Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Adventures!

For the past three weeks, I've been serving as director, musical director and sound designer for the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's production of The Comedy of Errors. Since we open in six days, it's probably about time I started writing a bit about this, eh?

It started almost a year ago when I got a phone call from Producing Artistic Director Matt Chiorini. He said they were looking to scale back the size of the festival a bit in 2010, and that his research into small-cast Shakespeare had turned up reviews of my recent shows (As You Like It with Richmond Shakespeare). I applied for the job, was told it would be a five-actor As You Like It, then possibly a small-cast Othello. Then came the sad phone call; he rang me to tell me that they had narrowed it down to two candidates, neither one of which was me. Maybe next year. The very next day, he called me back for another interview, then an offer. Apparently, he just got a better vibe about me than the others. Let that be a lesson, young theatre artists: being a NICE PERSON will get you quite far. It's the undefinable something that always comes into play but rarely gets talked about.

AST works in association with the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, a small college-centered city about 30 minutes north of Little Rock. As such, we have full access to the university's theatre facilities. Many of the department's faculty members are involved in the design phase of the show, and that has been one of the biggest eye-openers of the entire process.

I've become accustomed, both at VCU and at Richmond Shakespeare, to having very little in the way of tech and essentially no set or lighting whatsoever. So the need to communicate my ideas to a massive number of designers on a 45-minute conference call from my freezing car on my lunch break last winter was quite intimidating. Similarly, relinquishing production duties to Lizzy, my stage manager, Andi, my production manager, Matt, and the various designers and technicians has been a bizarre feeling. I know, beyond doubt, that they are competent far beyond my abilities; I just simply have no precedent in my career for seeing these tasks done without my having to do them. In a lot of ways, and intending no disrespect to the "poor theatre"-inspired companies I have mostly worked for, this feels in many ways like the first "grown up" directing gig of my career. I could get used to this.

I have to get to rehearsal now, but I'll write more in the next few days. For now, here's an image actors who have worked with me in Richmond will recognize:

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