Saturday, July 26, 2014

Interview with Christina Haviland, director of “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical”

I have been working with a local arts center lately and this is an interview I conducted with one of the directors for the new production. Interview with Christina Haviland, director of “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical” Christina Haviland has been working with Olmsted Performing Arts (OPA) since 2003, she is a director and scenic artist. She attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has worked as an actor in California, Colorado and Ohio. Haviland has been set designer for several Northeast Ohio theaters and productions and is a director for Main Stage and Classic productions at OPA. Read below to see some of her insights into theater, directing and why “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical” at OPA is a must see production. What draws you to theatre and directing? The stories that connect us as humans is primarily what I go to when I think of why I do this. To be able to create something, and to have others share in the experience (whether actors or audience) is rewarding beyond measure. For me, theater is about how we are similar, it sheds that light for us in a unique way. That is beautiful. How does a director prepare for his or her part? Everyone is different, some like to research by watching other productions, I do a little of that from time to time, but most of my preparation comes from reading the script and then ruminating on the theme, or overall tone. Sometimes, I will read books the play was based on. I’ll also watch films or plays similar to the one I’m working on, but not exactly the same. I listen to music that reminds me of the show, I’ll visit places the show takes place in - anything that will spark vision. Once I do that, generally inspirations strikes afterward, but when I least expect it. When you read play what do you see and hear in your head? What I love is the fact that often, I connect with subtext as I’m reading a script. Some stage direction is very clear, I try to stay true to it, but I also don't want my shows to look like every other version of the show done other places. What I do is look for the tone, for underlying motivation of characters and play with that. Color… I’m not sure why, and it's hard to explain but I "see colors"… it sets the tone for the direction of the show- I don't do it, it sort of takes off on its own. Sometimes my unorthodox style creates beauty. Sometimes it doesn't come to fruition the way it has in my mind, the execution fails and has to be changed on stage. Do you try to make plays you direct look or feel a certain way? What is your goal as director? Every show has to be "true" to itself so, yes, all of them look and feel a certain way - but that "way" isn't the same as the last one. My goal is singular, in that it is always to connect to the audience Is it more exciting to be a part of the first professional production at Olmsted Performing Arts or more intimidating? Why? I’m terrified and I’m thrilled - terrified, not because I undervalue our work here, but because, it’s a huge calling and privilege, thrilled because I truly love this place. What we have grown here, is unique and I’m beyond excited to share that with others who love theater as much as me. What surprised you about directing Jekyll & Hyde? I wasn't fully prepared for the darkness of this show. It’s asking me to go to a place, that I don't necessarily want to go, but it's my job, to help fulfill the image and to tell the story. It's strange that we can connect with the shadow on so many levels. Also, I have to give HUGE respect to the actors here, this show is so physically demanding, especially on the leads. I knew it was challenging going in - but I had no idea it was such a "monster" on so many levels. What have you learned directing Jekyll & Hyde? As a director and human, I have learned, when tacking a show like this, to clear my schedule. I will next time for certain. Also, I have learned that vulnerability isn't well understood by all us. I have rarely felt this exposed for my shortcomings, but it has brought a lot of knowledge I can carry with me - growth for certain. What will audience members learn and appreciate when watching Jekyll & Hyde? I don't think you can watch this show without deeply appreciating the music. I can’t really be the judge of what others will learn there are many valuable themes in this show. What I can say is I believe they will appreciate details in every aspect of the show, set design, staging, fights, costumes, and in the story. Ultimately, for me, the commonality of the story lies in this: Jekyll believes he is doing the right thing for humanity, but really he is exorcizing his own hurt, he becomes so singular in his task he causes massive damages to those he loves. There are times we "believe" we are doing the right thing, but we cause a lot of pain for others too. It's a difficult lesson, but aren't they all.

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