The Crucible Experience

This past winter I had the immense pleasure to work on one of the most important plays ever written, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Although I was exhausted (seven months pregnant with twins!), this experience was one of the most fulfilling and synergistic moments of my career.  The production was a collaboration between Lipscomb Theatre and Blackbird Theater Company, which is our resident semi-professional company.  With a mix of students and Nashville pros in the cast, and a top-notch production team, I was enraptured with the entire process and the product.  Why this play, and why now? Here’s what I wrote as my director’s note in the playbill:

One of Arthur Miller’s masterworks, The Crucible encapsulates a dark, disturbing historical event from America’s early settlement period while resonating universal themes that continue to reverberate throughout time.  While Miller wrote the play to address 1950s McCarthyism, his work exploits elements of humanity that transcend single application.  Of all of the ideas explored in The Crucible, including the perversion of justice, the power of collective hysteria, the ramifications of religious fundamentalism, and the unquenched need for societal scapegoats– all boil down to one driving element: fear.

Miller’s Puritans, as many of us do, operate entirely based on fear.  While they specifically fear rebellion, God’s punishment, and the devil, people throughout time have mirrored their beliefs and actions, if for their own reasons. Fear, however, is one of our basest instincts, and this play captures the repercussions of how unbridled terror in a few people can bring down many.

What are we doing TODAY, even in small ways, that perpetuates fear?  

This play serves more than to point fingers at religious figures and political systems from over 300 years ago; we must see ourselves in this story, and not just as the victims.  On both macro- and micro- levels, we behave like the Puritans did that fateful spring.  And the truth is, we all pay the price.  As John Donne put it:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

Thank you for joining us for this special production. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have in creating it. May we all hear fewer bells toll in our lifetimes.

Directing STAND for Nashville and a major city tour

I recently directed the remount of STAND by Jim Reyland starring Barry Scott and Chip Arnold.  Directing a remount is always tricky business, and it took some effort to figure out how to marry a previous vision with a new experience.  In the end, it came together well and I was really proud to work on a play about such an important topic: homelessness.  I direct a lot of plays that I’d like to claim challenge my audiences, but at best these works come off as mostly entertainment and food for thought.  This play, however, really calls for immediate action: to take a stand to end homelessness.  It’s a powerful work and I’m grateful to have participated in it’s recreation!  It showed for a week at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for both public and school performances, and is now going on tour to San Jose, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and a few other cities.  Onward!

Stand

Dancing at Lughnasa

In April, I directed one of my long-time favorite plays, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. This beautiful, haunting Irish play has been on my “Want to Direct” list for a while, and I was not disappointed.  I had the most lovely cast and production team, we enjoyed wonderful feedback and reviews, and overall I am deeply artistically satisfied with the whole process.  Enjoy these production photos and don’t forget about the review on my “Reviews” page.  Photo credit Kristi Jones.

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First Year as Department Chair

I have just completed my first year as Department Chair of Lipscomb University’s Department of Theatre, and it was been a wild and wonderful ride.  This is an exciting time for arts at this university as the departments of Visual Art, Cinematic Arts, Music, Fashion & Design, and Theatre have formed a new college within the university: the College of Entertainment & the Arts.  The mission: to be a Christ-centered, innovative, entrepreneurial arts community committed to rigorous artistic training, creative collaboration and professional growth.  We are grateful for the university’s and community’s support in this new endeavor — it’s exciting and challenging all at the same time.  I am really glad to be here.

Want to learn more about our department?  Click HERE.

Follow us on FACEBOOK and Twitter: @TheatreLipscomb

Ingram New Works Festival with Doug Wright

In May, I had the distinct pleasure to direct a staged reading of Dean Poyner’s Together We Are Making a Poem in Honor of Life featuring Shannon Hoppe and Brent Maddox for Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s Ingram New Works Festival.  This was an incredible experience and one for which I will be eternally grateful.  The air is so electric at new play festivals; I literally got a contact high participating in the emerging playwrights’ works. Which was good, since the university semester was ending and I was exhausted.  The New Works Lab this year featured playwrights Nate Eppler, Dean Poyner, Andrew Kramer, and Jeremy Sony.  All of their plays blew me away, as did the readings’ actors, directors, and stage managers.

I also met this year’s New Works Fellow, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright, whose most notable works include I Am My Own Wife, Quills, The Little Mermaid, and Grey Gardens. The festival presented a reading of his new play Posterity, which will in no doubt go on to receive many productions and accolades.  He really is a genius.  Past Fellowship recipients include Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Auburn (The Columnist), Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner John Patrick Shanley (Storefront Church), Steven Dietz (Rancho Mirage), and Theresa Rebeck (Fever).  

I found Doug Wright to be extremely gracious and kind.  He said super nice things to me and my cast about our reading — I acted cool but I exploded on the inside while he spoke to me. Here’s a photo from the after-party:

Cassie Hamilton, Brent Maddox, Me, Dean Poyner, Doug Wright, Shannon Hoppe

Cassie Hamilton, Brent Maddox, Me, Dean Poyner, Doug Wright, Shannon Hoppe                     Photo credit Shane Burkeen

Overall, the experience was beautiful.  I learned so much, as I always do working with giving artists. And Together We Are Making a Poem in Honor of Life really touched my heart in some new ways.  Art is such a magical, mysterious thing.

POEM SYNOPSIS: Marked by a senseless tragedy, a couple tries to navigate the storm of grief that follows in the wake of their child’s death. Through a series of support group meetings for grieving parents, they struggle to comprehend and remember in an attempt to reconcile what they’ve lost. But as they confront their harsh new reality, they find it difficult to connect with each other in this new discordant world. A powerful and poetic exploration of what it means to live through unimaginable loss.

 

 

Shaw’s Man & Superman Production Photos

This past winter, I had the pleasure to direct one of the toughest plays I’ve ever worked on, George Bernard Shaw’s Man & Superman, for one of my favorite theatre companies in Nashville, Blackbird Theatre Company.  We had a brilliant run, great reviews, and a heck of a challenge tackling a play that literally takes the characters to hell and back again.  Here are some production photos.  Be sure to check out the reviews under the ‘Reviews’ tab.  Photo credit John Gentry.

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