Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors
CP: Hello Kira, and welcome to DirectorSpeak. I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions about yourself, your craft and your latest show. Let’s begin by talking about training. You got your formal directing training from Actors Studio Drama School – how was that experience for you?
KS: I went to The Actors Studio Drama School back when it was a part of New School University. It was a mixed experience because the school was in an upheaval at the time. It wasn’t academically rigorous, like my undergraduate education at Smith College, but I stayed because I had an outstanding directing teacher, Elinor Renfield. I would recommend The New School for Drama, the drama program that The New School created when The Actors Studio Drama School left. (Ellie still teaches there!)
CP: Tell me about a specific moment that made you finally decide that directing was what you really wanted to do?
KS: That moment happened when I was sitting in on my big brother’s class at UC Berkeley taught by the incredible Peter Sellar’s entitled, “Art as Moral Action.” I was doing improv workshops for underserved populations with The Red Ladder Theatre Company at the time, San Jose Repertory Theatre‘s outreach theatre company. I was also involved with lots of little fringe projects in San Francisco at the time. Peter Sellar’s framing made it all feel significant – relevant.
CP: Have you ever been an assistant director? If so, did you find it helpful to you in terms of learning and/or networking?
KS: Being an assistant director was key to learning the craft of directing for me. I learned an enormous amount sitting next to John Rando in particular. He always kept his cool with actors and designers, and he found the funny, ironic human story within each moment.
CP:Tell us about an incident while directing that taught you a big lesson, in either a positive or negative fashion.
KS: I had an actor once who wouldn’t take direction and made all the actors in the room uncomfortable because of his contrariness during the process. I eventually fired him when he became outrageously destructive, but we wasted a lot of time and then had almost no time to get his replacement up to speed. I learned from that experience to take action much sooner!
CP: What do you do to keep your artistic batteries charged?
KS: Play with my 4 year old boy!
CP: In a general sense, what are the traits that you most admire in actors?
KS: I admire an open-minded ability to make lots of different choices within the texts. I admire actors’ courage in general.
CP: How do design elements fit into your vision for a production?
KS: It depends on the production. I’m directing a show at the cell (Founding Artistic Director, Nancy Manocherian) in Chelsea right now called the McGowan Trilogy by Seamus Scanlon, and I rely heavily on Gertjan Houben‘s brilliant design to communicate the environment and mood of each of the three acts. In Good Enough, the design is more subtle, but it provides a kind of supportive architecture to the raw story-telling of a solo show.
CP: Do you prefer working with the same design team again and again, or do you prefer to mix it up?
KS: I prefer working with the same design team because the conversation grows deeper with each collaboration.
KS: The real delight is Matthew. He is honest, courageous, open, ever-diligent and outrageously talented. The challenges have been focusing all his wonderful material into a cohesive story and dealing with the technical limitations of a festival setting.
CP: When you first read the script for Good Enough what line, phrase or ideal first drew you to it?
“I’m your little tiny scoutI follow you about,I know everything you say and do,You couldn’t lose me if you wanted to.”
CP: Good Enough is framed around “the notion that good behavior, however virtuous, is not necessarily without price.” This seems fascinating to me. Do you think that people consider that price – the “nice” tax – often enough?
KS: The “nice” tax: I love that! Well, I certainly didn’t consider it enough in my own life. I spent my younger years far too pre-occupied with gaining people’s approval. The cost of pleasing everyone is you don’t please yourself… and then you become resentful.
CP: Give us a little hint about Good Enough or Matthew. Some cool fact we won’t read in the official blurbs…
KS: Matthew wears a bracelet that says “WWJD”… it may not stand for what you think it does…
CP: Thanks, Kira, very much for taking the time to answer a few questions about your path as a director. Here’s wishing you and Matthew the best with Good Enough!