I think I’ve been excited about this pretty much since Morgan first told me about it. I love the idea of old Hollywood and getting to see the under belly of it, so to speak. I’m also big fan of documentaries and biographies so that really sparked that part of my interest. And then in February when we had our final reading and Susan and Ryan read, I think all of us in the room were just blown away. With no rehearsal, they were able to capture the heart of both of these characters. All of us left that reading with a sense that this was going to be something really special and that is honestly a director’s dream. On top of that, this is my first production where I really get to delve into mixed media, so that is exciting. I really enjoy a challenge and being able to learn new skills.
What is the greatest challenge you face with this show?
I think on a technical level, it will be the introduction and implementation of the slides and video footage of Joan’s movies. It really is a third character in the play, so figuring out at what times it distracts and the times when it engages I think will be the biggest challenge.
What kind of research are you doing to prepare?
All of us started off reading the book that inspired the play and then from there, we have been focusing more on watching footage of Joan in her later years. Susan and I have been making observations about the toll being a heavy smoker and drinker has on one’s body. Also, playing with the idea of where she feels weighted, where her voice resonates from and the little behavioral gestures that seem to be her hallmark. We want to stay true to the script and the Joan that Morgan has written, but at the same time make her recognizable to an audience.
What have been some of your favorite previous roles (or productions you have been involved with)?
I moved to San Francisco about three years ago and just love this community. Everyone has been really welcoming and there is so much new work here to be a part of in a myriad of ways. I’ve been lucky to be a producer and director with some wonderful theater companies in the area. And I feel particularly lucky to be working with Wily West as a director for Sheherezade 13, Gorgeous Hussy and Hope’s Last Chance. Quinn and I actually looked at each other during Sheherezade and got so excited that we get to spend the year together making plays and having fun! In between shows with Wily West, I’ll be assisting in editing and directing a documentary film, which is a brand new venture for me.
Since this play is about our public and private selves or personas - what parts of you as an artist are very public and what are some more private or personal interests that you would be willing to share?
We’ve been talking a lot about the “mask” of Joan Crawford. The idea that there was this external thing that demanded absolutely everything of the farm girl Lucille LeSeur to the point where she had nothing left of herself or for herself. It defined everything that she did in her life and when it started to fade, she didn’t have any idea who the woman behind it was.
I think that every artist, on some level, struggles with the personal vs. the private self. We inherently need our personal lives to inform our art, but where do you draw the line? How much of yourself do you give to your art in time, energy and definition of who you are? And for each person, it’s different.
What do you hope audiences will take from this production?
I think that most people are going to come into the show expecting Joan to scream, “No more wire hangers!!” and make Roy scrub every inch of the bathroom with a toothbrush or something. That is really the Joan that lives in our imaginations when we think of her. We think of Faye Dunaway and this woman with these big eyes, huge voice and hellish personality. I even have a picture of Joan Crawford that says at the bottom, “Don’t Make Me Go All Joan Crawford on Your Ass!” But that is the mask and I think that Morgan does a beautiful job at showing us our own stereotypes and letting us, through this chance interaction, challenge them and ourselves to dig a little deeper.