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The Chekhov Dreams

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Leslie Kincaid Burby
October 17, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Director.

Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
Before I was born, my artists parents fled their 300 foot Greenwich Village studio apartment for a more conventional family life in the wilds of Long Island. After a few years of raising a family in a Levitt house, they got tired of trying to be conventional and moved us to the then crumbling Victorian town of Sea Cliff, where I developed a life-long passion for the arts, and the antique. Fortunately, my highschool had a well funded and quite extroaordinary performing arts department, where I got great basic training. I was thrilled to be accepted into the BFA program at the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theatre Arts where we all got our butts kicked, but came out with some of the best training in the country. Actually, just getting our butts kicked, emotionally and psychologically, was probably the best training we could have gotten for surviving in the Indy Theatre world.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I have nothing against film and TV, and some day I would love to try directing in those areas as well. However, I think that intimate theatre provides an experience that we can't get anywhere else in our culture. It brings us together on a spiritual, intellectual and emotional way. Every audience brings their own energy to each performance, as does the cast and crew. Each performance is a collaboration with the potential to change people's lives. This goes for comedy as well as drama and tragedy. But it requires a certain level of commitment and integrity from the whole production team in order to create this sort of transformative theatre.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
When I first read this play, I was struck by the combination of hilarious, witty dialogue, an inventive plot, and some truly gorgeous staging requirements. John McKinney, the playwright, is a master creator of quick, modern dialogue. Yet this piece deals with the darkest of human feelings within this comedic style. And the piece also includes moments of pure love, compassion and courage, in which the play crosses over into drama. I love that about it. Also, I think we are a society that needs to stop trying to escape the pain of death and dying. It's hard to laugh about death, and Americans tend to avoid the topic altogether, and leave the business of death to the "professionals" – hospitals, funeral homes, undertakers. Yet, we are fascinated by the gothic, zombies, vampires - the mystery of death. I love that this play brings these issues to people in a way that they can face them. I think this piece will resonate with audience members for years.

Which famous New Jerseyite would like your show the best: Snooki, Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison?
Bruce Springsteen. Because it's funny, passionate, disturbing, sexy and challenging. Just like Bruce!

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity in theatre is a huge issue for me. And I would say that this includes diversity of all sorts; racial, sexual, and age diversity. It's such a sad thing that the vast majority of roles are written for youngish white males. Only about 10% of directors are women. How many black actors do you see in strong, featured roles where they aren't playing a stereotype? So much work to be done here. I am particularly interested in developing new work by and for women of all races.