Every day my excitement builds about my new role as Artistic Director of Virginia Rep. While I officially started on July 1, previously planned commitments and life events mean that I will work remotely until I permanently move to Richmond October 1. My family will follow a few weeks later. I think Lisa and I can safely say that this summer will be one of the craziest few months of our lives.
Late last fall, we had just discovered my wife was pregnant with our second child. Not to diminish the remarkable feat of pregnancy, but my wife’s first experience was a relatively graceful one. At about the same time we discovered we could expect our next child in August, I was receiving offers to direct throughout the summer. We did not know at that time that I would eventually earn the job at Virginia Rep, and we both felt I needed to continue building my resume. One of the offers I received was to direct back-to-back productions of West Side Story and A Chorus Line at Cortland Rep in upstate New York. Agreeing to do these shows would mean six consecutive weeks away from home while Lisa was 7-8 months pregnant with a two year old tearing the house apart. Although we knew it would be challenging for both of us (particularly my wife), we agreed that I should seize the opportunity to direct these two masterpieces. How naive we were. At the time my wife needed me the most, I was off playing make-believe. Fortunately, Lisa is an amazing woman, and she, my son Benny, and the house, all survived.
For West Side Story and A Chorus Line, Cortand Rep hired primarily the same company of actors. Only a couple of actors left us after West Side, and only our Zach and Cassie joined us for A Chorus Line. Everyone else was pulling double-duty. To rehearse and perform one of these iconic dance shows is a challenge for any triple-threat performer. But to rehearse West Side Story from 10am to 10pm every day, then begin rehearsing A Chorus Line during the day immediately following our West Side opening, and giving your all to both projects simultaneously, is a nearly impossible task. Well, if I had to be away from my family for six weeks, the company of actors we hired made it completely worthwhile. I have never in my career been affiliated with a more devoted group of artists. They would dance from 10-4:30, rush off for dinner and a 6:30 call to the theater, go through a rigorous pre-show fight call and directly into performance. Usually, from about 11pm-1am I would type up and email my notes from the previous days work. Without fail, every single note I sent them (and there were always pages and pages) was considered and “in” for the next day’s rehearsal. The collaboration with this special group of actors has forever raised the bar on my expectation of actors in relation to work ethic, and the pursuit of personal connection and detailed, specific storytelling. This wonderful company has also allowed me to raise expectations of myself. If they can deliver the level of detail our demanding creative teams asked, while working exhaustively on two physically and emotionally challenging shows, then I must require more of myself and my collaborators on all projects. I feel immeasurably blessed to have worked with this special group of people before beginning my tenure at Virginia Rep.
Up next…. Touch with Libra Theater Company at 59e59 in New York. We open this project on August 19th…. our baby is due August 20th. Our naivety continues. We will see how that week shakes down.
I sincerely cannot wait to be in Virginia working with all of the wonderful people that have made this get-to-know-you process so exciting. See you soon!