Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors
NAVIGATION HELP – Click on a topic of interest
*Dual Hats-Directing and Producing *Directing Labs and Programs *Planet Connections *Artist or Craftsperson? *Do You Have a Reference? *Empress of Sex V. Alba *Doing Adaptations *Women in Indie Theatre *Making Room for Different Voices *New York City *Getting Started in NYC *Fiscal Preparedness *Directing in Other Countries *Fast Five
Ms. Kadigan has served as the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity’s Producing Artistic Director for four seasons. Prior to founding Planet Connections, she worked as the Artistic Director of various other theater festivals. In summer of 2013, she will be directing a world premiere of a Neil LaBute piece entitled Over the River and Through the Woods. Ms. Kadigan is also devising a piece with David Diamond which will be presented in Singapore this Fall. Kadigan is a freelance stage director and is an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, La Mama Directors Symposium and of The Labyrinth Theater Company’s Master Class. Ms. Kadigan is an associate member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and has been the recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award in Direction from the Kennedy Center A.C.T.F. www.GloryKadigan.com
CP: First off, a great big welcome to you, Glory! Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me. Let’s just jump in at the beginning, shall we? How and when did you get started in directing?
GK: I started directing in high school, and prior to that, I was a child actress. I came from a family that has some theatre background, so I’d been raised around it from a young age.
CP: Do you remember the first play you saw or were in?
GK: I remember being with my mom backstage for some shows, though I can’t remember what the shows were. But I remember the first thing I directed, which was The Actor’s Nightmare, during my sophomore year in high school. I did a series of productions after that – probably directed about 6 or 7 shows in high school.
CP: Did you like it right off the bat, or was it something that you grew into?
GK: I liked it right off the bat, because I felt that as a performer, I was typed into playing certain roles, and I didn’t necessarily always want to play those roles. I also wanted to have more of a say over what the entire piece was about, what was being communicated to the audience. I wanted more of a voice in the way that the scripts were being interpreted – which all lead to an interest in directing.
CP: So, after high school – what happened next?
GK: I went to college – a liberal arts college in California. Oddly, their program didn’t think that people should be directing during their first year there, or in general, until they were seniors. I disagreed with that, and so I formed my first theatre company. I’d go around to all the clubs and get money from them to put on my shows outside of the theatre department, which I basically did the entire time that I was there – even once I started directing inside the theater department. I think that was the beginning of me understanding how to start my own company. In some ways it was lucky, because I think that without knowing how to do that, I might not have ended up founding the festival. [The Planet Connections Festival – see details below or click on the image to the right] Or necessarily believe that I could just start something – which is ultimately what I did. It was purely because I knew pretty early on that I wanted to direct, and the program wasn’t accommodating that.
CP: So, sounds like that’s where you got your start wearing the dual hats of directing and producing. How do you like that? Do you prefer being “just” a director?
GK: Well, it’s easier, in some ways. But you do have to cater to a producer, if you want to keep getting hired by that producer. The producer has their own needs and goals for what they’re trying to accomplish, as well as a subscription audience to cater to. I think that because I have been a producer, I can sometimes assess those needs more clearly than a director who hasn’t had that experience. And that’s been to my benefit. The person who is writing the check, that person is the “boss,” so you have to recognize that you’re not the boss. And you can’t accept the job unless you’re okay with accommodating whatever it is that they’re doing. As long as you’re okay with that, then you take the job. The problem occurs when you take a job where you don’t agree with what the company wants, artistically or what their subscription audience needs. When you’re producing your own thing, and you’re the person writing the check, then you just do whatever you want. So, there’s a lot more freedom -more responsibility, more work- but a tremendous amount more freedom.
CP: Did you get some formal training in directing, at least in your senior year, or do you feel like most of your training came “on-the-job?”
GK: I think most of it came on-the-job. Unfortunately. And I think because of that, I have sought out programs where I could learn more – like I just finished the LaMama Director’s Symposium, which is a great program. And I did the Labyrinth Master Class, the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab – twice – and several other directing programs.
CP: I’d really love it if you could elaborate on those programs. I haven’t done any of them, so I’d love to know how helpful you thought they were, and if you’d recommend them to other directors.
GK: Well, of course, it depends on the individual, and what you’re looking for. For me personally, LaMama was the strongest program.
CP: What made it so strong for you?
