About three years ago, I interviewed Skip Greer, Director of Education/Artist in Residence at Geva Theatre Center. At that time, he was directing The Mountaintop, a play about Martin Luther King Jr.’s imagined last night on earth. During that interview, he mentioned that he had chosen to move into directing plays because he wasn’t satisfied when a director took over control of the play and removed an actor’s responsibility to the work. He wanted more collaboration within the process of producing a play.
Since then, I’ve reviewed many plays. Each time I watch one, I find myself asking questions: Where does the influence of the Director end and the interpretation of the actor begin? How much influence does the director have over the look, the feel and the delivery of the production? What flexibility do the actors have within their roles?
The other week, Skip was kind enough to take time out of his production schedule to meet and share insights about the collaborative process of play direction. We discussed how he partners with both the actors, and his technical team, to produce a play. I’m sure each director has his or her own way of working with cast and crew, but Skip offered great insight into how a play is birthed, using Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias is the backdrop for this revelation.
Many thanks to Skip for his time and wonderful candor, and to the cast for allowing me to share an excerpt of one of their rehearsals as they prepared for the opening of Steel Magnolias.
Geva Theatre Center presents Steel Magnolias on the Wilson Stage through June 3, 2018.
P.S. Often, when I interview artists, in addition to the topic we originally set out to discuss, social issues arise. I love when this happens because it reflects how they have their finger on the pulse of society. Often, their work arises directly out of their reaction to an issue, or out of how they have been impacted by it. The issue is sometimes infused within their work or just as often, it directs our attention to a critical issue we might otherwise have overlooked. It also demonstrates how very important art is to our social fabric.
During our discussion about Steel Magnolias and the importance of friendship and the community created within Truvy’s Beauty Salon, Skip mentioned an article he’d just read about a study he found disturbing. The study measured the level of loneliness within society today, and showed that loneliness is becoming epidemic, with younger adults scoring higher in loneliness than those who are older. A play such as Steel Magnolias might offer more than nostalgia…a lesson just might be taken from it in how to address a growing social ill.
Click here if you’re interested in learning more about this study, or click here the the UCLA Self-Measure for Loneliness.