Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Praise of Yet Another Cast

That's the Playbill cover for the Manhattan Theatre Club's 2008 production of Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls, which I have just started to direct. The company is Shakespeare '70, for whom I directed The Skin of Our Teeth in the fall of 2008 and for whom I have acted in productions of An Enemy of the People; An Inspector Calls and A View from the Bridge.

Top Girls sort of fell into my lap, as it were. After two potential female directors turned it down (for various reasons), the producer (my dear friend, Q) brought it to me. I'd heard of the play, but had never seen nor read it. But I adore Churchill's earlier play Cloud Nine, so I was intrigued.

Upon first reading it, I must admit to being a bit intimidated by the subject matter (more on that, later), it's non-linear structure and Churchill's carefully constructed (and often complicated) over-lapping dialog. But during a second read, I found myself visualizing the piece on stage and realized I had nothing to be afraid of, especially if I had the right cast.

Q and I immediately started thinking about actresses we thought would not only be appropriate for the piece, but who could also handle the complexities of the characters and the writing. Emails and invitations were sent; entreaties were made and one audition was held. Finally, I had a cast consisting of not only actresses I knew and had worked with previously; actresses I knew, but had not worked with before and actresses with whom I'd had no experience what-so-ever.

So, we just had our first read-through and I must say, I have to be the luckiest director on the East Coast. The women in this show are amazing! Not only do they all "get' the show, but each of them brings her own unique perspective to the characters (each play at least two) that neither Q nor I had had envisioned upon reading it on our own.

Nothing excites an artist more than a challenge. And nothing excites a director more than a cast that is up to that challenge. Top Girls may well be the most challenging play I have ever directed, but the 8 uber-talented women in this production will go a very long way in making my job as a director a delightful challenge, to say the least. I know I often gush about the casts of the shows I direct (and rightfully so), but I really think this one is particularly exceptional. And while I have directed shows with all-male casts (get your minds out of that gutter, right now!), this is the first time I have directed an all-female cast. I've already told them I feel a bit like an onion in a petunia patch, but I'm pretty sure we have ourselves quite a show on our hands.

Top Girls runs September 23rd through October 2nd at the Don Evans Studio Theatre on the campus of The College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ. I'll be posting more info as it becomes available and will most certainly be posting more about the rehearsal process as we move forward. I just hope it will be as exciting to read about, as it is to be a part of.

More, anon.

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