GK: There were a lot of different things, but one key feature is that there was more one-on-one with the master artists, the people that are teaching the classes, and you get a stronger sense of them because you’re all living together. We stayed in what used to be a convent, which Ellen Stewart turned into an artist’s retreat. You live there, in Italy, with 15 other directors and with the teachers, so it’s a small group. You’re secluded, out in the country, so you get to know each other very well. I think it was incredibly well put together by David Diamond, and Mia Yoo who selected these master artists, and the artists are paired with people who are different from themselves. For example, in the morning we had classes by Stephan Koplowitz, who runs the directing program at Cal-Arts, and that class was physical, with site-specific work and choreography, while in the afternoon we had classes with Neil LaBute and Marco Calvani which was predominately focused on text, script and playwrights – slightly more linear perspective. So, you had these two very different interpretations of what theatre could be thrown at you simultaneously. We had other people that we worked with, too – Elizabeth Swados and Karin Coonrod. So, I felt like the caliber of the master artists was exceptionally strong. The other people, the participants in the program, were very strong as well. They came from various different backgrounds, some of them from other countries. I’m actually going over to Singapore, because a couple of my best friends from the program were from Singapore, and they’ve invited me over to work with them. With Lincoln Center you get lost, because there’s 70 directors. I did the program twice, and I do like the program, and I did learn things from it, but the environment is different from LaMama. To me, it felt more … fiercely competitive, instead of supportive. They also have high caliber people come in and lecture, but you don’t actually get to spend any time with those people. It costs more to do the LaMama program, but if I was offered all three programs again simultaneously, and asked which one I would like to do, I would pick LaMama regardless of the money. Also, I think it is geared more toward mature directors, than some of the other programs. The participants’ age range was 20-65, but leaned toward people in their 30/40s.
CP: That’s so nice, because so many of these programs are after the folks that are just coming out of school, it’s refreshing to know of a place with a difference. How was it living at the retreat?
GK: It was great, but you do have to stay open and find your ‘zen’ in it, because it can be out of some people’s comfort zones. I was okay with whatever was happening, but sometimes others weren’t. You’re in a foreign country, things are different – there isn’t a dryer, no air-conditioner- you just have to be zen with the fact that you’re some place that is not the place you normally are in, and it’s okay. And if you’re the kind of person who’s alright with that, then you’re gonna love it. It’s like summer camp for directors.
CP: And if you can get open to that, then you’ll be more open to the actual theatrical lessons, too.
GK: Correct! So, yeah, I’m a LaMama fan! There it is, it’s out! (lol) But the other programs were good too. I didn’t dislike any of them. At all of them I’ve met people that I’m still working with. And at all of them I met people that I’m not sure I’d work with! (lol) But I think that’s normal.
CP: Sure! Very true, very true. Going back a bit, let’s talk about Planet Connections. I know that’s such an intricate part of your theatrical world, so let’s jump into it. What is your official title with the Festival?
GK: I’m the Producing Artistic Director.
CP: And how long has it been going on?
GK: This will be year five!
CP: And how did you get started producing this festival?
GK: I had worked at other festivals prior to founding Planet Connections, but I was interested in combining my passion for theatre with my passion for social work. So, I thought that maybe we could inspire some artists to give back to their community and be involved in different kind of ways. And we’ve been pretty successful in that. I’m very happy with what has happened with the festival and that work.
CP: I think even past inspiring people to give back, what you are doing is providing them with a WAY to give back. Because a lot of people in our community WANT to help, but then they think, ‘I’m saving my own money, so I can’t give it away. What can I do?’ And Planet Connections comes along and says, ‘You can do what you DO -do your art- and also help these people!’ Where did the germ for the idea come from?
GK: It just kind of came together one day, as I was thinking about it. Then I called together some friends and colleagues and with their help, it grew from an idea to a plan to a festival! It was generated partly because I was raised Unitarian Universalist, so, from the time I was born I was educated about social justice. Unitarian Universalists have been on the forefront of a lot of social issues, such as women getting the vote, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King and various political causes throughout American history. Right now, we’re highly involved with the LGBT movement, and marriage equality. And giving back to the community and protecting the environment is a big part of that belief system. So, when you think about that, it just seems logical that eventually I would combine my passion for theatre with my passion for social justice in some capacity.
CP: Do you have any major plans for the festival coming up, or will it just keep evolving?
