Kampfire Kuestions for Sara Thigpen, Director of Boomerang Theatre Company's 'Twelfth Night'
1-In your own words, describe the production. Including key themes and conflicts…why is this the right time for this production?
At its heart, Twelfth Night is a play about Love. These characters, like all of us at one time or another, are bored or stuck or hiding from the world, and when tempted by Love, we all have a choice: remain closed off and ignore the call, or be brave and risk rejection/ridicule, to embrace the possibility of Love. That’s what is so compelling! It’s not even a guarantee, it’s just a possibility(!), a Hope that who you love may love you back. It's a story filled with music and love triangles and mistaken identity....and it is good to be reminded that 400 years ago people had similar hopes and doubts and obstacles. This work still resonates because we still want to laugh at our own foibles, cheer for our own victories and find wisdom in our Fools.
2-Who are your collaborators and what do you like about working with them?
This is an outstanding group! 15 incredibly talented actors and a production team of 13 (11 of which are women), so there is a lot to love! Tim asked if I would be interested in directing Twelfth Night with the understanding that Vinnie Penna was attached to the project to play Sir Toby Belch. I've known Vinnie for about 16 years and in that time we've worked together on about half a dozen full length plays and countless readings. I will always say yes to working with Vinnie. He knows his Shakespeare - he may have already played every clown - and dedicates himself fully to the play. He is also devilishly funny and truly a prince among men. Ashley Arnett, our Olivia understudy, was the final member of the team, and at the time of writing of this I've known her for about 2 weeks! This is Ashley's first show with Boomerang and her first professional Shakespeare show, so our cast really does run the gamut from seasoned to developing actors. That is one of the things that I think Boomerang does exceedingly well, there are HUNDREDS of people that have worked on Boomerang shows because Tim is adamant about giving new people a chance to prove themselves. Our entire Stage Management team were unknown to us before this project and they are crushing it. Similarly our lovers are mostly newcomers to the company, while our clowns are mostly veterans, but overwhelmingly, this cast has a lot of Shakespeare experience. And regardless of where they studied or performed, they attack the work. I think Shakespeare is for everyone so it is most important that it be a living breathing entity rather than something that can be perfectly orated. That's not to say that the music of the language should be ignored. Particularly with this play. This is a very musically inclined cast and it comes through in their performances. And they really do like each other so that doesn't hurt at all.
3-Who is the typical audience for the production? What do you want audiences to get out of the show (ie: feel when they leave the theater)?
New Yorkers, tourists, The Shakespeare Society, hippies, artists, professionals, students, grandparents, new parents and dog lovers who want to see theater AND spend time with their families AND be outside AND not spend a fortune on tickets, and also the wonderful family that comes every year on Father's Day and always has the best time! As a culture we are consumed by "reality" which is often a carefully crafted and curated series of images and sound bites that celebrities and politicians and even our neighbors create through television or social media platforms. Even though they are performing a story, I dare say you will feel more being engaged by someone in front of you inviting you to enter this made up world, than the "real world" that plays out on your media screens. Also, Jokes!
4-Who is someone (or something) who has inspired you?
Anne Pitoniak. A favorite of Marsha Norman and "Jane Martin" at the Actor's Theater of Louisville, she originated many roles and truly loved creating new work. She went to my alma mater 50 years earlier when it was the Woman's College in NC and there was no theater degree, but you could declare a theater interest, or something of that nature. Anne graduated, joined the USO, got married and raised a family. Only after her children were grown did she return to theater, studying at the Lee Strasburg Institute and eventually made her Broadway debut at the age of 61 as the original Mother in 'night Mother. She was such a lovely, kind, generous woman and especially to 18-year-old me who was lucky enough to be her errand girl while she was a performing guest artist my freshman year. She found joy in every thing and every day was another chance to learn something new about herself or someone else. She had an intensity and a ferocity onstage that belied her years. She encouraged me to look beyond what was on the page and to imagine the unwritten part of the story. And she advised me to just stay in the game, because eventually everyone else gets tired and leaves the business, so there is less competition for all the good parts...and that they are ALL good parts.
5-Why theatre, when did you know you wanted to be a director?
I take everything seriously, and I agonize over words. If you ever speak to me face to face, there are often long pauses while I search for the perfect words. Theater is the most effective and efficient way for me to share our history and express the ideas that drive and promote meaningful discussion. It is immediate. You know if you are connecting. You know if you are reaching someone. As a culture we are so driven to achieve, to consume, that to retain our humanity, we must gather together in person, instead of alone, behind screens, to witness stories that move us to laughter and joy and hope (and maybe even a few tears). At this point, I have most often been an actor, but about 13 years ago I was at a point that a lot of women reach in this business when we aren't young and we aren't old and there isn't much to work on...and someone said, I trust you with telling my story. Show me what you see. And I loved the challenge of breaking open the story and crawling around inside it and smudging my fingerprints all over it! And then you wrestle with the text and the design and find the right actors and together, create something new that never existed before. It's magic.
Boomerang Theatre Company
or What You Will
Written by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Directed by SARA THIGPEN
JUNE 16 – JULY 15, 2018 AT CENTRAL PARK
FREE ADMISSION | www.boomerangtheatre.org/twelfthnight/
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