Directors Lab West 2012, Days 3 and 4

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Directors tap dancing with Janet Miller

(All this week LA STAGE Times will present coverage of Directors Lab West 2012 with reports from DLW’s production coordinator Doug Oliphant and intern Danielle Oliver. CLICK HERE to view Days 1 and 2.)

Monday, May 21 by Doug Oliphant

Miller on Tap

Movement Workshop: Janet Miller

“Your feet will tell you nothing, so do not look at them.” — Janet Miller (DLW ’03)

Monday kicked off, literally, with an on-your-feet, two-hour tap-dancing session led by Lab alum Janet Miller. Though dance may not be the first language of most of the directors, Miller did admirable work in just two hours, leading the directors through an entire tap routine set to music. To continue describing the session would be silly, so take a look at some of the photos in the slideshow here.


Shaking Up Theater on the West Coast

Panel: Randall Arney, Sheldon Epps, Marc Masterson, Michael Ritchie, Ann E. Wareham

“I think it is my job to please all of the people some of the time.” — Sheldon Epps (Pasadena Playhouse)

Moderator Kappy Kilburn with artistic directors Sheldon Epps, Marc Masterson, Randall Arney, Ann E. Wareham and Michael Ritchie

This year, we were privileged enough to get five artistic directors of the major local LORT venues on a single panel to reveal the trials and tribulations of their jobs and to provide insight into how a freelance director may work at their theaters one day. The ADs on the panel were Randall Arney (Geffen Playhouse), Sheldon Epps (Pasadena Playhouse), Marc Masterson (South Coast Repertory), Michael Ritchie (Center Theatre Group) and Ann E. Wareham (Laguna Playhouse). This session was open to all past Directors Lab West alumni, and many familiar faces appeared and reconnected with other Lab alumni from their year. Were it not for the events each of the five artistic directors had to attend immediately following the session, the room of more than 60 hungry directors could have prevented their exit. Luckily the attendees and alumni were respectful and repressed their urges to pitch their passion play.

The Mover Meets the Shaker

Discussion: Michael Michetti and Jessica Kubzansky

“Everyone should create their own personal mission statement.” — Jessica Kubzansky (Theatre @ Boston Court)

Moderator Ernest Figueroa with speakers Jessica Kubzansky and Michael Michetti of the Theatre @ Boston Court

Swiftly transported to the Theatre @ Boston Court, the directors gathered for a tour and chat with co-artistic directors Michael Michetti and Jessica Kubzansky. Boston Court’s beautiful state-of-the-art facility, mixed with Michetti and Kubzansky’s passion for what they do, make this 99-Seat theater one of the highest-quality venues in the nation. With their 10-year anniversary quickly approaching, the two leaders spoke on what they’ve learned over the years, their take on the 99-Seat Plan, audience development, and much more.

Directors on Directing: Beyond Our Borders and on Our Shores

Discussion: Gustavo Geirola and Joann Yarrow

“If after 20 minutes they start throwing things, you go on!” — Gustavo Geirola (Whittier College)

Joann Yarrow (DLW ’00) and Gustavo Geirola spoke with the Lab about Geirola’s book series he released titled The Art and Practice of Directing in Latin America. Yarrow””currently the artistic director for Prometeo Theatre in Miami, Fla.””was one of the directors interviewed. The two of them shared their experiences in various Latin American theaters and told stories of how vital theater was to audiences in Latin America. Festivals exist in many of these countries where they’re thrilled to have theater from the U.S. presented, and in fact the festivals provide housing and pay for travel to bring in productions. In a country where we often fail to see opportunities beyond our borders, this session proved to be wonderfully enlightening and inspired many directors to pursue touring their work to a Latin American festival in the future.

Poetic Dynamics

Movement Workshop: Daniel Stein

“Who is wearing socks? Be prepared to have them blown off.” — Daniel Stein

Movement workshop leader Daniel Stein

Daniel Stein doesn’t consider himself a mover as much as he considers himself a shaper. In this session, he elaborated on that idea, and taught us how our physical and metaphysical presence and shape create dynamic stories. Most theater training programs across the country will teach acting and/or directing students the “inside-out” approach, but Stein points the spotlight on the opposite. Shape your body, adjust yourself physically, and the dynamic of the relationship will change, he says. His session had him demonstrating these ideas with an assortment of props. These included a tiny crank music box, a balloon, and a video of him jumping rope””which he was disappointed he couldn’t demonstrate due to the low ceilings. The “outside-in” approach may not be how most of the directors work, but I think everyone gained a powerful tool through the technique that will allow them to solve problems in scenes a different way. And in an eight-day conference on directing, what could be more useful?


Directors in Masks with Anastasia Coon

Tuesday, May 22 by Danielle Oliver

When I Move, You Move

Movement Workshop: Anastasia Coon

There’s nothing like starting the day with a good movement class. Anastasia Coon, theater educator and movement expert, transformed our stiff morning corpses into fresh, alert bodies. We began with a few warmup exercises””one of which involved two kick balls and a Koosh tossed at our heads””before moving on to mask work. We loved watching our fellow directors transform before our very eyes as they “took on” the expressions of their respective masks. It certainly made for great photos (see slideshow).

The Alexander Technique

Discussion: Jason Alexander

Moderator Ernest Figueroa and speaker Jason Alexander

Funny enough, the Alexander Technique was not mentioned once during this panel, but Jason Alexander shared a handful of his own techniques for working with actors, running a theater company, and creating new work. Though many might know him solely as Seinfeld’s George Costanza, Alexander is a theater aficionado who has not only been on stage in New York and in Los Angeles, but also has been the artistic director of Reprise Theatre Company. Our Q&A led us to discussions about the subscription model, the strength and weaknesses of today’s directors, and the eternal magic that happens when the lights go down and the curtain goes up.

That Which Doesn’t Kill You

Discussion: Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott

Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott of A Noise Within with moderator Ernest Figueroa

Lucky for us, A Noise Within’s new home is in Pasadena, just a few minutes from the Playhouse. Our panel with ANW’s co-artistic directors and husband-and-wife team, Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, detailed the problems in acquiring, building, and subsequently producing in an entirely new space. We also inquired about the technique of directing on a thrust stage — the new space’s thrust is more extended than at the former space, and therefore they’ve had to modify their direction accordingly. Afterwards, we took a tour of the building, which includes a sublimely picturesque view of the surrounding mountains from the upper administration office windows.

The Territory of Dreams

Reading: Hothouse at Pasadena Playhouse

The new play development program at the Playhouse, held in the Carrie Hamilton Theatre and aptly titled Hothouse, hosted a reading of Velina Hasu Houston’s new play, and we were lucky enough to conclude our evening with the event. The action of the play follows the intersecting lives of four women in Los Angeles, each woman a different ethnicity and class. The post-show feedback with the playwright was great; the criticism and insight were constructive and thoughtful. The reading was followed by wine and cheese in the library, which we took advantage of before scurrying home for a bit of rest for tomorrow morning’s session.

[slideshow post_id=”44652″ exclude = “44704, 44708, 44707, 44709, 44706, 44705, 44699”]

Directors Lab West is a forum that brings theater directors together with peers and seasoned professionals for an opportunity to collaborate and grow together as artists. Directors Lab West is modeled after the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York City. Like its NY counterpart, the Lab is a series of discussions, working sessions, panels and symposia with some of the nation’s and region’s leading directors, playwrights, designers and other theater practitioners.

***All photos by Danielle Oliver

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Doug Oliphant and Danielle Oliver

Doug Oliphant and Danielle Oliver