GK: It will just keep evolving, but I do have some ideas. I always have some ideas (lol). This last year we implemented a film and a music festival, as well as a theatre festival. For the longest time, people didn’t know why we were a “festivity.” It’s because I’d always planned to include film and music at some point, and now it’s here. So, there’s a theatre festival – and a film festival – and a music festival = IN a “festivity!” I wasn’t able to explain it before, but I think people are getting the idea now. And the film and music festivals went very well this past year. I was very happy with the people who were curating them.
CP: So, as a roundup question on Planet Connections, is there anything that you’d like to say about it?
GK: I think it’s a community worth investing in. I think that it’s probably one of the better options of the festivals that are out there. I know, because I’ve researched them all, and I’ve made it that way. It’s a better deal financially – we have a 70% return rate, because the artists are getting a certain amount of money back, which means they can keep producing new work. I think we also have a better venue for your buck, better publicity, better exposure. And also, people are pretty accessible and friendly. The staff is very responsive.
CP: Very cool. Sounds like there’s a whole lot of ‘good’ going on there, on many different levels. Kudos to you and your staff for keeping those opportunities open. Here’s a question I’d love to hear your thoughts on: do you think that directors are ‘artists’ or ‘craftspeople?”
GK: For me, it’s artistic although you do also have to have the craft – it’s both. It’s not enough to just have a great idea, you also have to know how to execute your idea. And I think that there’s a lot of directors have brilliant, amazing, ideas when you’re interviewing them for a job, but when they get into the rehearsal hall, there’s no sense of how to manage time, respect collaborators, and absolutely no idea how to execute the vision. They don’t know how to realistically think about budgets or how to get things done. So you need the craft, too. But you also just can’t have the craft! You’ve got to have an idea and know how to communicate it to an audience – to be able to generate something creative.
CP: I really like what you said about how some directors have the ability to ‘sell’ their idea to a producer – and some producers, especially younger producers, can really get buffalo’d by that, and don’t look behind the smokescreen to see if there’s any substance. They have to figure out whether or not that director is actually going to be able to give you what they are spouting in the interview.
GK: Yeah, definitely. Directors should be able to provide recommendations. When you’re hiring a director, they should be able to provide names of designers, actors and producers that want to work with them again. If they don’t have that, then it’s probably not a good idea to hire them. They should have references – just like anyone you would hire. If they can’t find one actor that is willing to give them a reference, then you know there’s a problem! (lol)
CP: References are such a good idea. Especially since producers don’t always get the chance to see a director’s work. In the NYC environment, trying to get someone to see your show is difficult. I mean you can do a tear sheet of your reviews, but that’s usually someone talking about your product. And a reviewer may or may not know how much input a director had on that. So, you’re right, it’s good to have references handy.
CP: How would you describe your directing style?
GK: I think it vastly changes depending on the piece. I’m usually very connected to whatever the piece is, whatever the energy of the piece is. So if the energy is fun, comedy, sexy, light – then that’s going to create an incredibly different process for me than something which is dark, restrictive, a different kind of energy.
CP: So, Empress of Sex versus….
GK: Versus Alba. Two completely different rehearsal processes. And people who did both shows were like “what?” – I think they weren’t even sure if I was the same director! Because ultimately my role and my personality, and the way I run the rehearsal room can completely shift depending on what needs to happen for the energy of the piece.
CP: Does that start as far back as the origin, the choosing which thing to direct, or does it come out of research?
GK: I think about it before hand. I create rehearsals and a process that is tied to the piece. Like with Empress of Sex, some of our rehearsals took place at a bar, because I wanted people to be socializing, and having fun. So, call time would be “8pm at the bar!” (lol) and that was the rehearsal! But we never did anything like that for Alba. Alba was just not about that. And Dorian Gray was a totally different world. For it, we spent time wandering around the Plaza – going into places where society characters, even in modern day, reside. We observed some of that, and felt what it would be like to be the kind of person who would go to the Plaza and spend $40 on a drink – who are the people who are doing that, and what are they acting like, and how are gay people dealing with things in that kind of society? The whole decadence of it – the decadence of a chair, or the wallpaper, or the way everything has to look. So, we spent a lot of time in that kind of a world, because that was what the world of the play was.
CP: So, it carries past your actors and to your designers as well. Well, actually, designers first, probably.
