DirectorSpeak

Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors

Director: Tim Errickson

Tim Errickson

Tim Errickson

It’s not often that I’m surprised by people anymore, but Tim Errickson makes a habit of surprising me every time we get together. You’ll witness it happening when you read the interview below! Tim is a pillar of the Indie theatre community and has been an artistic director for 15 years. He created Boomerang Theatre Company and has shepherded it from its humble beginnings to the OOB anchor that it has become. He is also a kind, caring, giving person, and I can’t wait to share more about him with you. Read on, MacDuff!

[And leave comments at the bottom of the page. You know how I ADORE comments!]

CP: Hello Tim Errickson, and welcome to DirectorSpeak! I’ve been dying to interview you for quite a while. Ever since we met doing the NYIT Honorary Awards. You have such a great grasp on what’s going on the in the OOB world – I can’t wait to hear you spill the beans! Are you ready to dazzle? No pressure, right! LOL

TE: Oh, yeah, right, dazzle – sure, no pressure. Hah!

CP: Let’s start with the basics – how did you get into directing?

TE: By acting at high school and college. When I got to college, it was very multidisciplinary in a way that I hadn’t really experienced when I was younger. I grew up doing musicals and crap like that.

CP: Where was that?

TE: New Jersey -Southern Jersey- so I may curse a bunch if you need to bleep anything out.

CP: Hah! Did you read Daniel Talbott’s interview? “I fucking got into fucking theatre when I fucking turned fucking thirteen.”  I don’t bleep.

TE: Alright, we’ll do just fine, then! So when I went to college, people were doing productions of Pinter, Brecht, and stuff like that – things I’d never heard of in high school. It really opened my eyes to what was out there.

CP:  What made you start even trying to act? Was your family into the arts?

TE: My mom was a painter and a ceramicist when she was young, so she had a keen eye and steady hands. My dad’s a scientist, and my sister can sing like a bird. She was in musicals for a while – now she’s a nurse. My mom’s a nurse, my dad’s a scientist, my sister’s a nurse, and the milkman left me, so that was nice!

CP: Do you know the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile? This conversation makes me think about that play: your mother’s an artist, your father’s a scientist. It’s like, two sides of the same coin in a way. You’re searching for an answer, but from two different sides of the frame.

TE: Oh yeah, absolutely yeah. I know what you mean, the Picasso side and the Einstein side – it just sorta worked out that way. Theatre kept me out of trouble. And I was a better actor than I was at sports, so that was good. I got a degree in liberal arts with a creative studies focus, from Hofstra University. They had an experimental school within the college called New College, which was based on New College at Oxford. And so in the sixties when things were a little bit hippy-dippy and loose, these guys decided that they wanted to start a new way of educating, and so it was very loose programmatically, and students could design their own curriculum in a way.  Directing was an option that you could try, so I did. It ended up being something that I liked to do and I just kept doing it. TimBio

CP: After college, did you come straight to NYC?

TE: No, I started a theatre company there actually. A bunch of people from the department and other friends that we knew, we started a theatre company while we were in our senior year of college. I had taken a semester abroad in London, in 1992, and that was the first time I experienced small, fringe style companies: theatre in the back of bars, the back of churches, all that kind of stuff. We didn’t really have that growing up. So, I thought that we could do that kind of thing for Long Island in a way, we thought there must be an audience for the classics and Shakespeare.

CP: And was there? Did it turn out to be a positive thing?

TE: Somewhat, yeah, for a while. When you’re twenty-two, you’re really excited to be in a theatre company right out of college. When you’re twenty-five and you’re still not getting paid and you’re still doing shows in churches and bars, you start to think, ‘Well this kinda sucks a little bit. I would much rather get a job, and get out and do stuff instead of being in rehearsal.’ So it sort of folded in on itself, which happens with a lot of companies. But, I think we were just scratching the surface of what that could have been. And who knows what might have happened had we stuck with it. So that finished up when I was about twenty five, and then I moved to NYC.

CP: Did you jump right into the theatre scene once you got here?

