Get inside the mind of Seth Gordon, Director of A Doll’s House

American Stage Education sat down with Seth Gordon, Director of A DOLL’S HOUSE, opening on November 14 at American Stage.  Read on for some insight behind the director’s vision.

Why did you want to direct A Doll’s House?

I’ve never directed a play by Henrik Ibsen, who is considered, along with Shakespeare and the Sophocles, one of the greatest playwrights of all time. This play in particular is one that interests me now for two reasons. One is that most productions of it in this country are saddled by translations that tend to lean toward British dialects, and I’m hoping that our production, while set in the period, will have a contemporary American dialectic. I’m hoping it will make it easier for our audience to relate to the story and the characters.

I also consider the play to be particularly relevant today. It has things to say about the politics of marriage and the confluence of life choices made for passion and life choices made for necessity that I think will really speak to people.

 

What is your relationship to this play or to Ibsen’s work prior to being involved in this production?

Ibsen is among the most highly regarded of playwrights, and I’ve studied this play since high school. I’ve seen several productions and have thought much about how I might approach it over the years. This is my first opportunity to put all this to the test.


In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge of directing this play?

One of those challenges has already been largely met, as we have worked on a script that we hope will seem contemporary and domestic to our audience here in Florida. Making a play that takes place in Norway in the 1880’s reach out and touch today’s audience is our main challenge. We also have on our hands a classic play that many have heard of or seen in other productions or perhaps on television. Moving everyone’s preconceptions about the play out of their heads so that the audience can see the play fresh is also our challenge.


You are working with a classic text. What are the contemporary resonances of this play?

Without creating a spoiler alert, I’ll say that the event at the end of the play, momentous and controversial when the play was first staged, is something of a normal occurrence today. Having said that, many of the events that lead up to it are ones that our audience will recognize in their own lives, whether they have personally experienced these things in the same way or not.

While many women are now more emancipated than Nora, or perhaps they perceive themselves to be so, many relationships experience the same social and political inequality today. Many women continue to perceive themselves as economically dependent on their significant other, and it has a direct effect on the life choices they make. And many marriages continue to take place in one form of a doll’s house or another, where the fabric of the marriage is essentially a fallacy both participants have independently chosen to believe.


How will you approach or underline the central ideas of the play?

Part of my job is to facilitate a production that allows the actors and designers to illuminate the play’s central ideas, and to eliminate the barriers they may face as they strive for excellence in their work. Mr. Ibsen has done a marvelous job in telling a story with very compelling ideas. I have helped create an adaptation that best helps our audience understand the play in the language they speak, and I hope we have created a world on the stage of American Stage Company, through our choices for the set, the furniture, and the clothes the actors wear, that best illuminates the characters’ wants and desires.

In terms of illuminating the play’s central ideas, they come from clarifying Nora’s emotional journey through the play, and that journey belongs to the marvelously skilled and talented Katherine Tanner. I hope I’m able to be her third eye and help her take the audience on that ride.


What inspires you as a director?

As I’ve already suggested directing a play involves telling stories, solving problems and removing the barriers my colleagues might face toward doing their best work. I am also the person who, as my title suggests, provides the direction everyone will take, so we’re all moving toward the same goals.  As I am meant to provide the leadership and inspiration for everyone else, I look to the script I’m working on for my own inspiration.

I enjoy working on a production the most when there are two goals achieved. One is finding a script that involves characters whose journeys are affected by world events I wish to share with an audience. They can’t affect the world events, but they strive with vigorously to overcome them. The other goal is to find colleagues to work with who challenge and inspire me, and whose company I truly enjoy. I’ve achieved both goals with this project.


As a director, what is your preferred rehearsal process?

I try to tailor how a schedule is created for rehearsal to the needs of the script. In this case the main goals will be to make sure the play is staged in a way that best illuminates the story and the emotional journeys of the characters, and to make sure that Katherine Tanner, who is playing Nora, best executes her characters’ trajectory through the play.