GK: Yeah, designers are the first people that I meet with, before going into rehearsals. And we do research and look at photos and descriptions of things. I think when people see my shows, they comment frequently on how committed the actors feel to them, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the actors are usually so comfortable being in whatever the world of the play is, even if the world IS The Empress of Sex and they’re going to walk on the stage naked and have a normal conversation with someone and then walk off, as if it were nothing. They are SO part of that, that it doesn’t seem unusual to them. When I did Two Rooms it was a similar thing. There were two characters who had lived in Beirut and were married, and we spent a lot of time talking about all the wonderful things they loved about Beirut. We looked at travel videos and vacations in Beirut, and we talked about their favorite restaurants, what the food was like, their favorite bars, their favorite people, stores, the movie theatres… I educated them about this wonderful Beirut, this lovely place to live. But I didn’t do that with everyone else in the play – I left them with whatever stereotypes they have when they hear the word “Beirut” and whatever thoughts are in their minds about some ‘war-ground’ or whatever it is. So that, when these two opposite images in the actors minds come onstage and collide – that’s where the stuff is happening.
CP: How do you get most of your work?
GK: Different ways – I have companies that I work with regularly, and I also have strong relationships with playwrights, which can lead to things, and sometimes assisting someone can lead to something. And sometimes of course, I self-produce things. Usually in the festival, because it’s more affordable for me to do it that way. But those are usually pet projects, where I’m also the adapter, not just the director.
CP: Do you direct outside of NYC?
GK: Not frequently, but I have. Last year, I directed in Minnesota, and also in Key West – so, yeah, sometimes I do. I’m going to direct in Singapore, which is great!
CP: How do you feel that impacts the other place? When you take a NYC sensibility to Minnesota, and then once you have an experience there, you bring that back into rehearsal in NYC – how do you think that affects or impacts your work?
GK: Every time I’ve worked outside of New York, there’s a sort of learning curve. Now when I go, I’m expecting the learning curve – I don’t know what it’s going to be, cause it’s going to be different each time, but I’m ready. Like one time I had posted, asking people to come in and bring a monologue, and no one came to the auditions! And I asked why that was, and they said, “Here the actors don’t have monologues because they don’t audition. It’s such a small community that people normally just get offered parts.” But I had never met them, so how was I supposed to do that!? And someone had started this rumor about how I was a “big NYC director who was coming in” and that set up a bit of a barrier. So I went to see their show, and then I just waited afterwards, and made nice with everyone, and asked them to come to the bar, and schmoozed with everyone, and then they said, “Oh, you’re not so bad, so maybe I will come audition for you.” So, sometimes it’s just whatever that curve is, that you have to deal with.
CP: I want to step back a bit, and talk more about your adaptations. We met when you were directing your own adaptation of the book, “Avalon.” And you posted something about needing some help at auditions. I adored that book and was fascinated by the idea of adapting to the stage, and really wanted to meet the person who had the moxie to take that on. What gets you going on something like that? How does that start for you? Is it usually from text?
GK: Yeah, it’s usually from a text. I read something and then I think, “Humm, I’d like to make Dorian Gray into a play.” But sometimes those pieces can sit on a shelf for years. I think Dorian Gray went through many readings, and feedbacks, and cuts, and changes in characters, and finally came out, but it must have sat around for three or four years. And some of them I WISH had sat around for longer (lol) but I guess I can always go back and re-do it!
CP: What’s different for you when you’re directing a piece you adapted versus a more typical, ready-made script?
GK: Well, a ready-made script can’t be altered, if it’s been published. You have to direct what the person wrote. The adaptations I can alter and develop as I’m working. Recently, there was someone interested in possibly reproducing Dorian Gray and I gave them the script, and said, “Look, I haven’t made all the changes into this hardcopy from when I did the show, because during the rehearsal process I cut pages, and moved things around, changed lines, added this, took out that. So, the script that went on is not this script, but this is the script that I had going into rehearsal!” (lol) I mean, I can translate it all later, if they’re interested. So, there’s flexibility with an adaptation. And if a playwright is not published, 90% of the time there is flexibility in terms of re-writes, etc., but it depends on the playwright.
CP: I feel like you would also have, if not a deeper, then at least a longer, closer connection to the work, then when you come in as a director on a finished piece. You get to put more of your influence of whatever ideas that are in the originating source, you get to emphasize one, and de-emphasize another – putting your stamp on what you think is important.
