a particular political choice.

The Lynching Plays by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Those who remember Georgia Douglas Johnson tend to think of her as a ‘lady poet’ of the Harlem Renaissance. She was also the creator of a genre, the lynching plays, and its most prolific author. These one-act plays are intense snapshots of racial violence’s impact upon families and communities. Written in the 1930s, they are powerfully in conversation with the racial inequities that continue to disrupt and damage America today.

Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage

Lynn’s writing is beautiful, lyrical, evocative and rich in the complexities of human need, desire and how we come to terms with disappointment and heartbreak. It would be a delight to work on any of her beautiful pieces.

A Song for Coretta by Pearl Cleage

Ms. Cleage has written a beautiful quintet of often dissonant voices that explores the progress of the civil rights movement through the encounters of five African-American women; I’d be honored to stage it.

Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis

I love Mr. Guirgis’ dialogue, his character, the richness of his language.  I haven’t seen his work staged well, and I would like to remedy that.

Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson

Phylicia Rashad’s performance as Aunt Esther in the Broadway premiere of this play was a study in thoughtful, precise, bold choices played fearlessly; it was gorgeous, thrilling, captivating.  This is a beautiful story that Mr. Wilson has written and I would love to tell it.

Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock

A hypothetical day in the life, Blood Relations pays a visit to Lizzie Borden one hot afternoon ten years after her acquittal for the murders of her father and stepmother. The play is both whodunit, but also Lizzie as split subject. During a game of let’s pretend, Lizzie steps back and watches the events of August 4, 1892 play out before her. She is protagonist, antagonist, housemaid and spectator, all at once. Blood Relations is its own play, but it reminds me of Martin McDonagh’s trilogy (see below) because it demands to know, it explores and examines what drives a person to violence.

Still Life by Emily Mann

Emily Mann’s Still Life is a play that does violence. The characters visit tremendous violence upon one another, and they have had tremendous violence done to them. Still Life looks at lives in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, but its scope is wider. Mark participated in a war in the strictest sense of that word, but all of the characters are fighting a war. For their emotional selves. For their identities. For the way that human beings are supposed to treat one another as opposed to the ways that human beings often do treat one another. Still Life is an opportunity to explore the parameters of violence, of war, in personal lives and in public ones.

A Man’s World by Rachel Crothers

It’s amazing to me that Rachel Crothers has practically disappeared off our theatrical map. Prolific and smart, Ms. Crothers asks good questions about the role of women in America, about the double standards with which our culture is still rife. Some of the plays are dated now, but there remain powerful pieces of theatre waiting for their next opportunity in her long-neglected work.

Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O’Neill

The challenge of Eugene O’Neill’s work is to find both what is strong and redemptive, what is the very kernel of human nature, while also exploring fearlessly the dark crevasses, the pain and the brutality that he has written. Beyond the Horizon looks at potential, both that tested and that wasted. It looks at the waste, the diabolical waste of self-sacrifice. The cost of the waste is beyond all measure. It is a beautiful, terrible journey; I await it eagerly.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia is that brilliant combination of the intellectually challenging and the emotionally provocative: I love a play (or a novel or a piece of music) that breaks my heart at the same time that it encourages my brain to an epiphany, to understand something for the first time, to see something familiar in a new way.

Other Stoppard plays that I would love to direct include Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, and The Real Thing.

A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh

I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Irish political theatre and I grew up in an Irish Catholic household. I learned both Republican fight songs and drinking songs before I could read. I feel a strong affinity for much in the canon of the Irish theatre, from the works of Lady Gregory through Sean O’Casey to Anne Devlin and Marina Carr. I look forward to directing more of these plays.

When I saw Beauty Queen of Lenane on Broadway, I was riveted (despite Stephen Wadsworth’s claim that it is nothing but a potboiler!). When I read A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West, I knew that Beauty Queen had only begun to examine the murderous impulse that can grow up inside a trapped or wounded individual, an individual who lacks the means for other forms of expression. These plays are magical in part because they are full not just of anger and vindictiveness, but also human inconsistency and especially humor.

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