TE: Well, sorta. I got here and I was thinking, ‘I’m a pro now! I’ve run a theatre company, I’ve got three years under my belt. I must know what I’m doing!’ Turns out, every third person on the street has started a theatre company at some point or another. I started directing on the Lower East side – this is the middle nineties to late nineties, when you could walk down to the Lower East Side and it was just chock full of these empty spaces that became theatres. I started directing at Expanded Arts Theatre which seated exactly twenty eight people.

CP: Wow.

TE: Yeah, it was adorable. Twenty eight people was the maximum it could seat and depending on your staging it might only seat twenty three, because you had to leave room for people to get to the bathroom. I was directing down there and that went well for a little while. I met a lot of good people and it was my first foray into directing downtown. And then there was a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – it was supposed to play outdoors in the afternoon on the piers along the Westside Highway. Expanded Arts had gotten a grant so it was free, it was outside, it was lovely, but it was also only four performances. And that’s a lot of work for only four performances. So they decided to also run it Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights, inside, and charge the standard showcase amount, which at the time was $12 a head. Well, nobody wanted to come and see the show for $12 a head on Sunday night when they could see it Saturday afternoon for free. So that totally didn’t work, the cast got upset, the inside show’s got cancelled and the artistic director got upset and it just lead to this big hullabaloo and I got fired. They were like “You’ve done a terrible job with this, you’ve done an awful job.” And I said, “What did I fucking do? I just staged the show. It’s not my fault.”

CP: What’s that line from the Jon Jory article you just gave me? “You’re gonna be fired and when you’re fired it’s about money. They’re gonna say its about the show, but it’s about money.”

TE: Exactly, and so I left, and that was 1998. And I remembered about the stuff we had done on Long Island, and thought about being in control over your own artistic career in a way, and I thought about the stuff I had seen in London, the fringe stuff I had seen. I had spent a lot of time at the National Theater of Great Britain. There were three spaces so they had maybe eight or nine plays running at any given time, and the idea of ‘rotating rep’ sorta stuck with me. The idea that you could have something exciting on all the time, it would always be fresh, it would always be new. I thought that maybe we could use rotating repertory on a scale that would fit off-off Broadway economics, so that if you rented a theatre, for four weeks, rather than doing one show four times a week for three weeks, you could use every available performance slot possible and do three shows in the same amount of time, so long as they were simple enough and cooperative enough that they wouldn’t get in each other’s way. As a result, where you might have spent $10,000 on space and only get one box office out of it, now you’re potentially spending $10,000 but have three box offices coming out of it. And there’s constantly this idea of ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s happening,’ cause things are always moving in and out and rotating. From this came the idea of forming a company with that as its backbone. That’s how Boomerang began. And here we are, having our fifteenth anniversary!

CP: Wow!  Congratulations! How did Boomerang get started?

TE: I brought some people together and said: “We’re gonna do this first season of three plays in repertory.” I had just quit a job that —  Okay, FIRST thing that new directors should know: Don’t cash out your 401K to start your theatre company! It is not the best idea in the whole world. Don’t do it twice and certainly don’t do it three times. I thought, ‘I’m twenty six, I don’t need four thousand dollars. I’m not retiring ever! Four thousand dollars?  That’s three plays worth of money!’

CP: Wait, what? When was $4000 ever three plays worth of money?

TE: In 1999. We did three plays for seven thousand dollars. Things were cheaper. We were doing things on the fly, you begged, borrowed and stole anything you could find on the street. We did the first season for seventy six hundred dollars, and I had taken forty nine of that out of my 401K when I left my job. We did Arms and the Man, Three Sisters and As You Like It. And those were the first three plays of Boomerang.

CP: Did you direct them all?

TE: I didn’t. I directed As You Like It and hired people to do the other two. And it was an interesting experience to put those three plays together. I sort of understood how repertory economics could work, and it was really exciting for me. So we did the season, and it went okay. We didn’t lose a tremendous amount of money, so we just kept on doing it like that. The spaces got a little bigger, the production values got a little better, and in 2001, we started doing new works.

