More on Maria:
Saturday, April 23 2011
New York City 9am
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I am directing a cabaret, Typed Out-- A Cabaret of Missed Opportunities. I found a cast of people, who all have resonated with the idea of being typed out of auditions, not being the right size, shape or ethnicity. We selected songs from the musical theatre cannon that are all very, inappropriate. An opportunity to perform a song for an audience, where you wouldn’t normally be seen in that role for whatever reason but a great opportunity to explore material that’s new to you as a performer. We have a cast of 8, and we’re doing legit, classic musical theatre, from My Fair Lady, right through to the recent musical Next to Normal. The whole cannon is represented in the show.
What is your earliest theatrical memory?
When I was about 6 years old, the Chorus Line movie came out, and I watched it all the time. We have a very lovely theatre in Buffalo, called Shea’s Performing Arts Center, a huge, old grand theatre, built in the early 1900’s. The touring production of Chorus Line came to Buffalo and my dad got tickets. He and I sat in the front row of the balcony and I remember putting my elbows on the rung of the balcony and my chin in my hands and watching. That was the first show I ever saw on stage and pretty much, when I got the buzz.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by great music. Performers. People, who when you see on stage or talking about their craft, you just get goose bumps. When you see a performer who is 100% invested in what their doing, so grounded and connected to their material, it makes me want to do it all the more. It makes me want to be part of the shape and fabric of theatre. That’s what so cool about theatre compared to cinema as a medium, there’s a tradition. You’re standing on the same stage that someone else stood, the audience is sitting in a seat where someone else sat and for some reason, it feels as if you’re all connected. There’s a thru line, a thread that connects everyone that is part of the theatrical world. I love that when you bring directors and actors together, you are bringing a vision to life, that is fed with, and connected to, everything that came before.
How does your work as a performer inform your directing style?
It informs my style in that I know how I like to be spoken to. I like to receive direction that is useful and still allows me to inform it with my own opinions and abilities. When I’m speaking to my actors, I like to make sure that my vision is given to them in a way that they can digest it and still bring something of themselves to it. I’m not the type of director that likes to give line readings or ultimatums or directives. If it’s not in the form of a question, it’s at least with the opportunity for the actor to bring something else to the table, along with what I’ve asked for.
Is there anything that troubles you about the NYC theatre scene?
I think sometimes its difficult for new work to truly get seen. The commercial, Off Broadway model is very challenging, to get enough money, to put on a run long enough to get a lot of audience and industry people to come see it. You’ve got your top tier commercial venture Broadway shows, and the tier below that commercial Off Broadway and below that you have such a huge, huge raft of productions, companies and people working, the Off Off model. It is so expensive to produce. Renting the venue and being able to rehearse and rehearse well, not just necessarily in someone’s living room, but in a theatre space, where it’s conducive to movement and finding moments. People are so challenged from a financial standpoint, that you get wonderful, wonderful theatre being produced for a weekend only or 2-3 performances only. It’s hard to ask an actor to sign up, fully embody a character and learn a full script for only three performances. You can only begin to discover things as the audience reacts to it. Once you finally have an audience in the room, something else comes alive in the play and to only have 3 performances to experience that and then you’re done, I find can be unsatisfying. So I’d say the one thing that troubles me in NY, is the financial component of trying to produce, it isn’t just for art and art alone, it is a business. You try producing in a way, that doesn’t bankrupt you but creates something of quality.
I would love to direct a contemporary musical, something by Ahrens & Flaherty. There are new musical composers that are writing great things that have come out of the NYU writing program, a lot of great, cool material that have its roots in pop rock and contemporary musical theatre. All of the young writers who grew up listening to Jason Robert Brown and Michael John LaChusia, with a different type of view. I would love to direct a real full-scale musical, with an orchestra, a cast of dancers, a choreographer, the whole nine yards.
Final question. Is the director dead?
I don’t think the director is dead. I think people sometimes think you don’t need one. Laughter. Even if you are performing a monologue or a song by yourself, it’s always a great idea to have someone that’s outside of you being a mirror. That outside person there, watching to see if what you’re attempting to do is actually landing. The director is a very integral part of anything we do in a theatrical medium and good directors know how to bring the best out of actors. So I think the director is still alive. Somewhere out there…
Thanks Maria for your thoughts!
Happy Easter everyone! I am glad to have resurrected Maria from the pool of stupendously talented directors I’ve had the privilege to work with in the past.
Enjoy your Sunday everyone, and for my readers in the UK, enjoy this summertime weather!!
“When you stand on the stage you must have a sense that you are addressing the whole world, and that what you say is so important the whole world must listen.” Stella Adlerwww.almostknewtheatre.com