I also work toward creating an atmosphere in rehearsal that allows for collaboration, where everyone contributes, the actors feel a sense of ownership of the decisions that go into their performances, and what’s left onstage are the best ideas we came up with, regardless of their origin.

Seth Gordon, Director for A Doll's House

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Changing Lives through Art. Wit is a Hit. The reviews are in!

Read why not to miss Wit starring Kim Crow. Two amazing reviews are in. This play will take you on a unique journey. Click on the links below to read the full reviews. Closes

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

What the critics are saying:
“A very funny, investigation into the meaning of life, death and God…Kim Crow’s Vivian…is girlishly vulnerable and eager to please, delivering droll zingers like a Borscht Belt comedian…Impressive…The Palladium stage, bigger than American Stage’s own space, has allowed director Todd Olson to bring an epic quality to Vivian’s story. The effects for X-rays and other procedures inflicted on Vivian are chillingly convincing…The American Stage production enjoys luxury casting in its supporting players, including Joe Parra…Barbara Redmond…and LuLu Picart…WIT is good medicine.” -John Fleming, Tampa Bay Times

“Brilliant…Wit is beyond words…a moving, harrowing, revelatory play about life. If great art is the art that combines beauty and depth, Wit is great art…and American Stage conveys its brilliance. Should you see Wit in spite of the fearsomeness of its subject? Absolutely. This is drama that can change, or at least redirect, your life. If an inspired work of art can remind us of that fact, we need it in our repertoire. Few plays are as important. See it if you can. 5 stars out of 5.” -Mark E. Leib, Creative Loafing

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A Devoted Arts Patron will be Missed; Her Spirit Lifts American Stage

Natalie McMasters (1928-2012)

 Please join us for A Celebration of Life for Natalie McMasters that will be held on October 23rd at 5:00 p.m., at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The family invites those who knew Natalie and appreciated all her contributions to attend.

Natalie McMasters – a talented athlete, excellent cook, fierce bridge player, loving partner to her husband Lew, and generous philanthropist – had many interests, and she developed them all fully.  “She wasn’t a dabbler,” her long-time friend Pat Baldwin explains.  “If Natalie was going to do it, she was going to do it well.”

St. Petersburg, her home from the age of three years old, provided Natalie with an ideal setting for her many talents.  From a young age, she sailed in the gulf and played tennis and golf year-round.  Later, she became a quiet force behind the burgeoning arts scene in downtown, a development that brought her much personal satisfaction.

 In the decades when Natalie was growing up here, and then raising her own family, St. Petersburg was still a small town.  It had little to offer artistically. Natalie and Lew realized they would need to look elsewhere to find cultural opportunities, both for themselves and for John and Martha, their two children.  John and Martha today fondly remember their parents regularly taking them to New York City as youngsters, to experience museums, plays, ballets, and concerts. Later, when Martha was in college in New York, Natalie would come up, both to visit her daughter and also to see theatre in Manhattan.

Then – to many people’s surprise – St. Petersburg began to grow from a sleepy southern town to a world-class arts destination. This transformation was an unexpected joy for Natalie, who took full advantage of the cultural offerings. She challenged her keen intellect by auditing literature classes at USF. She got involved with the Florida Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts from their beginnings in the late 1960’s.  

 Natalie also became a regular patron at American Stage Theatre, which was founded in 1977. She continuously supported American Stage Theatre over the years, making it possible for the theatre to be enjoying a robust 34th Season this year, in a time when many not-for-profit arts organizations are suffering.  She also joined the theatre’s Legacy Society, which was created by Marion Ballard, Natalie’s devoted friend and fellow American Stage supporter (and former Board President).

In addition to attending performances at the theatre, Natalie also traveled on the American Stage trips frequently, particularly the ones to New York. She was interested all types of theatre – serious drama, Broadway musicals, classics, edgier off-Broadway productions. Natalie didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion on the shows. “She didn’t like every play she saw, but she appreciated them all,” her traveling companion and dear friend Marilyn Mathis recalls. 