CP: I’ve read some of your other interviews and heard you speak about how the repertory thing can get to be a little fiscally challenging for one company to pull off. Is that why you teamed up with Flux Theatre Ensemble and Gideon Productions for the BFG Collective? Was that sort of an extension of that dream? 

TE: Kinda, yeah, that was part of it. It came about because Mac Rogers had the three Honeycomb plays that Gideon wanted to do, but that they didn’t want to run together in rep. They knew they needed to run one, take a break, rehearse, put the second one up, rehearse, take a break, put the third one up. So they had these holes in the calendar between where those shows would go up, and the thought process was if that’s the case, what would happen if Flux took one of those holes over and Boomerang took the other hole over and then that became one solid block of programming. That then becomes the chance to rent a space for six months at a time. So for six months, we rented The Secret Theatre and seven full productions went up in six months. I don’t know how many NYIT nominations came from in there, but it was a very successful climate. In a perfect world, the dream would be to have a theatre run for like, eleven months out of the year, constantly having something in rehearsal and something running – whether it’s our three shows, or a show with Gideon and a show with Flux and it all works together.

CP: Is that something you’d like to try again?

TE: It’s something we’re thinking about. We haven’t really figured out what each individual company wants to do next, and the timing of those things work together. But if the opportunity arose, then we would definitely think about it.

CP: That was a bit from your producing side, so let’s go back to directing. In your time in college, did you get formal training as a director? Or was it mostly OJT?

TE: It was a little OJT but we also took directing classes. It wasn’t a directing program per se, it was an overall theatre program – so there were design classes, acting classes, writing classes and some directing classes. Because it was so individualized you could say, “Well I really want more directing, so I’ll take all the directing classes there are, and then I might do an independent project on directing X.”  So you could frame a lot of your own learning.

CP: Do you feel like you learned a lot from the formal training?

TE: The great thing about the formal training for me was the idea of learning some of the techniques – things that I still use. Picturization, focus, depth of field – things like that. I feel like the on-the-job training taught me how to talk to actors, the way I had wanted to be talked to when I was an actor. To talk about motivations and intentions – things like that. That was probably one of the biggest things, was figuring out different ways to talk to actors. Some people want to talk about intentions and motivations and breaking things down into beats; and some people just wanna be left alone – “I got this, I understand it, tell me what I’m doing wrong, or tell me what you want me to do but don’t talk to me about how to do it.”

CP: It is a crucial piece of the craft – learning to work with different types of personalities.

TE: Yeah, exactly. But the technique -ways of staging- that stuff I still use a lot. When I got out of college, I took a directing class at Circle Repertory, back when they had an acting school. The first exercise we had to do was to find a painting and re-stage the painting. And the coolest thing about that was the first thing it taught you was where your eye was supposed to look. Because you don’t realize that your eye is doing things you’re not aware of, it’s trying to find the composition in an image. Whether it be left to right, whether it be color in the background and neutrals in the fore… things like that. So suddenly when you have to stage a painting, and you question yourself: does it work? It was just a big revelation to me in terms of composition. The Robert Wilson stuff that I read also about this – the idea of being able to convey what the show is about without words. If we didn’t have any text, would the audience still ‘get’ the play.

CP: I’ve always felt that actors have the body and the voice as their tools, and the playwright has the text and the story as their tools. And our tool is the stage picture –  what we do is to comment on the scene by the way we stage the ‘picture’ of the scene.

TE: Yeah, absolutely, and the audience doesn’t necessarily notice, but they get it. Consciously or subconsciously, it’s a factor.

CP: So obviously you’ve been a director, you’ve been an actor, have you done other positions in the theatre?

TE: I write a lot now.

CP: WHAT? I didn’t… Wow, that’s a surprise. I thought I did my research, but I didn’t know that you were a playwright!

