Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Talking With Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt

Playwright Gregory S Moss and Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt during rehearsals for the
2013 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Reunion.
Adrienne Campbell-Holt loves the arts—and theatre in particular. An interesting journey brought her to theatre and directing and a meeting over coffee was her first introduction to playwright Gregory S Moss. She’s a self-professed fan of his and excited to be directing his new play, Reunion. During a break in rehearsals, Campbell-Holt caught us up on her passion for plays, her own time in high school and what’s great about Reunion.

South Coast Repertory: Why and how did you become a director?
Adrienne Campbell-Holt: I was a ballet dancer-turned choreographer-turned actor-turned director. I was kind of always a director though. I was always interested in storytelling, in stage pictures, in movement. Always thinking about what makes people laugh or well up with emotion.

My sister and I used to put on elaborate plays in our living room. We'd spend months ripping paper into snowflakes for The Nutcracker. I learned a ton from the directors who I worked with in various capacities—people like Liz LeCompte, Sam Gold, Alex Timbers, Anne Kaufman, Jack O'Brien and Michael Greif—both in the room, and in going to see work.

What drew you to direct Reunion?
I was a longtime fan of Greg's and then the playwright Max Posner suggested he and I meet. We got coffee in Brooklyn and had a great time talking. We actually have a lot in common. We are both from working-class parts of Massachusetts. We both started theatre companies when we were really young. We both work with Derek Zasky and I was so thrilled when he sent me Reunion and I got to do the workshop at the Pacific Playwrights Festival last April. Greg and I knew it was fierce and powerful but I think we were both blown away by the overwhelming response at the reading.

What were YOU like in high school?
I was full of contradictions. I was shy sometimes and wild sometimes. High school was tricky because it was when I had to stop dancing due to a hip injury. Before I stopped my identity was very much aligned with being a ballet dancer.  Suddenly I was just a regular kid. I went to the oldest high school in America (Boston Latin School, founded in 1635) and while I had some great teachers, it was not a progressive place that embraced the arts. I was very academic but also really into questioning authority. I cut school a lot, but it’s kind of funny because we'd leave our school and then go hang out in the student center at MIT. I loved being a city kid and I feel like I took advantage of so much of the culture and history Boston has to offer.

What’s it like to have the playwright working with you to create a brand new work?
It's the best thing. I love collaborating and finding the play together... with Greg of course but also this team of actors, designers, Kelly Miller [SCR’s literary director]!

What happens for you when a script moves from the first reading at the table to rehearsal—does the work tell you different things when you start blocking things?
Yes, absolutely. Especially in this play. Working with the stage management team to track the chaos in Act II is a play in and of itself.

What are some of the challenges to this play?
It feels like one thing, and turns out to be something else.

What are some of the delights of this play?
It's funny. It's heartbreaking. It feels very true to me. The actors are exquisite.

What do you hope audiences will come away with when they see this play?

I hope audiences will recognize themselves or people they've been close to. I hope it makes people wonder. I hope it starts conversations. Oh, and I want to thank audiences for coming to see this AMAZING play!

In high school, how was this sentence finished for you: “Most Likely To….”
Hmmm. I don't know. I rejected the superlative I was voted in high school and I feel similarly resistant to finishing this sentence now. I think kids in high school are just at the very beginning of finding themselves, figuring out who they are... I don't like boxes.

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