GK: Yes, that’s true. And certainly if you’re working with a living playwright, and you’re collaborating on a script that hasn’t been published, if you have ideas, you have to prove them to the playwright, and sometimes you’re successful in convincing the playwright and sometimes you’re not. But I think that the best playwrights are the ones that you can give feedback to. And they can take it from producers, actors, designers, everyone, and they can incorporate all of those ideas and still say what they initially wanted to say as well. And I think that’s the thing that sometimes playwrights don’t realize – Tony Kushner, when he’s working on Broadway, he has to take notes from the producer. Shakespeare had Queen Elisabeth! Those people don’t necessarily write plays, but ultimately….
CP: They write checks.
GK: They write checks! And ultimately, whoever writes the check is the boss. There is always going to be a patron. And that person, everyone has to cater to. So, either you become your own patron, or you recognize that you will always have to deal with that and you figure out how to make it work. I think the smartest playwrights can make it work. Because ultimately you want the producer to keep producing your work! Shakespeare was successful in getting his plays produced and he worked within the confines determined by his patron.
CP: Before we get into rehearsal stuff, let’s talk about designers. Do you work with the same ones a lot, or do you branch out?
GK: I like to work with the same designers because I feel that there’s a short-hand, but sometimes my favorite designers are working on other things, so then I will take on someone new. I interview people, or if I see a good designers work, and I like them, I’ll reach out to them. For example, I’ve liked Isabelle Fields’ work a lot for years, but I hadn’t really had an opening for a costume designer in all that time because I have some very good ones that I work with regularly. But then it happened that Empress of Sex came around, Isabelle was available and my other designers weren’t, and so I finally got to work with her. But I had seen maybe six or seven other productions that she had done costume design for prior to working with her.
CP: It’s got to be nice for designers to hear that some directors are actually taking note of their work! So, let’s talk about the rehearsal process: you’ve gone through the audition process, and you’re ready to get started. Do you start with table work? or blocking? How do you move through that process?
GK: Again, it really depends on the show, and if the show is visually oriented, or not – I mean some of my shows are dance pieces that are choreographed very tightly. Others are not in that same style, so that sorta depends. But usually, there’s a read-thru, then there’s a rough block of everything, then there’s table work, then there’s go-back-and-restage. I find that if a rough block goes up pretty fast, and the actors know at least where/when they are entering and exiting, even if I change it a little bit later on, at least there’s some sort of foundation for people to build on. So, usually I will do that – especially when it’s a large cast, I feel like it’s important for people to know.
CP: So, you’ve been in theatre for so much of your life, do you feel like there’s been a lot of changes in your directing style? A quiet evolution or is there something you can point at as a change? For example, and I hate to admit this, but when I first started out, I’d use those little plastic army men to work out the blocking! And I’d have my blocking very specific, because I thought that’s what I had to do, have everything spelled out on day one. And now, I set a general outline and let the rest come within the process and with the actor’s input. Not an army man in sight!
GK: Wow! (lol) Well, nothing like that. I think it’s more like the “quiet evolution.” Again, it has a tremendous amount to do with the piece. With something like Alba I wanted it to feel restricted in some places versus chaotic/wild energy in other places. So much of Alba was tightly specific – down to the way a character was holding a hand. If the hand wasn’t the same way every single time, I’d bring it up. And creating that kind of restriction in one scene, versus letting it be wild and completely unrestricted in another scene, makes the audience really understand the repression of the characters.
CP: I’m always interested in how who we are as individuals impacts us in our work as directors in NYC. You are a straight female director – has that played a role in your career?
GK: I’m obviously interested in providing opportunities for other female directors. And with the festival, every year, we have an equal amount of female directors and female playwrights as male directors and playwrights. I’m aware that we’re equal, and I want us to be that. I would want to make sure that the opportunity is there for everyone.
CP: Do you feel that this has been changing in New York, especially in the NYC Indie theatre world? Do you see a positive movement in it?
GK: Yes. I think there is a tremendous amount of women playwrights and directors getting their work done. I think that what’s unfortunate is that some of the women playwrights and directors are passed over by companies because they’re older. It’s a shame because a lot of times women in the generations before me were raising families or having kids – so they didn’t necessarily KNOW that they were a playwright or a director until they were forty. Ellen Stewart actually didn’t found LaMama til she was forty – prior to that she was a dressmaker.
CP: Why is that important to you? Has it not been that way for you?
GK: There were certainly times when I was younger that I suffered at the hands of women who were older, smarter and more experienced than me. So perhaps I am more aware of the fact that I definitely do not want to be one of those people, having been on the other end of it. I make an effort to make sure that I am not – that I am helping people to the best of my abilities, with whatever is in my power. People who are in leadership positions do have to step up and make a conscious effort, otherwise the system doesn’t alter.