TE: I do a lot of playwriting now. Mostly because I only direct infrequently now, my company keeps me very busy. But it’s easier to find hours -the wee hours at night- where I can get some writing done, when I feel like I’m being creative in some way. I may not be able to be in rehearsal for four weeks, but I can still be creative for fifteen minutes here, two hours there. I got four full length plays that I’ve finished, one of which was produced and two which are sort of getting their last drafts done.

CP: How has it impacted you as a director?

TE: When I started writing, I started writing as a director in a lot of ways. I write things and I visualize how the staging of it would go. And that helps to some degree. I think that what it has helped is I don’t have the best sort of editing ear for things. Writing has helped me be able to see both sides of the coin better than I probably had before.

CP: So now, when you work with a playwright who’s been sitting on their own with their baby, and gotten so close to it – do you feel that you have a better understanding of how it feels to put your baby in someone else’s arms?

TE: Yeah, absolutely. I have a little bit more insight into it now, the “birthing process” of it, if you will. I think it’s about trust. I had an experience once where I was directing for a company and I hadn’t really met with the playwright beforehand. We had a little email exchange back and forth, and she was anxious about getting the play done. I think she’d seen a couple of versions of it that weren’t so hot, and she was concerned that it was gonna be another crappy version in a small theatre. I was directing the play in the rhythm that I heard the play in, and she came into rehearsal and she said, ‘You gotta slow down, it’s just too fast.’  If I had put my foot down and was like, “No, this is the way it’s gotta be, I’m the director yada yada” – then I think that would have been a very fractious relationship. Just the act of listening to the process and respecting what she thinks it needs made us able to talk about it. She knew I was respecting what she intended.

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CP: Do you think that directors are craftsmen or artists?

TE: Artists. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that my job as the director starts when I experience the play. I think that the directing all starts with that initial response. It’s not about making a chair, it’s about making a beautiful chair, a chair that is functional but has delicacy, or is very sturdy – something that is idiosyncratic to the person who made it.  I read the play, I visualize it, I read it again, I read it AGAIN and I experience how it moves. From there I can gather people around me and I explain how it moves me and why it moves me and how I want to tell that experience. But if I just “like” it and I don’t respond to it, we’ve no starting point. I think that this is something I didn’t learn as an undergrad – how important that moment of response is. We learned about staging, we learned about picturization, we learned how to work with designers – and all that’s awesome and important, but I don’t think it becomes directing until you respond to it in a way that you can talk about and work from.

CP: I agree, that’s the point where a director becomes an artist, when they form a response – a response that is specific to them and the circumstances within which they are directing. I’ve always liked the term ‘midwife’ to describe directing. What term would you use?

TE: I think that’s a good one. Especially for new plays, I think it’s great. For regular, established plays, I like “initial interpreter.” Boomerang does a lot of classics – we did Hamlet last summer and we just did Richard III this summer.  These are plays that a lot of people already know, so you gotta come at it with a reason to be doing them. And that comes from the director’s point of view a lot of times.

CP: I think that’s one of the reasons why we do established plays, because you feel better, easier about putting a stamp on them –  versus a new play where you’re trying to give the playwright’s voice the lead.

TE: I think that it is an interesting point, but there’s a fine line between just facilitating the author’s experience, and still being a valid contributor to it. I don’t think that you can just kowtow to how the author hears it. I’m not saying you’ve got be combative, but there are times when those conversations need to happen – about cutting or trimming or fleshing out – even when you’re trying to facilitate the author’s intent.

CP: It goes back to when we were talking about that kernel of response, because a playwright has an intent, but then you read it -the playwright can’t structure your experience- she’s giving you the text, and then you have your own response to it. And as long as what you’re doing is still based in the honesty of that response to their work, to me that’s still true to the origin of what they wrote. And if you come up with a response that is not what the playwright intended, then that’s significant as well – then the playwright has to decide to either clarify, or embrace that optional response.

TE: Yeah, they may want to rewrite it, or they may be happy about the ambiguity.

CP: When you’re directing, do you start with text or movement?

