Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dainty Cadaver Director Postmortem: John Hurley

Rounding out our stellar roster of directors is John Hurley, artistic director of Impetuous Theater Group, whose work I first got to know with last year’s Saturday Night Saloon run of Crystal Skillman’s HACK!: An I.T. Spaghetti Western and then, in short order, Impetuous and The Brick’s production of Crystal’s NYIT Award-winning The Vigil or the Guided Cradle. The humor, sharpness and adventurousness of John’s work in those pieces was translated in full effect to the Dainty Cadaver Team C production of This Is a Brick. This was surely the most avant-garde of the three finished plays, and he totally rocked it. Read on to find out how!


What projects have you worked on in the past that have prepared you for the speed and strangeness of the Dainty Cadaver process?
I think directing any sort of 'downtown' theatre in this city is a little like operating in an ER during a black-out (but in this case we did it on purpose!). "The Vampire Cowboys' Saloon" helped me get addicted to the speed, but nothing prepared me for the 'strange' (though Jeff tried).

You all found amazing casts who seemed game for anything and completely keyed into the concept behind the project. What’s the secret?
I thought Jordi's answer to this was great (like all her answers) so almost want to say "dito", but... in addition I'll point out the sappy answer-- "trust"--not just actors trusting the director-- but! the all important Director trusting the Actors-- trusting them enough to let them be a heavy part of the creation of the work (even if it's just watching for their impulses and not allowing the actors to censor themselves). I think when actors feel ownership of the work-- they fight for it (even if it's weird). Unfortunately, I tend to just tell actors what to do and then throw fits and sob (which works remarkably well thanks to their empathetic nature!!!). But the prior answer is what I say in public.

What was the biggest surprise you encountered when reading the script for the first time?
The characters kept getting killed off!

What was the biggest challenge you faced when you actually started to stage the plays?
The disjointed structure.

Did you go into the process with any sort of overarching interpretation of what the story and action of the play were about, or did you just let the chips fall where they would?
Yes, (oddly enough) even though most of the pieces had nothing to do with one another-- that (in and of itself) became the "interpretation," or maybe that's just my justification but the wonderful thing about "art" is that no one will ever know (except of course if you read the next answer... drat!).

On a similar note, how aware were you of the individual voices of the writers while you were directing – did knowledge that the script was penned by six different writers affect the staging and performance style?
It gave me permission to have stylistic disunity, and it felt appropriate to alter the 'voice' of each scene as the author's voices changed, but... I didn't keep that as a pure 'concept' (which would have been more academic than anything else). For example, the last two scenes were the only ones (of the six) which used the same characters and setting-- the first of which had a dramatic tone, and the second a comedic. I had altered the tone/tempo of each of the first four pieces, but treated the final two as one tone, one tempo. I think I did a disservice to Mr Comtois' writing in doing so (as I turned his drama into melodrama), but it (for a variety of reasons) was what the evening (as a whole) needed (with all apologies to James). So... the answer is that it made me feel guilty.

If you received the unlikely news that we’d be bringing your Dainty Cadaver script to Broadway or BAM, what would be the biggest budget item you’d want to spring for?
I had to cut the blood f/x out of the show (because of time constraints). I would want blood. I would want a lake of blood (and perhaps a small boat to sail in it when the show's over).

Which dead or super-famous playwright would you most like to include in a future Dainty Cadaver?
Lillian Hellman (as a joke answer). Nikolai Gogol would be fun.

What changes or innovations would you suggest for future iterations of the Dainty Cadaver? Do you think the writers or directors should be given any additional kind of formal restraint?
No, I think it's the unstructured nature of it which makes it fun.

What’s next on the docket for you?
I'm directing something Crystal Skillman has yet to write for "NY Madness" in a few weeks (wait! this sounds like... what!?!?). Impetuous Theater Group is planning on producing Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens by Johnna Adams at some point in 2011 (which is as awesome and epic as it's title!).

Anything you want to add that wasn’t accounted for in these questions? It never ceases to amaze me how much organization it takes to produce chaos (if you want the real quality stuff). I tip my hat to Piper McKenzie (in general) and Jeff Lewonczyk (in detail) for a wild, fun, stressful, and rewarding festival. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. And to quote a movie I am embarrassed to know (and was possibly a Dainty Cadaver Script): "Thank you for a frightening, confusing, strange and dangerous time. What more could a girl ask for." Awesome!