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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

17 Questions for Meredith McDonough

Rebecca Gibel, Corey Brill, and Dori Legg in Noises Off,
directed by Meredith McDonough. Photo by Bill Brymer.

By Brian Walker

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

Meredith McDonough started her directing career as an intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville fifteen years ago. After serving as Director of New Works at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, California, and directing premieres for such prestigious companies as the Magic Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Actors Express, she returned to Louisville last season to join the ATL staff as the Associate Artistic Director. She’s directing their season opener, a production of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off.
Brian Walker:  Okay, I’d like to start with Noises Off and then get a bit broader. Here we go. Number 1. You’re directing ATL’s season opener. Other than the fact that’s it like the most perfect “theatre play,” what drew you to directing it?
Meredith McDonough:  I think it’s the funniest play ever written and a real love letter to the theatre. It seemed ideal to open the 50th Season!
BW:  Number 2. What’s been the most challenging part of the rehearsal process?
MM:  Act two of the play takes place backstage during a performance, so it has to be silent. Which means all of our storytelling has to be physical, which, I have to say, is the craziest thing I have ever taken on. I’m so thankful that I have the greatest cast who are full of ideas.
BW:  Number 3. Noises Off has had a very successful life as a play. What do you think it is about the script that makes it so popular?
MM:  I think it’s super accessible and really intricately crafted. Even if you have never done a play, you can relate to what it would be like to be on the road trapped with the same group of people that you see every day. All the gossip, all the secrets – it’s all here!
BW:  Number 4. Do you have a rehearsal ritual that you like to do either on your own or with your cast?
MM:  We have started having Sunday Night Dinners as a whole company, and I have loved this new ritual. There’s nothing like breaking bread together to really let the stress of the week go.
BW:  Let the broadening begin. Number 5. Will you be directing anything else this season at ATL?
MM:  I will be doing something in the Humana Festival – look forward to the announcement soon!
BW:  Number 6. You’ve been the Associate Artistic Director for just a year. What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the first season in the position?
MM:  I spend a lot of time in other artists' rehearsals and have learned how my “big picture” eye can help give clarity to their processes. I know as a director I frequently can’t see the forest through the trees, so being the outside eye for other artists has been really great.
BW:  Number 7. What’s your favorite hangout in Louisville?
MM:  Freddie’s
BW:  Number 8. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring directors?
MM:  Work your ass off. Be more diligent than anyone else you know.
BW:  Number 9. If you had to be stuck on a deserted tropical island with anyone on the ATL staff, who would it be and why?
MM:  Les Waters. He and I can make each other laugh just about anywhere.
BW:  Number 10. Is there a play that you dream about directing one day?
MM:  I did Angels in America in graduate school and would love another go at it. I think it’s the best thing that’s ever been written.
Meredith McDonough
 Photo - Actors Theatre of Louisville.
BW:  Number 11. I know a lot of your background is in directing new plays and world premieres. If you had to boil it down to a few sentences, what excites you about a new play and what do you love to see?
MM:  I love plays that have to be in a THEATRE – that have some necessary theatricality that is so exciting to witness and share live.
BW:  Number 12. What’s one thing that the local theatre community should know about the upcoming season?
MM:  I think Pirates of Penzance is going to be one of the best parties in town.
BW:  Number 13. Are you a seat-Tweeter? Do you see this new social media aspect of theatre continuing to grow?
MM:  I am most definitely NOT a seat tweeter. I think we come to theatre to get away from the small computers we have in our pockets and just let ourselves be taken somewhere ELSE!
BW:  Amen to that! Number 14. If you could commission a play to direct, without consideration of budget, on anything or anyone in the world, what would it be about?
MM:  Ben Folds and I would do a musical about the work of Keith Haring. If anyone steals this idea from me, I will hunt you down!
BW:  I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket – that sounds fantastic! Number 15. What’s the coolest thing about working at ATL?
MM:  I got my start here as a directing intern 15 years ago, and coming back to give those experiences to others is the best. Also, working for one of your best friends is the greatest gift any artist could ever have. There’s such collaboration and trust.
BW:  Number 16. If you got to pick any two movie stars to direct onstage, who would they be? 
MM:  Ryan Gosling and Cate Blanchet. Hot.
BW:  Number 17. Who is someone who inspires you and why?
MM:  I just went to see Punchdrunk Theatre’s new piece in London, having seen their Sleep No More in NYC four times. I think the work that they are doing in immersive theatre is beyond inspiring. It’s like living in a choose-your-own-adventure book. I’d like to live in those worlds.

Noises Off runs through September 22 at Actors Theatre
316 W. Main Street 
502-584-1205
actorstheatre.org


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