TE: Text. We’ll sit at a table. I’d like to do table work. I think that in New York City unfortunately, directors don’t always allow for a ton of table work, because time is money. But we probably spend three days, four days at table and then start staging stuff. I feel like until you get people up on their feet, until they have the words tied together with spatial relationships, they don’t get a full sense of relationship. So if I’m saying that ‘I love you’ but I’m twenty feet away from you, that’s different from saying it two feet away from you, and those kinds of things start to color the staging. I want to get them in physical proximity to each other as quickly as possible so we can start moving things around.

CP: Talk to me a little bit about working with designers. Do you enjoy the  production side of things?

TE: I do. I like designers who come in with a point of view, especially because I don’t do a ton of research when it comes to things. I’m interested in what their response to something is. And I like the collaborative process of having a discussion about what the actor will be doing and what the visuals of the things should look like. I get the smartest people around me and get the fuck out of the way. I make that my rule – I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room.

CP: At what point in the process do you bring designers in?

TE: I like to have the team set pretty early, about a month before we go into rehearsal, so we can talk about what the responses are. Give people the chance to live with it a little bit. Because I think that relationship starts the moment that conversation starts. So if you were designing costumes for me, I would want us to have plenty of time to sit down and say, “Here’s what I think the play is about.”  And you say, “Great! I want that, too” or “I don’t see that.” And then we’re gonna go away with it for a little while, and that will ruminate for a little bit and you go, “Oh, you know what? I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve read it again, you’re right, but I would do this instead.” So the more chances you get to breathe, the more chance you have of getting something that’s as complex and as interesting as you want it to be.

CP: How about the rest of the team – have you ever been an assistant director, or have you ever used one?

TE: I haven’t ever been an assistant, no, but I do use them regularly. Assisting can be so helpful – it’s hard to come in to a theatre and say, “I’m a director, hire me,” if you don’t have a ton of experience or a ton of relationships built yet with companies or people.

CP: As an artistic director, what do you look for when you’re hiring directors?

TE: We start out hiring directors primarily for readings for the most part, that’s where it all starts. When I hire directors – I don’t want directors to ‘stage’ plays. I want directors to ‘direct’ plays! Earlier in my career, I worked with directors who were very literal minded: the play is about a boy, he meets a girl, loses girl – hilarity ensues from there. But that’s not enough. I want directors who understand what the play is about, and then can make unique, organic choices in the room about what this production is supposed to do, how THIS specific collection of people tells the story of “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.” It can’t be that we just make pretty pictures. Because sometimes pretty pictures aren’t enough – maybe you need an ugly picture! So, I’m drawn to directors who are interested in using the text as inspiration and a starting point, but not slavishly adhering to pre-conceived notions of what the play will be.  I want people who are willing to commit to the room and the play and respond to it, not just stage it the way that it appears on the page.

CP: Right! You can’t be there just to play traffic cop.You are there to give it a sense of direction, because most good stories can go in several different ways. If you wanna get from here to Wyoming, you can take a plane, you can take a car, you can take a bicycle, you can walk. There’s lots of ways to get from A to Z, so pick a way that speaks to you.

TE: And that’s always been my sticking point. I want directors with a an opinion, I want directors with a point of view. The first thing I want to know is ‘what do you respond to? What about the story moves you? What do you think really happens? What do you connect to? How do you want to interpret this story?’

CP: Tell me about the environment you like to have in rehearsals, and what you do to make that environment happen. For example, legend has it that Stanislavsky used to put a doormat outside the door of the rehearsal hall so you could wipe your feet off, leaving the outside world outside.  That way you could better focus on the inside world.

TE: Wow. That’s a good story! For me, I just want rehearsal to be non-threatening and a good place to be. We’re gonna take our work seriously, but we’re also gonna goof around and play a little, too. Maybe that means we’re taking our shoes off today, or maybe it means there’s candy on the table or whatever. And that’s really about it, I just want it to be as enjoyable as possible. I feel like I get my best work when people are free enough and enjoying the process.

CP: Do you come into rehearsal with a lot of blocking in your head?