CP: I think it’s a very important statement to make, because it really ties in to A) a young person that is reading this and can think “just because someone is not being helpful to me now, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people out there who will be” and B) it might be a wakeup call for those people in power who might think, ‘Wow, am I being one of THOSE people? How am I treating the people -male or female- who are coming up underneath me?’ Some people get a little power in their life, and they think ‘Now I can step on people, like I was stepped on.’ OR you can choose NOT to step on them.
GK: Yeah, ultimately, you’re either someone who wants to help overall, or you’re not. People forget that we’re all playing on the same team – the team of theatre artists in a capitalist society! It’s important that different voices are heard. So, yes, I do want some sort of equality, and equality in all ways, not just gender. There are such a lot of different cultures that participate in the festival, and people from other countries, and I’m interested in all of that, as well. Because I think that those differences make us stronger. I’m conscious of making sure that the festival has diverse voices, and diverse opinions. And I don’t have to agree with the opinion put forth by every play in the festival, but we still do them. We’ll do a piece about Katrina victims, and we’ll also do a play like Accidental Incest. That’s us – that’s Planet Connections! (lol) I’m fine with different, distinct voices, and things that make you think. I’m okay with things that test our belief systems, or at least make us think about things, to see how we really feel.
CP: Yeah, I think there are a lot of things that people think/believe/feel that are sort of automatic to them. They think, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ Then something comes along that makes them actually consider it -one way or another- and even if the way they feel has been reinforced, then at least it’s received a conscious examination, and now they know why they feel that way. It’s been tested and tried, and now they are certain that this is the way they want to feel. OR, they start to think, ‘maybe the other side has some merit…’ Whichever way it goes, examination is always worthwhile.
CP: So, let’s talk about New York. What made you move here?
GK: I had been out in California for school, and then I wanted to be back on the East Coast. I think I liked New York right away. I liked the fact that there are so many different kinds of artists here. I was exposed to a lot of things that I wasn’t familiar with, so that really interested me.
CP: What do you think are the joys and challenges of directing here?
GK: I like the people I get to collaborate with. A lot of talented people move to New York. I’m discovering a new brilliant artist every week, which is wonderful. And you don’t have as much of that in other places. Not to say that there aren’t brilliant people elsewhere, it’s just that there’s not as many people, so there’s just less people to discover!
CP: What about the challenges?
GK: I think NYC is an ambitious city, and that makes it harder than other places. Because there’s something about ambition that sometimes makes people de-humanize other people. And that part of it I find challenging. But not everyone is that way!
CP: So, let’s say that you were talking to someone out in Colorado who has directed in their town and wants to make the leap to come here. What would you want to tell them about directing in NYC?
GK: I’d suggest that they assist some people, at different levels. Figure out what kind of places they want to work in, what kind of systems they want to deal with, learn how things work. Assisting is good to help with that. But it’s also good to network and see as much theatre as you possibly can. I recommend being part of a festival where they let you see all the shows for free, like we do at Planet Connections. You can go and see 40 shows for free, if you’re participating in the festival. That means you can meet a lot of people very quickly, and get a sense of what’s happening.
CP: You say, “be part of the festival” which doesn’t mean you have to be directing – you can volunteer in other capacities and be part of it, right?
GK: Yes! We love volunteers! You just have to get out there. Then, of course, you have to direct something. Most likely, when you first get started, you’re going to have to self-produce something. But whatever you do, the quality is more important than quantity. I don’t direct 40 shows a year – I’m not always busy. But I think delivering a certain quality is key – consistently delivering quality. That will attract producers and colleagues. Everyone wants to be associated with a show of a certain quality.
CP: And day jobs?
