Back in October of last year, I had directed a staged reading of Hope’s Last Chance for Wily West’s Spooky Cabaret. I had directed it as a drama because of a previous reading I had seen of the piece at PCSF. Then, at intermission, after the audience had been in hysterics for most of the first act, I came back and informed the cast that “Well, it’s a comedy”. At the end of the reading, we were all a buzz and we knew there was something really special about this piece and could all see the opportunity to really let it soar as a comedy.
What is the greatest challenge you face with this show?
Before rehearsals, I was really nervous about how I was going to explain this show to the actors. When you read the play, it doesn’t come off immediately as being a comedy. There were even some actors that came in to audition, had read the play and didn’t understand why it was a comedy. So, my initial description was that it was a “serio-comic, farcical thriller”. It had moments that were genuinely scary, funny and ridiculous all at the same time. But, as in any comedy, the characters have no idea that they are in one. So, it’s been a journey to really unearth their objectives, increase the stakes for each character and give my actors permission and encouragement to go above and beyond. But that we, above all else, remain true to what is written and make sure that the opportunities that we find are routed in sincerity. Because that is what I think makes a successful comedy: characters in life or death stakes, pursuing their objectives in a genuine way.
What kind of research are you doing to prepare?
I love ghost stories and stories in general of the paranormal. So, I’m always doing research on those, listening to podcasts like Mysterious Universe and The Realm of the Weird. But this play in particular, took me back to one of my favorite movies, High Spirits. If you haven’t watched it, you should. It has a lot of the elements that this play has. Each character is so earnestly pursuing their objective but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and for some reason, we understand that it has it’s own internal logic. We accept that ghosts can touch humans or turn back into humans and we’re ok with all of it. We’re along for the journey because we’re invested in the characters and I hope that’s what we achieve with this play.
This play is about ghosts - have you ever encountered the supernatural yourself?
I have not, but I am very easily scared and if I made it through without having a heart attack, I would most likely be traumatized forever. That being said, I secretly want to see one.
What is the scariest movie or play you have seen? Why?
I still remember seeing Woman in White when I was 14 at California Theater Center and never being so scared in my life. The moment when she screams and appears in the audience is still something that haunts me today. I hope to give the audience at least a few thrills like that in this show.
What do you hope audiences will take from this production?
I know it sounds simple, but I hope that they will have had a good time. There are some really funny moments and truly jump in your seat moments too and that they feel satisfied and surprised by the story we told. Ultimately, I “hope” that they walk away feeling like someone just told them a really great ghost story. Because, to me, that is why I am involved with theater, to tell really great stories.