TE: Yeah, I pre-block everything. Primarily because I want to start with that idea of picturization, I want to set spatial relationships. I know a lot of people don’t do this, but I pre-block everything. I’ll leave some stuff a little rough, but a lot of my blocking notes tend to be about crosses, whether it be a straight line cross or an arc cross around or whatever.  It’s about if someone is looking at someone when they’re talking or whether they’re faced out when they’re talking – those are the things that I get very specific about. My belief is that those details are the first set of notes I’m giving to the actor. And maybe it feels really weird and you wanna talk about it, but that’s the starting genesis of what the relationships are, and what your relationships are in space, and we can go from there.

CP: How much of what you bring in on day 1 is there on opening night?

TE: Sometimes it is 95%, sometimes it’s 5%. I think the majority of it is 90%. I’m not always 100% right, certainly, but I think that my initial blocking is always based on an organic response, based on impulses that I can use to explain why that choice was made. So, most of the time, it sticks.

CP: Do you direct anything outside of theatre? Operas? TV, film?

TE: I don’t yet, but I would like to start directing television, or film. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I think that I’ve been writing something that feels like it could be like a webseries or something.  It may be a play that gets carved into pieces and gets shot, so we’ll see. We’ve had some conversations within my company about the experience of creating art for theatre versus creating art for a 2D medium like a webseries or things like that. And the difference between creating something where you’re in the room with it or something you watch flat on a screen, and how different that must be as an audience member and as a creator.

CP: Have you ever wanted to direct a play that was not in your  comfort zone?

TE: Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely. I’m at the point in my career when I just want to do things that fucking scare me – because I feel like I can sit around and direct sofa plays til I’m blue in the face. But at a certain point you just want to get better, you wanna be shit scared, and I’m willing to go into the room not knowing if it’s gonna work.

CP: I think the more we learn the more comfortable we are with not knowing anything.

Boomerang Theatre's production of "Hamlet"

Boomerang Theatre’s production of “Hamlet”

TE: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I directed Hamlet, because I was scared of directing Hamlet! And I learned right off the bat, as soon as I finished directing Hamlet that I wanted to direct it again, because there was a bunch of shit that I did not get to.

CP: When I first started directing I would see director’s resumes where they directed the same play more than once, and I thought, ‘how lazy’. But now I realize why: there are so many plays that I’ve done that I’m just dying to do again, because I feel I was only just starting to understand it by the time we opened.

TE: Plus, I feel like there are plays, the good ones, where your response at twenty is different than your response at thirty, which is different than your response at forty. I directed a production of Marvin’s Room, and I didn’t know shit about death or aging, or parents or anything like that at twenty two. Now I’d be ready to direct an interesting Marvin’s Room, but at that time I just staged it and got the jokes right.

CP: Let’s talk a little about directing in NYC. I always have this picture of this director in Wyoming -some young director who wants to come and direct in New York City. What would you tell them about directing here?

TE: I would say that it is not an overnight process. I would say that the people who come in and say, “I’ll give it two years, and I’ll make it or I won’t,” are on a fool’s errand. I think that you have to come in thinking, ‘It’s gonna take however long it takes.’ Don’t worry about what happens after you get here or any kind of lines you have to hit on the growth chart between now and two years or five years. Come in and do it. See what happens for you. And then decide if you want to do it again tomorrow. There’s no timeline for it, it doesn’t have to be like, ‘If I’m not directing Off-Broadway in two years, I’ve failed.’ But people out in the world sometimes think that that’s the process.

CP: Yeah. They think that there is ‘A’ process and there’s not one. Everybody makes their own. How has directing in the Indie theatre world changed from when you first started to now?

TE: Well, things are more expensive because the city is more expensive than it was then. And there are a lot less spaces to choose from. In the olden days you had twenty theatres to choose from for your season, and you could pick the low, middle or high rent ones. Now, the low rent ones have sort of fallen away, or they’re crappy -really crappy, like ‘you wouldn’t take your mother to that place- crappy. As a result, the economics have put you in the middle or high brackets and you have to be able to deal with it. Because you’re spending three thousand dollars on a space a week, or four thousand dollars if you’re at one of the bigger ones. It’s not chump change. The theatres that we worked at in 1999 were renting for $1500 a week. Now it’s $3-4000 a week. So I think the city has changed in that regard.

