One of the most exciting things about being a Hangar Theatre Directing Fellow is being able to direct a production at the Wedge, the Hangar’s second space. It was founded as a home for cutting-edge, experimental, and ambitious new work, and the artistic staff here is AMAZING in encouraging us to go all out with our crazy vision. Although the actual location has changed over the years, it's the same spirit with which the staggeringly brilliant Hangar Fellows of the past -- Mark Brokaw, Rachel Chavkin, Lisa Peterson, 2015 Tony Award-winner Sam Gold, and my mentor, the great Michael Mayer -- have directed plays here.
My production of Alexandra Silber’s THE TROJAN WOMEN has allowed me to explore a number of things that I have never been able to before. First of all, the play itself – a 60 minute meditation on the disintegrating and shattering effects of war on our culture, our communities, and our selves. It’s not typical summer-theatre fare, that’s for sure! – but it has been an incredible opportunity to push myself as an artist. In addition to the challenging text work -- heightened, muscular, contemporary language, often in speeches that last for several pages -- it is also in a traverse staging, has some semi-immersive elements, ends with a beautiful a capella song, and I even was able to figure out a way to use real live fire at the end!
(poster design by Elise LeBreton)
The time frame of rehearsal for the Wedge is very short, which compounds the challenges of this supremely difficult play. We the Fellows have been talking often about the need to be decisive and bold in our directing this summer – one of our mottos has been “first thought, best thought.” This has been an amazing chance to rely on my instincts as a director and work to accomplish everything I need to as quickly and efficiently as possible. Everything from table work to staging to the song that closes the show has to be given a strong idea grounded in the story I want to tell, and there is little to no time to revise. Skilled preparation + being alive and present in the room + the dedication of the amazing company will hopefully lead to a powerful, moving production.
The cast from the Lab Company has been amazing in throwing themselves into this project and bringing in ideas, physical work, research, and more. This has been key in allowing us to progress as far as we have in our very brief process, and the actors’ dedication is the reason that the work that is happening on stage is so thrilling and at such a high level. (I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t wish we could rehearse for a month, though!)
Austin Regan (me), directing -- with Diomedes (Trevor Nalepka) and Helen/Aphrodite (Kristina Kastrinelis)
The tech process is similarly short, but my design team – also here at the Hangar on Fellowships this summer – has been terrific. Since the Wedge is a covered outdoor space, we can’t start tech until night falls, and we’re in the longest days of the year here. This means that our first full tech runthrough of the play started after midnight on the second day of tech, and we didn’t get home until about 2:30AM that night! It’s late, but not atypical for anyone who’s gone through one of these kinds of processes.
Opening night tonight should be awesome! There is a ton of supportive people coming from the whole Hangar staff, the rest of the Lab Company that is busy doing Hangar Fellow Paul Bedard’s production of THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES, the cast of the upcoming mainstage SPRING AWAKENING, board members, administrators, and beyond. We get Hangar subscribers and audience members from the mainstages who stick around to check out the Wedge as well. There are also community devotees who come to the Hangar specifically to see only the Wedge shows – people who are interested in new artists and ambitious work. I can’t wait to see who comes out for our opening tonight.
For those of you who can't make it up to Ithaca this summer, here are a few photos of the show!
The story of the Trojan War, recounted by the company in explosive movement.
Dara Brown as Hecuba, "the honored queen of Troy."
Diomedes (Trevor Nalepka) is haunted by a vision of Creusa (Maya Musial). Teucros (Christopher Isolano) tries to intervene.