Can you describe your path to becoming a director? What do you find most joyful about directing?
When I was in kindergarten, I was sent to the principal’s office for finger painting instead of using a brush. Although my teacher was upset that I had broken a rule — she was even more concerned that I convinced someone else to break the rule with me. My principal was an Irish nun named Sister Celestine. She was the first person to tell me I was a leader and I needed to “learn to use my powers for good and not evil.” By the time I was in kindergarten, I had been in dance class for two years and loved it! The dance studio was my sanctuary growing up, a safe place to physically (and emotionally) work through my feelings. In high school, I wondered what it would be like to talk on stage. I had no problem talking offstage! I decided to audition for the school musical and I was hooked. I ended up choreographing a musical every year I was in college and directing two of the four years. I also played many team sports growing up and was blessed with some incredible coaches who gave spectacular speeches — always striking the right balance between inspiration, clear expectation, and motivation. There is limitless capacity for joy in a rehearsal room and the creative process. When a diverse group of artists brings all of their skill, talent, and imagination toward a common goal — magic happens and it is transformational for everyone — theatre artists and audience alike. The Japanese phrase wabi-sabi (侘寂) explores the joy that comes from accepting the imperfections in life. I love the moments in rehearsal when an idea rises from “a mistake.” Something happens that is unexpected or “wrong,” or something breaks, and a miraculous creation spontaneously occurs.
When you begin directing a project, do you know what you are capable of?
Yes and no! Each project I do, I learn more, fail more, and succeed more. The depth of that knowledge stays with me and, hopefully, I don’t have to learn the same lessons more than once or twice. On the other hand, each project is unique with its own challenges and opportunities, its own group of collaborators, and the other people in the room teach and inspire me constantly. When I start a project, I know it is a skeleton but the other artists add the muscles and sinew and tendons and organs and blood to pump through the life force that becomes the play. Together we create something beyond the capacities I have alone.
What drew you to Corduroy? Why did you want to work on this play?
When SCT's Artistic Director Courtney Sale first invited me to do this play, she described many things before actually telling me the title! I finally asked her the name of the play and she said, Corduroy and I said, “THE BEAR!?!?!?!” I loved the Corduroy books when I was a kid and spent many, many hours reading both Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy. I loved the bear and the very specific color of green of his overalls. I loved his hero’s quest. I also remember noticing that Lisa and her mother were not the same color as many of the families in the other books I was reading. This book came out in 1968 and we met an African American mother and her child in a beautiful story of family and friendship, not one of racial tension. We are awakened by the love of friendship. When we meet someone who sees us for who we are and says, “That’s the very bear I’ve always wanted,” we are forever transformed. This adaptation is full of clowns and physical comedy and giant messes and mishaps. I couldn’t be more thrilled to share that joy and laughter with audiences this holiday season.
Did you have a special stuffed animal in your life?
Many! The one that is coming to mind is a bear named Clifton and he was given to me in college. I loved him. He was a giant white bear, about the size of a small toddler, with a blue scarf that had his name on it. I traveled a lot for different theatre jobs after college and Clifton was always with me as my world shifted in the beginning of my adult life. About a decade ago, I went to live in a community in South Africa for six months in partnership with an amazing organization called ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty.) I brought Clifton with me. It was tremendous fun to carry him through a crowded airport and see the surprise and delight on adult and children’s faces alike as they saw an adult with a giant bear — I shared a lot of smiles with strangers that day. I ended up leaving Clifton with a family in South Africa and still think of him very fondly.
What do you hope audiences will bring to the play? What is your biggest dream for the play?
Bring your child! Your grandchild, your niece or nephew, your home-from-college child, your too-cool-for-school high school child, your friend’s child, and maybe, most importantly, your inner child. The holidays are a stressful time. The world is a stressful place. Shared communal laughter and pathos and big, beautiful exhales are something we use more and more. I dream of an audience full of all ages of children, three to 103, giggling together without a care in the world — being awakened by the power of friendship. If you can bring yourself, the play will take care of the rest!
Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online or by calling the Ticket Office at 206.441.3322. Corduroy will play in the Charlotte Martin Theater from November 21 through December 29, 2019 is recommended for patrons aged three and older.