CP: What about changes for the good?

TE: I feel like the recognition that has come in the last ten years for off-off Broadway has made doing OOB more attractive to people – and rightly so. I think that before we had the NYIT Awards, before the NY Fringe, before Martin Denton’s blog and his NYTE publishing – people joked about OOB – ‘how far off off Broadway are you?’ Now, if you say you’re in OOB and Indie theatre, people actually know what that means. Whether it be the Under the Radar Festival, Public Lab, the Coil Festival, or the Brick, there’s a lot more things that people recognize when you say you’re doing an Indie show now. And that was never the case back in the day.

CP: Do you think the community is tighter?

TE: I feel like it is in some ways, but the community is also constantly changing, and so as a result it constantly needs to be tightened. There’s always somebody starting and there’s always somebody quitting. And so knowing who those people are and making sure that they’re connected to the larger world is a constant challenge. Because you want more collaborators, you want more fresh blood, you want new eyes and so you’re constantly attending shows to see who’s coming up.

CP: I know you have connections with lots of resources in the OOB/Indie theatre world, such as NYIT, Martin Denton and NYTE, Community Dish and the League of Independent Theatre.  Tell me more about them – they are all fairly recent developments, right?

TE: Yeah. None of that was around when we started. People knew each other at that time only by proximity. So, if there were four theatres on Ludlow street, or whatever, they would all know each other but only because they would bump into each other on the street, or get coffee at the same place or sleep with the same people, or whatever it was. The idea that you could be a theatre on 72nd Street at the Arclight and know what was going on the Lower East Side or at the Brick or in Astoria was just unheard of. And companies didn’t last 10, 11, 12 years, because you couldn’t get audiences, you couldn’t get reviews, you certainly weren’t getting published so those things that bring people together, that draw eyes to the work that you’re doing, just weren’t there. Now that those things are in place, companies are able to live longer, and their bodies of work get richer and deeper and they work with different people. And the result of being brought together by Martin Denton’s publishing and being reviewed by Martin, and being brought together by the NYIT Awards – those community building things have been so huge. And the Fringe Festival – that really started this whole process, really changed the way that we do stuff, and the way that we’re able to talk to each other because I think it took a lot of the competitive elements out of it. When you had no reviews, and you had no money, you were fighting every day for everything. Now, you’re in a company, I’m in a company and so-and-so is in a company – so I can lend you a prop, you can lend me an audience member, I can lend you a stage, you know, that thing never happened before – because we never talked to each other. And so the competition element has sort of gone out the window to a degree, and the idea of “a rising tide raises all boats” became the dominant idea.

CP: What would you say was the most important thing to know about directing in New York City?

TE: I would say don’t be afraid, there are so many people around you that can help you. I think when you first get here, many people think you have to prove yourself, you have to do things independently. Just get over that idea, if you need a prop, just ask somebody if they know anybody who’s got the prop, you know?

CP: I wish I had heard that ten years ago. I thought that nobody would want me, nobody would care about what I was doing.

TE: There’s a very empathetic crowd in this town.

CP: Yeah, I’ve learned that. Like when the NYIT guys asked me to come be on the board. And I was like, “Are you sure? I don’t really know anybody.’ And they said, “Yeah! We want your voice because it’s different. It’s unique.’ And I try to pay that forward – when people say ‘I need some help casting this part, do you know of anybody?’ I say, ‘Yeah! Let me help! I’m so happy to help.’

TE: People loved to be asked for help, especially if you’re asking for expertise, and you’re saying ‘You’re good at something. Can you help me do it?’ It’s a compliment.

CP:  Wow, time flies – it seems we’re already at the end of the interview, and it’s time for the FAST FIVE!

FastFiveCP:  Here we go: What’s your favorite New York City spot for inspiration?

TE: Anything near the water. So Battery Park, the Esplanade in Brooklyn, South Street Seaport, that kind of stuff.

