Director Kathryn Chase Bryer, or Kate, sent us this piece she wrote for the Imagination Stage blog (where she works) about her experience working with Constellation Theatre and on Scapin. Scapin opened January 16 and will run through February 16. We’re excited to report its getting fabulous reviews! Meanwhile, here are great thoughts from Kate.
In the spring of 2013, Allison Stockman, Artistic Director for the DC-based company Constellation Theatre wrote to ask if I would consider directing a show for their 2013-14 Season. I have long been an admirer of this company, which won the 2009 Helen Hayes Award for Best Emerging Company. Additionally, I have attended most of their productions since their inception in 2007, often hiring some of the same actors and designers to work at Imagination Stage. I have been at Imagination Stage for over 25 years and have been devoted to my work here in directing, developing new scripts for the world of children’
s theatre, and most recently uniting Theatre and Education in our Early Childhood department. I was quite taken by surprise when Allison inquired about my interest in directing at Constellation, but after talking with Janet Stanford and Bonnie Fogel, (Imagination Stage Artistic Director and Executive Director), I was excited to take on this project! After reading many scripts and talking, we settled on Scapin by Moliere, as Allison and A.J. Guban, the Managing Director, felt that their audience would really love to see a comedy. Since the script has been adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark McDonnell, we all felt that this would be an accessible and fun theatre experience for a modern audience.
One of the exciting aspects of this union for me was to learn new ideas from another theatre company. Having worked at Imagination Stage for so long, we have our own way of doing things, and I was really curious to see how another theatre company conducted auditions and the design process. Once we cast the show in July 2013 (this was very early for Constellation as the show did not go into rehearsal until December, but at
Imagination Stage we do tend to cast early), we began the design process the very next month with a full read through with the cast. We had never done a read through this early at Imagination Stage, and I thought it was such a great idea to have the design team hear the actors that they were designing for before actually coming up with ideas. I hope to be able to do this at Imagination Stage in the future.
After much planning and designing, we started rehearsals on December 2. We rehearsed 6 days a week, from 6:30-10:30 p.m. and then took a week off for the holidays. I went to Imagination Stage every day from 9:00-5:00 p.m., then got in the car with Nick Vargas (my Assistant Director for Scapin), who happens to also to work as the Casting Associate and Coordinator for Early Childhood Theatre at Imagination Stage, to head down to Source Theatre for rehearsals. Near tech week, we ended up going out to the shop where they build the set so that we could actually rehearse on the set before going into the final week of rehearsal (another great Constellation idea!) I was tired working at both theatres, but I was also exhilarated by all that I was learning and all of the great people I was getting to work with.
Having now opened the show, as I sit back and look at the experience, I think the one thing that strikes me is how NOT VERY DIFFERENT this experience was from directing at Imagination Stage. Yes, there were new people to meet and work with and new systems to get to know, but the bottom line was that theatre is theatre, and I knew that my artistic sensibility and the things that I value when it comes to making good theatre (good writing, good actors, an ensemble, the play is the thing—all things lead to the production, and a genuine desire to want to make a great experience for everyone involved—actors, designers, crew, and the audience) were the same as those that are important at Constellation. For me, directing for adults was the same as directing for children, because in the end, we worked together to create a great experience for everyone involved.