Natalie’s son emphasizes just how rewarding the arts were to Natalie, especially in the years following Lew’s death in 1999. “Seeing St. Petersburg develop a vibrant arts scene was very satisfying to her. It made her life full,” John says.

 In February of this year, just five months before Natalie’s death, Martha took her mother to New York City for a weekend of culture. They went to the NYC Ballet and a chamber music performance on the waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge. They visited the Frick and MOMA, and saw a cutting-edge new drama at Lincoln Center. “We had a glorious time,” Martha shares. How fitting that Natalie, who loved the arts herself so much and strived to instill that same love in her children, was able to enjoy a wonderful weekend of the arts with her daughter in the last year of her life.

 Natalie McMasters was a loyal and generous supporter of many arts institutions in St. Petersburg, including this theatre. We are proud that Natalie attended American Stage productions and traveled on our theatre trips, and grateful that she included the theatre in her legacy gifts.

 


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Catch up with Nate Najar and John Lamb

Studio 10 had Nate Najar and John Lamb on their morning show to talk about their upcoming performance at American Stage and play some music. Check out Nate Najar and John Lamb on Studio 10. Click here.

Don’t miss our next Music Series:
The Ale and the Witch Music Productions Presents:
Nate Najar with John Lamb on Bass

Intimate Musical Conversation… Just Jazz

Tickets

Tuesday, October 9 at 8 PM
Concessions and cash bar open at 6:30pm

Performing one night only on the
American Stage Theatre’s Mainstage

TICKETS: $15 – reserved seating

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Behind the Scenes with American Stage Theatre

Jerid Fox, Props Master - Behind the Scenes where the Sets take Form

American Stage Theatre is bringing even more theatre to life in St. Petersburg with their 2012.2013 season schedule.  In an effort to offer patrons and subscribers more variety, this professional theatre company added more programming.  This move enabled the creation of three Series; Fall, Spring and Summer, each consisting of three plays.  Todd Olson, Producing Artistic Director, shares his insight on the upcoming productions, including the new partnership with the St. Petersburg College Theater Department for the upcoming production of WIT, opening on October 21 at the Palladium Theater.

            “Without the college’s involvement we would not be able to produce larger cast plays of this magnitude. That is a win for us. Having a work like WIT on the Palladium stage is a win for SPC and  having their students involved with this cast and creative team is a win for the SPC Theater Program. Having access to this venue and this good energy is a win for American Stage,” says Olson.

           In addition to WIT, the Fall Series wraps up with A DOLL’S HOUSE opening on November 14.  Todd explains why this play is an important choice; ”American Stage is primarily a contemporary theatre and A DOLL’S HOUSE was the first modern play, so, in a way, we’re starting with where our tradition began. We also have a reputation for producing the plays that won’t be seen anywhere else in the Tampa Bay area. In a way, Ibsen is the grandfather of any modern theatre and he is missing on stages in this region. So we’re embracing a century-old tradition and reviving a masterpiece to learn how much it still has to say about how we live now.”

            Olson also gave a glimpse for what audiences can expect from the Spring Series. “The new year will bring unforgettable human stories that speak to the world at this moment. All three plays have to do with reconciling our history with the challenges of the present moment. All have to do with family, revival, and repair. On top of continuing the August Wilson Century Cycle with PIANO LESSON, audiences will enjoy the area premiere’s of Sam Shepard’s WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN: A CHEF’S FABLE, and Jessica Dickey’s play, AMISH PROJECT, based on a true story.”

For more information on the upcoming plays visit americanstage.org or contact their box office at 727.823.7529.

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The world of Dali… and American Stage emerge!

Thank you to our friends at the Dali Museum for being terrific partners. We had a blast yesterday at their museum. American Stage Theatre will be performing a scene from HYSTERIA at the Dali Museum on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 1pm in case you missed the one last night. The full cast and director, Todd Olson, will be reading the ‘Dream Sequence’ scene on the spiral staircase of the Dali Museum and the performance is free to all Dali Visitors. There will be a question and answer session immediately following the performance. http://bit.ly/OfbU6x

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The reviews for HYSTERIA are setting in

“Hysteria is funny, sad, superficial, profound, scatterbrained and very wise. I’ve never witnessed anything else quite like it. The acting in this unpredictable thought-romp is universally excellent.” – Mark E. Leib, Creative Loafing

Check out the new review by Mark E. Leib for Terry Johnson’s HYSTERIA in the Creative Loafing Tampa. http://bit.ly/Qs9HR7

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2012 BEST OF THE BAY… Congratulations to all!

We would like to take a moment to celebrate all those that participated, voted, and were acknowledged for their superb talents across the Tampa Bay area! What a wonderful area we live in and everyone should be extremely proud. This is testament on how we are building a strong community and how important local support really is to creating a better future. Below are those awarded in the theater industry. Congratulations to all!

Readers’ Pick
Best Theater Company – American Stage
Best Local Singer/Songwriter – Geri X
Best Local Stage Director – Eric Davis
Best Local Theater Production – Cabaret, freeFall Company
Best Local Actor – David Jenkins
Best Local Actress – Alison Burns
Best Local Improv Troupe – Got Jokes? Improv

Critics’ Pick
Best Theater Company – American Stage
Best Play – August: Osage County
Best Actor – Jim Sorensen
Most Promising Playwright – Natalie Symons
Best Actress – Emilia Sargent
Best Director – Karla Hartley
Best Artistic Director – Eric Davis
Best Costumer – Mike and Kathy Buck Designs
Best Set Designer – Frank Chavez
Best Reason to Believe in the Next Generation of Theater Artists – Gianfranco Settecasi
Best New Theater Company – Tampa Repertory Theatre
Most Memorable Performance – David Mann in freeFall’s Cabaret
Most Joyous Comic Presence – Matthew McGee
Best Broadway Puppet Revival – MAD Theatre’s Avenue Q
Best Theatrical Talent Merger – Meg Heimstead & Shawn Paonessa
Best Ubiquitous Theater Guy – Gavin Hawk

For the full list, http://bit.ly/Q1VX2z

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HYSTERIA buzz is starting to hit the BURG!

Justin Campbell, Ashley Jeffery, & Michael Edwards

Stay tuned to BAY NEWS 9 ON DEMAND. Ashley Jeffery, Video Journalist was at American Stage Theatre Company and interviewed actors from our season opener, HYSTERIA: OR FRAGMENTS OF AN ANALYSIS OF AN OBSESSIONAL NEUROSIS.

http://americanstage.org/hysteria.php

 

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We are Rolling into Our 12-13 Season with MORE LAUGHS! Check out our FALL SERIES

by Terry Johnson

Co-production with
Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (W.H.A.T.
)

We are rolling into our 12-13 Season with MORE LAUGHS!
American Stage Subscribers Share a Passion for Live Theatre!
Who’s Ready for HYSTERIA to take over AMERICAN STAGE THEATRE?

Get your tickets in advance.
Find out what happens when Freud meets Dali and these great minds collide!

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE & SAVE!

“Freud, Dali and madcap madness…a laugh-out-loud comic romp laced with dark interludes…Just as it will make you laugh at life’s absurdities, “Hysteria” will also incite your intellectual curiosity to discover more.” -Cape Cod Online

“Impressive…[an] unpredictable and intellectual madcap comedy” -Cape Cod Chronicle

“Balances laugh-out-loud comedy with deadly serious revelations…Playwright Terry Johnson is a brilliant storyteller, and this production does his script justice…If you miss it at WELLFLEET Harbor Actor’s Theatre, you’ll have to go to Saint Petersburg, Florida. But don’t miss it here. If anything, go to Saint Petersburg to see it again.” -Capecod.com

“Brilliant…Beautiful…haunting…filled with belly laughs and brain tickles…You will find little pieces of this play creeping into your consciousness for days after you have seen it and hey, Freud and Dali would have liked that.” -Barnstable Patriot

“Hysterically funny, terrifying and visually riveting.” -Provincetown Banner

Click Here for Website.

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