CP: What’s your favorite spot for after rehearsal?

TE: I wanna go home. LOL!

CP: Do you know that every, every director has said that. Everyone wants to go home. If the rehearsal is good, you’re drained – you give so much of your focus and energy.

TE: Yeah. I mean, you know how it is. You wanna go home, you wanna see your significant other, there’s stuff to do at home!

CP: What’s your favorite theatre superstition or ritual?

TE: I don’t say the Scottish play when we’re in rehearsal or in the theatre. And I used to be a habitual whistler, I love to whistle. Then one of the lighting designers said “You can’t whistle in a theatre.” Apparently, in the old days, whistles were used as signals by the flymen to bring bars in and out. So if you whistled in the wrong way or at the wrong time, they might fly something in and hit someone.  So I’ve learned now not to whistle. I’ve tried to control myself. I hum now.

CP: What’s the oddest prop you’ve ever had on stage?

TE: Well, we’ve done a lot of squibs and stuff. We did a play called The Ugly Man, and it was the first time we had ever used firearms with blanks in them, but we had to have splatter and stuff happen, so we had to have the floor rigged with triggers, so that if somebody got shot they would step back onto a trigger, and then a tube that was going up the side of the flat would shoot colored dye onto a white sheet behind them, and so that was really interesting to work the mechanisms of that out. That was really fun.

CP: What’s your favorite tech rehearsal snack?

TE: I love M & Ms. It’s gotta be chocolate of some type. M & Ms are super because I can just shove them in my mouth and keep running.

CP: What is your most valued trait in an actor?

TE: Flexibility. And intelligence probably, but really flexibility. And it doesn’t hurt if they’re attractive.

CP:  Too true! Before we part, tell me what’s up next for you and Boomerang.

TE:  Boomerang’s 15th Anniversary season continues with our three play rotating rep season, during which I will be directing Shaw’s CANDIDA. We’re following that up with the New York premiere of Jamie Pachino’s WAVING GOODBYE in February 2014. On the playwrighting front, I’m finishing up two rewrites on scripts, and developing a webseries project starring Sara Thigpen. That should keep me busy.

CP: But probably not out of trouble, knowing you! And there we are. Interview completed. Thank you so much for joining me for this. I really appreciate you taking the time.

TE: Of course! I enjoyed it, too. Thanks for asking!

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Check out Tim’s reading recommendations in our library. And don’t forget to leave your comments below! Are there questions you wish I had asked? Questions you’d like to have asked in the future? Let me know!

4 comments on “Director: Tim Errickson

  1. Ruth Baker
    August 9, 2013

    Loved it. Being from the Midwest, I don’t have many opportunities to talk shop, and I’m so pleased to know that I intuite much of what directors think and feel which helps me as a playwright.

  2. boomerangtheatre
    August 12, 2013

    Thanks Ruth, hope the interview was helpful. All the best with your work.
    Tim

    • Ruth Baker
      August 12, 2013

      Thought I’d share with you…just had my first real ‘professional’ production at Barter Theater, Va’s state Rep, for Half A World Away about the Burmese who settle here in Ft. Wayne, IN of all places. Very powerful play with conflict between Father and son Than. Mother drown when they fled refugee camp in Thailand. Than is determined to become Americanized with basketball, etc. while Father insists he only study and work at store. Than uses his freedom of speech, to dismay of Father, who feels he has nothing left in America and returns to fight against the Juna government (1987). Grandma Cho-Cho, with humor and culture, tries to hold family together without luck. Universal theme hit so many in audience who were 2nd and 3rd generations here. …If you know any A.D. open to reading, please let me know. I am, of course, submitting to the Asian Theaters in NY but also to main stream. Currently working on a Civil War camp follower/love/abolitionist story.
      Cat has staged two of my plays, one getting me an agent (re Clara and Robert Schumann). Best, Ruth

  3. Ruth Baker
    June 18, 2014

    Cat, I re-read this. Don’t know why but gained much from it again. I think a collection of your interviews would sell very, very well. Ruth

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