Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors
I am a ‘Indie’ stage director in New York City. And New York City is both heaven and hell for theatre artists. It is “mecca” for most of us, being the area most densely devoted to our art. And yet, the city is extremely apathetic towards it’s artists and working here is not for the faint of heart. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” A singable lyric, but in real life that “if” is HUGE. Work comes in ebbs and flows and you have to be constantly scrounging for the next project. And yet – when it “clicks” there really is no better place to be. The sheer volume of artists, venues, projects, ideas and enthusiasm makes NYC a constant stream of inspiration and energy.
A little while back, I was in the “down” stage of my work (and thus attitude) cycle – had just finished a production that I was proud of, but which few people saw, and no new prospects in sight. Knowing I needed to network, but hating the thought of “schmoozing” (I’m a very good director, but not-so-good on the social scene) I wished that I could talk to the directors that were working and ask them how they do it. I mentioned this to a few friends who said things like, “Well, if you do talk to them, lemme know what they say, cuz I’d love to know, too!” So, I began to think there might be some value in sharing the information, and thus was born “DirectorSpeak.”
What is an ‘Indie’ director? It used to be that theatre in NYC was broken down into three categories: Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway, but these labels have become vague and ineffective as artists 1) became more likely to work in any or all of these tiers at the same time, depending on their projects; and 2) became annoyed by having their work classified in relation to an “other.” After all, the BCS Championship is not called the “Off” Superbowl! Many people now use the term “Indie Theatre” to encompass all NYC theatre that isn’t performed in one of the “Broadway” houses. So, an “Indie” theater director is someone who directs on Off-Off and Off-Broadway but doesn’t conform to those labels. So, I set out to interview Indie directors: to ask them about directing, their process, what drew them to NYC and how they pursue their art in this city. The original idea was/is to make a book, but someone suggested I research doing a blog instead -or maybe in addition to- a book. So, we’ll start off here on the blog, and save expanded versions of the interviews for the book.
I have had inspiration and assistance from several people in getting this project this far. Martin and Rochelle Denton, of nytheatre.com, have given me guidance, encouragement, answers and recommendations. They are, in so many ways, the heart of NYC’s Indie scene, and they cannot be appreciated enough. Anne Bogart unknowingly inspired me by a) publishing her book of Conversations With Anne, and b) by allowing me to ‘interview’ her during a talk at Drama Book Shop (maybe she’ll let me interview her for real for DirectorSpeak!). I also owe a debt of gratitude to Samuel Leiter for the inspiration of his book The Great Stage Directors: 100 Distinguished Careers of the Theater, and for his willingness to talk and educate a newbie to the world of writing about the theatre. I have some good friends that helped me out on all kinds of levels during the early stages of this project – Brittney Venable, Diane Terrusa, Bushra Laskar – you have been godsends! Last but definitely not least is my significant other and the best set designer I know – George Allison. It’s take a village to do just about anything, so I want to publicly thank my village for all their help!
I hope you enjoy DirectorSpeak and the interviews. And if you have comments on what I should ask these directors, or if there are certain Indie directors that you’d like to see me interview, please let me know!