Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors

Any Changes?

I’ve been fascinated by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for years. It’s one of those bucket list items for me. But I’ve been warned that directing there was unlike directing anywhere else. So, inspired by Articulate Theatre Company member Katrin Hilbe, and ATC friend Joan Kane, I decided to reach out to a few “Fringe-Bound” directors and find out just what goes on ‘across the pond’ in the pressure-cooker theatrical event known as Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Some of these directors are old hands at EFF and some are first-timers. Read on to delve into the minds of these Festival Directors! — Cat Parker

MEET THE DIRECTORS: (click on the names for bio and show info)

Katrin Hilbe
Martha Wollner
Joshua William Gelb
Joel Polis

Joan Kane
Scott W. Slavin
Luke Tudball
Antony Raymond
John Clancy

Jessi D. Hill
Cindy Sibilsky
Peter Michael Marino
Padraic Lillis





CP: What are some changes you’ve had to make to your production in order to take it to festival?

John: Our shows are usually light on tech, focusing on the actors and the language, so we don’t need to compromise on that side.  That said, I’ve seen some very elaborate and complete productions pulled off at the Fringe.  It all depends on the venue and the designers.  The only changes we’ve had to make are when certain words don’t translate from the USA to the UK.  “Queu” for “line” and that sort of thing.

Joel: The main adjustment we’ve had to make to our production for the venue in Edinburgh has been to edit the script down to a 70 minute running time from 81 minutes. This was done brilliantly by our versatile and talented playwright, Allen Barton, with considered input from the actors and myself. The play, a hip, funny, and touching meeting between two old friends who have not seen each other for 4 years, was already thoroughly directed and the bulk of the updating for the Festival was on the shoulders of the playwright and the actors. Lucky me.

Joan: We have changes planned for the UK audience to account for the differences in cultural references. For example what is mentioned as candies in New York will be sweeties in Scotland.

Joshua: Well the most tragic change is the loss of our original sponsor Bud Light Lime,  a beer (which debuted in 2008) that is frequently mocked in our script. Last summer Bud Light Lime sent us 50 cases, which we stored in several on-stage mini-fridges, and distributed liberally to our audiences. I’m always a proponent of giving away alcohol in the theater and it truly enhanced the party-vibe for which we were striving. Naturally, we hoped to continue this relationship in Scotland, unfortunately Bud Light Lime’s not distributed there. Plus there are other sponsorships in place for all of the venues. Not to mention the fact that we’re performing at 3 in the afternoon. So, I guess we’ll see how the show changes when it’s experienced sober. At least there will be air-conditioning. There are plenty of other changes we’re making as well. Some more logistical, some more creative. I think what’s really exciting about remounting this project, is that we’re able to rework large sections of the script and the staging. We’re streamlining the production a bit to make it shorter, more tourable. I’m also thrilled to have 27 performances with which to continue this workshop process, learning and tweaking in front of a daily audience. I’m not the kind of director who “freezes” things.

Katrin: Both productions, Breaking the Silence in 2013 and now St Joan are produced with the EdFringe and future touring in mind. So from the get-go those limitations are part of the plan.

Luke: Even though the Fringe is such a massive phenomenon most of the shows are, often by necessity, very small in terms of set, lighting, and so on. Our design concept for SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL has a large climbing frame/jungle gym as the main set piece which is used throughout the show and so needs to be sturdy, weight-bearing, etc. As most do, we have very short set-up and strike allocations and so we have had to come up with a way to make this large structure both portable and collapsible, while still meeting all the other requirements…and making it fit through doorways! Without giving anything away, the solution is ingenious.

Scott: From previous productions, we were urged to shorten the show from 85 minutes to 60 minutes to make it work better with Fringe ticket buyers’ schedules and expectations. Following our run in New York City in February and March, we also wanted to return to the script and continue to refine it based on our experience now of performing it over 20 times in the U.S.

Anthony: The changes we had to make to our production for Edinburgh was condensing and concentrating the movement of the piece. The stage we are playing on in Edinburgh is very tiny.  But its okay, so is the actress playing ‘Bette Davis.’

 Jessi: Lucie has several NYC references in the show that she is explaining a bit more.

Padraic: Having worked in many festivals before – we simplified the tech. Mainly, just a clarity of the lighting needs. Our show is a solo show that’s only set requirement is a chair, so that wasn’t an issue. But we wanted to make sure that our lighting and sound cues were clear and essential to what we needed so that Vickie could concentrate on the performance and not worry about the time required for tech and what the theater could or couldn’t achieve.

Peter: I had an advantage since I created Exit with the Ed Fringe Festival in mind. I kept it very simple. Me, a stool, a boombox, and a fast-paced, 60-minute story. I wanted it to be a show I could carry on my back. Look … you have 15-minutes to set up and 15 to break down. There’s little room for props or set storage. Doing the Free Festival (where you pass a hat at the end of the show), I knew it would be performed in a bar. So I wrote and developed the show with that in mind, and I was very fortunate to have John Clancy as my director. He had won a number of awards at the Fringe in the past and really knew how it all “worked” and what would work there. I previewed the show in NYC in bar a few times to make it as close to the Fringe experience as possible. I even passed a hat. (Note: passing the hat is a GREAT way to make money!) The show made a drastic change in tone after just the first few previews. The audience there tells you everything. EVERY. THING.  I learned something new about the show every day. Even the second year. Actually, when I re-worked it for the second year, all I had learned from year one made a huge impact and the show was much easier to both produce and perform, and practically sold itself.

Martha:  We shortened the play to the hour format, but more importantly, we re-framed the work in such a way as to serve the arc of the work.

Cindy: As mentioned, the show is very simple yet extremely effective (our sold out run at 59E59 Theaters pre Edinburgh proved that!). It was actually created FOR the Fringe and festival/tour settings. It’s amazing how little you need to tell a good story. If given a bigger budget and bigger setting with all the tech time in the world, I’d change very little. The incredible characterization of actor/writer Douglas de Souza really stands alone.

 Check out their responses to other questions:

Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe before?

What makes it worthwhile for a director to have a production at the festival?

What surprises/challenges have you faced during the process?

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about taking a show to EFF?

In such a dense field of theatre, how do you get your production to stand out?

Bonus question – what one food, drink or establishment do you look forward to trying/visiting the most?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: