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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

17 Questions for Amy Attaway




By Brian Walker

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Brian Walker. All rights reserved.

Amy Attaway has been charming audiences of the local theatre scene for almost two decades: first as an actor; and now, as a director with several impressive entries on her resume. She is co-artistic director of Theatre [502] and recently left her position at Actors Theatre of Louisville to put more energy and focus on her directing career. Her first project: directing a serial play for Theatre [502], which plays at The Baron’s Theatre in monthly installments during the downtown trolley hop.

Brian Walker:  All right, I’ve got 17 questions for you and I want you to be totally spontaneous with your answers.
Amy Attaway:  I’m in!  Thanks for thinking of me!

BW:  Thanks for doing it!  Okay, here we go.  Number 1:  You've been co-running the apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville for the last several years and just finished your last season in the position. What was it like to make the decision to move onto something else?
AA:  I knew when I took the job five years ago that it wouldn't be the last thing I did with my career.  But I made such a comfortable, challenging, and fulfilling home there that it did feel strange when I realized it was time to go. I will definitely miss the people and the work, but I also feel confident that I made the right decision. Time for new horizons!

BW:  Number 2:  What's your favorite memory from your time at Actors?
AA:  I'm a Libra, so the idea of choosing a "favorite" anything scares me a little. I will say that the production of Sleep Rock Thy Brain in this year's Humana Festival was the biggest and most rewarding thing I've ever done with my career. So, many moments during that process are up there among the favorites.

BW:  Number 3:  What's next for you?
AA:  Two main things: devoting more time to Theatre [502], and freelance directing. [502] has a very exciting season planned:  we just opened our first ever commissioned piece – which is a year-long project – and I directed the first installment. I'm leaving Friday (eek!) for two summer directing gigs in a row (Hope Summer Rep in Holland, Michigan; and Mt. Baker Theatre in Bellingham, Washington).  When I get back, I'll direct a full-length for [502] and teach some acting classes. After that, I don't know!

BW:  Number 4:  Tell me about The Stranger & Ludlow Quinn. It's being billed as a serial play. How did this project come about?
AA:  The confluence of three things made this project possible: Stephen Jones of Baron's Theater reached out to us as a possible venue for our work; Theatre [502] wanted to try a new way to make theatre, and we talked about the idea of serial plays; and Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds moved back to Louisville. And so, we commissioned Diana and Steve to write a play to be performed in Baron's Theater on First Fridays for a year. They're writing specifically for the space, specifically for Louisville, and specifically for the actors. It's a HUGE project, and very exciting. The first one was this past Friday, and it was a really wonderful event – so off we go!

Amy Attaway, Eli Keel & Leah Roberts.


BW:  Number 5:  The play you're directing in [502]'s upcoming season is Auctioning the Ainsleys by Laura Schellhardt, right?  What's it about?
AA:  Yes. It's about a family who lives in and operates an auction house. Their matriarch has decided it's time for her to pass on, which means all the children have to leave the house. The oldest child, the only one who ever left, comes thundering back into their lives, disrupting everyone's equilibrium and forcing her siblings to think about life outside their assigned auctioning roles. Everyone in the play has to examine their connection to stuff, their connection to their past, and consider a future that they never had the chance to imagine.

BW:  Number 6:  Is there one aspect of a script that consistently sticks out to you that makes you really want to direct that play? Something you look for?
AA:  I really like magic. I love stage directions that evoke an action that I don't quite understand how to accomplish – and yet they describe the perfect and only thing that could possibly happen in that moment. I also love language, so any play that uses language in a new or deeply specific way always gets my attention.

BW:  Number 7:  You initially trained and worked as an actor. What made you decide to focus more on directing?
AA:  My brain switched gears somewhere along the way. (Precisely, I think it was during rehearsals for Book of Days with The Necessary Theatre many years ago. Why? Who knows.) I love the collaborative work of directing. I love looking at the world of the play from the outside and figuring out how to tell a story that I love to an audience I respect. I still love acting, too; it requires very different muscles, and I hope to flex those a bit in this new phase of my life.

BW:  Number 8:  What are you addicted to right now?
AA:  Um, salt?  Diet Coke? A Tumblr blog called Under the Vast Blue Seas. Neuroscience. Slate's Political Gabfest podcast.

BW:  Number 9:  If you could star in the remake of any movie ever, what movie would it be and why?
AA:  Remakes are lame. Also I know nothing about movies. Like, shockingly little.

BW:  Number 10:  If you could commission any play about any subject with no limits, what would it be about?
AA:  I've been very lucky to get to commission several plays in the last few seasons for the apprentice plays in the Humana Festival. And now I've got this new one about magic and Louisville history!  So cool! Sarah Lunnie (one of my favorite collaborators and the dramaturg on all those Actors Theatre commissions) and I have now commissioned plays about food and sleep. So, covering all basic human functions, our next one should probably be about shelter or sex.  Any votes?  But I guess if I had all the money in the world, I'd make a play about brain science.   

BW:  I vote for sex!  Okay, Number 11:  What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the local arts scene?
AA:  GO SEE PLAYS.  It makes me nutty when people tell me they want to act in Louisville and they haven't seen any local theatre.  We're a small community, and the place you will reliably see all of us is AT THE THEATRE – so break in!  Come on out!  We want to meet you!

BW:  Number 12:  What's your favorite thing about being an artist in Louisville?
AA:  The people – audiences and other artists. The general feeling that art is something worth spending your time doing. I love this city.

BW:  Number 13:  What's your least favorite thing about being an artist in Louisville?
AA:  There is never enough time to see everything!  Also, I wish there was a little more money available for the upstart companies…there are so many fantastic larger companies that need financial support that it's hard for us little guys to get a toehold.  

BW:  Number 14:  Favorite local hangout?
AA:  That F word again!  I like VINT on Frankfort, Please and Thank You, Hillbilly Tea, The Rud, The Barret Bar.

BW:  Number 15:  Who is someone who inspires you and why?
AA:  Hallie Flanagan, director of the Federal Theatre Project from 1935 to 1939, when it was shut down by the House UnAmerican Activities Commission. She was a unique visionary for her time, and for all time. Alive people? Zan Sawyer-Dailey and Trish Pugh-Jones. Tenacious, smart, savvy, scrappy.

BW:  Number 16:  If for some crazy reason you could never do theatre again, what would you do with your life?
AA:  I'd be an NPR journalist. ... Or really, I'd just be Terry Gross's devoted intern. 

BW:  And finally, Number 17:  What's one thing folks would be surprised to learn about you?
AA:  Eek!  This is worse than the "Favorite" questions!  Nothing interesting or surprising here ... Um. I'm allergic to dogs. I have two nephews. I read the whole Walking Dead comic book series, but I won't watch the show because I think it will be too scary. I went to Ballard High School, not YPAS. I cry easily, when I'm happy and when other people are sad. I've left and come back to Louisville three times in my adult life. I spent three years as the Grants Manager at the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and seriously considered making philanthropy a career. I have a terrible memory. I know so little about popular culture that my friends find it shocking. I'm a Makers Mark Ambassador. I never know what politicians look like because I get all my news from the radio and podcasts – I hear that our president might be an African American gentleman…

Theatre [502] presents The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn – Chapter Two: Bonnie Burke Finds A Book on July 5 at The Baron’s Theatre.

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