Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors

First Time or Old Hand?

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 names to see bios 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: Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe before? If so, what do you plan to do differently this time?

Katrin: As an audience member I went a couple of times, but not for the whole run, just for a couple of days, always at the tail end of Festival. I gorged on plays that my friend had preselected for me, so 99% were amazing, as he’d seen them and I caught the idea of this particular madness. 2013 was the first time I took a production from NYC to the Fringe. Obviously a whole different kettle of fish. This time we’re not hiring a flyering team but have contracted the cast to put in 2 hrs daily to flyer. I myself will do the same, and everybody involved with the production will have to do it. Since I’m not taking an easy comedy piece, you can’t just hand out postcards and be done with it. You need to have a conversation, answer questions, and the best people to communicate about it are the people who are involved and passionate about it. We’ll also get company T-shirts for this. This year it is a co-production of my company, ManyTracks Inc., the writer’s Pascal Theatre Company and Kati Hind’s new venture Add2. The latter is our GM and main PR person -a true EdFringe vet and I wouldn’t dare to do it without her- but since it’s a 3 women all-involved team, we all know what’s going on. Last year it was a different set-up (long story) and our GM and PR person didn’t do right by us and it took us too long to find that out.

John: We’ve been seven times since 2000, averaging about once every other year.

Jessi: No, this is my first time!

Joel: This is my third time at the Edinburgh Festival. The first time in 1970 was actually my first summer in the theater. I was 18 and just starting out as an actor and that summer sealed the deal for me. I was hooked. The second time was in 2005 with the same company, the Festival Theater Company of USC, and I was working so hard that all I saw of Edinburgh was the ceiling of the flat I was rooming in just before I fell asleep, and the inside of the theater where all my days and nights converged into a blurry mass of rehearsals and performances. This time around I intend see some plays, explore the city, and enjoy every moment I am there.

Joan: I directed a drama in the 2013 EdFringe. As dramas go, we did pretty well. We got some great reviews. I think the comedy I am doing this year will sell better and be more fun.

Scott: This will be my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Joshua: No, this is my first time bringing a show over, not to mention my first time at the festival. Actually it’s my first time in Scotland period. So this is a particularly exciting/terrifying endeavor; one that’s exacerbated by the fact that Party in the USA!, at least in its original incarnation at the Incubator Arts Project, is not exactly the type of show you’d consider tour-friendly. It has a cast of  seven, requires a large stage, a live drummer, and an intensive, psychotropic video design. Not quite the stuff you’d tech in 4 hours. Not quite the stuff a young company attempts to take to Scotland on their first foray. But after our sold-out run last summer, which took place in the middle of a heat-wave in a room with no air-conditioning, my collaborators and I knew that we had something special, something we wanted to share with a global audience. So, against the odds… The play is called Party in the USA! and it’s a drug-addled comedy about the 2008 financial collapse, written by David McGee and based in part on some experiences I had temping at Deutsche Bank in the fall of that year. It’s a vicious, absurdist satire that attempts to dramatize the state of panic we all experienced at the dawn of the Great Recession. It’s a call to arms. It’s a lot of fun.

Luke: I have been to EdFringe a number of times, both as a performer and now as a director and producer. It’s always a crazy mix of all sorts of great art, music, theatre, emotion, energy and creativity. Every year is different and in many ways it’s not easy to plan in advance what is the best course of action when you’re there. You do have to be very flexible and be able to change things at a moments notice sometimes. I can say that the most important thing is to take your best work and as much energy as you can. You always learn from your experiences, positive or negative, and this year if we are going to do anything differently, I think it will be to trust ourselves more than we perhaps have in the past. If you have brought your best show, you should use that positivity to inspire others to share in your creation and celebrate your work.

Anthony: First time to Edinburgh.

Padraic: This is my first time taking a show to Edinburgh. I have thought about it often. Honestly, until now it didn’t feel like the right show for the venue. Vickie had plans on going before we worked together and I have to say, this play feels right. From everything I have heard about the festival I believe it will be a good fit.

Peter: I’m taking this year off … three years in a row is exhausting emotionally and financially. I first attended EdFringe as a director with a wacky cabaret show that had already played NYC. I was there for tech and the first few shows and hadn’t really done any research on the Festival, since the performer was doing the show. What a mistake! I should’ve been just as invested in the show as the performer. The show was doing well, but after a few days there, when I got to the train station to head back to work in London, I literally said out loud, “Well, done that insane madness. Never coming back.” A year later I was back with my solo comedy Desperately Seeking the Exit. I realized in preparing for my own show at the festival, I actually did learn an awful lot about how it “works” just by going for a few days. I HIGHLY recommend that.  Go and check it out first. Ed Fringe is unlike any other Arts event in the world. It’s madness, brilliance, hustling, walking, sweating, networking, socializing, and more hustling. And doing the best you possibly can for 24 days straight. It’s not for the faint of heart! I went back last year for the second time and it was a piece of cake – although I still worked my arse off. But what I found was, I had a very supportive family and audience already in place there. It’s kind of incredible to think that you can get so close to fellow performers and your audience in a foreign country in such a crowded market; but since it’s such a tightly knit community, the bonds I made there are ones I will have forever.

Martha: I attended the 2011 Fringe as an actress in Jaclyn Villano Parson’s play Unanswered, We Ride, directed by Elena Araoz and produced by Joy Barrett. This year I am directing, so it is an entirely different beast.

Cindy: Yes, in 2011 with Company XIV’s Pinocchio: A Fantasy of Pleasures (as Producer and Company Manager). Pinocchio was a big show: large cast, with lots of props, costumes, and heavy tech. It was a wonderful show and the audiences loved it, but it was difficult to do in a Fringe setting. 666 DSM is one man playing 6 characters. The set is all video projections and simple props and costumes, but it all fits in one suitcase.

Check out their responses to other questions:

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

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?



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