GK: Oh yeah – finding a good job is important. Look for something with flexibility. You may need to put in some time to earn a certain kind of flexibility. You want that job to want you. You don’t want to be seen as flaky right away. But whatever it is, it needs to be flexible. And if it isn’t, then you have to let it go, no matter how much money it is. You have to find something else, and get used to less money. Because ultimately the work as an artist isn’t going to happen if you can’t show up for it. I think that the other thing too, is to be smart about your money. I see a lot of people being like, ‘Oh, my parents gave me $100 so I’m going to take this girl out on a date and spend $100 on it.’ Just crazy stuff like that. When really, you have to say to yourself, ‘My parents gave me $100, so I’m setting up a reserve fund for myself because I might have to quit my job one day to do a project.’ People need to start planning financially before they get here, I think that’s part of it. A lot of artists don’t like to talk about money, they feel like ‘money’ is a dirty word. But if you’re not talking about money, then you’re not going to have any. You gotta think ‘cheap’ and be putting stuff away, and live beneath your means. That’s the other secret. A lot of people live above their means, when they should be living beneath it. Too many times, I’ve seen people go into credit card debt because they had to quit a job to act in a show, or because they’re producing a show, without writing a budget, and asking themselves, “Can I financially afford this production? Can I do this? Will it put me into credit card for the rest of my life?” Because if the answer to that last one is yes, then DO. NOT. DO. IT. You’re not ready for it, financially. It means you need to be spending more time saving, or figuring out how to raise money. Figuring out how to adapt your art to a particular patron or producer. People need to start thinking about finances, about being a little smarter financially. Because it breaks my heart when I see these people blow $40,000 on a show or something.
CP: Yeah, I hear you. And it happens a lot here. Theatre in NYC is expensive. Would you ever consider leaving NYC, doing theatre elsewhere?
GK: I could, I guess. I could do a lot of things: I could become more invested in doing things here, I could also do things in other countries, or do things in other cities. It just sort of depends on what I think is going to make me happiest at different points in my life. But, I do love the Indie theatre community here.
CP: Do you have a dream directing gig?
GK: Not really. I think that when I’m dying to direct something, I just make it happen. But I would like to go to some other countries, and learn more about theatre in other places. I’m interested in Germany, Amsterdam – and London, of course. And I’m interested in a lot of Asia – not just Singapore, probably all of Asia! And Africa. (lol) I’m interested in a lot of things and a lot of places!
CP: So, not a specific play, but a different place, a different community?
GK: Yeah, and different styles. And how the style is incorporated into theatre. I guess it’s just that I’ve gotten very interested in Ellen Stewart lately, and so a lot of what she was doing fascinates me. Again, she didn’t really even start directing til she was 50. She founded the company at 40, and then the company died off, and then she put it back together again, and it had a resurgence – and THEN she started directing. So, she wasn’t directing until very late in life.
CP: Being 48, I’m torn between being inspired by that, and being sad that ’50’ is ” very late in life!” (lol!)
GK: Oh, I’m sorry! (lol) I meant “latER in life!”
CP: Right! ’50’ is now the new ’30!’ At least it is in my head.
GK: That’s it! That’s it! There ya go.
CP: We are at the “Fast Five.” Are you ready? The pressure! (lol) Not really – it’s a fun thing. So, here we go: What’s your favorite NYC spot for inspiration?
GK: The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
CP: What’s your favorite theatre superstition or ritual?
GK: Well, I don’t know if this is really a superstition, but I do believe in having gratitude and saying “thank you” – especially to all the collaborators on opening night.
CP: What’s the oddest prop you’ve ever had on stage?
GK: Oh my goodness! (lol) You know, I don’t know if this odd, but in Empress we had this enormous, fake penis thing – which was pretty hilarious! Now that I’m thinking about it, there’s been a lot of odd props, I guess!
CP: What’s your favorite tech rehearsal snack?
GK: I don’t really have snacks, but I am addicted to Iced Skim Lattes! So, I’m frequently found with them! (lol) In fact, that was actually what I was worried about when I went to Umbria. I was like, ‘What am I going to do about my espresso addiction?’ But then, there was nothing to worry about.
CP: In Italy? Yeah, I wouldn’t think so…
GK: Well, because we were pretty isolated in the countryside, I wasn’t sure. But it turned out that they did have an espresso machine. And I thought, ‘I’m glad our priorities are aligned! We do not need a dryer or air conditioning, but we DO need an espresso machine!’
CP: So, when others were bitchin’ about the air conditioning, you were thinking, “You’ve got to be zen.” But if there wasn’t an espresso machine, your zen would have been challenged!
GK: My zen would certainly have been challenged, and I was very concerned. I tried to quit before I went. I didn’t know what I was going to do! I knew I’d get headaches, and just be crazy for two weeks. But then I got there and it was fine…. (lol)
CP: Last but not least: What is your most valued trait in an actor?
GK: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can answer that. I think it’s just different, piece to piece, and role to role.
CP: And that’s it! Any closing thoughts?
GK: No, no. This was really fun!