One of the things I love about the theater community is all of the amazing ideas and thoughts theater people have about the art, the artists, and the audiences. Over the years, I have collected over 100 questions about theater that I’ve asked, been asked, or to which I’ve read great answers*. Using that as my “fast and easy menu” I’m choosing a random few and asking some theater locals to respond. Some questions will be the same. Some different. Some fast and some long-winded. But hopefully, they’ll all stimulate a little thought!
The first up for What’s My Call Time: Drive Thru Interview is J. Daniel Herring, Professor of Theater at CSU Fresno and a director who has worked locally with StageWorks Fresno, The New Ensemble, and Good Company Players.
In one word, describe your present condition.
In one sentence, what’s going on in your world?
I am currently in the middle of Tech Week for the production of OUR TOWN that I am currently directing at Fresno State.
With no restrictions on content or form, describe the present condition of Fresno State Theater?
I feel the current state of University Theatre at Fresno State, despite recent budget constraints, is one of collaboration, at least with my production of OUR TOWN. The actors and production team have pulled together to bring my concept/vision for this production to a fully realized state.
OUR TOWN is considered to be one of the best American plays ever written. It is a classic about life, love and loss and celebrates it’s 75th anniversary in 2013. I chose this play because I wanted to look at it with a fresh perspective while holding true to some of Thornton Wilder’s original ideas about the style of the play.
What do you find exciting about working with student actors?
I love working with student actors because they are so open and willing to explore a variety of methods for developing a character and staging a play.
What makes a great audience for you?
A great audience for me is one that finds a bit of who they are in every production I direct. That doesn’t mean that they have to relate to the entire production, but I strive to provide an entry point for anyone willing to trust my work.
As a director or teacher, what are you better at now than five or ten years ago?
I feel that as a director and a teacher, as the years pass by, I hope I am better at listening to the needs of my audiences and students and in turn help them explore who they are in the worlds of the theatre and the classroom.
What are your top three theatre reads?
I love to read articles in American Theater Magazine about all the variety of ways to approach the art of directing. I love to read Anne Bogart’s works from time to time. And, I enjoy reading the newest “quirky” play someone recommends.
What would you like to see more of on Fresno stages?
I love new plays — so I would love more new play development in Fresno from the staged reading phase to a fully mounted production.
What have you found to be the most common misconception surrounding theatre in Fresno?
I think how people define “professional” theatre or productions. I have seen and had the privilege of directing productions that are highly professional even if they are labeled community or educational theatre.
I will be directing again this year StageWorks Fresno‘s production of A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD two weeks after OUR TOWN closes.OUR TOWN runs November 1st and 2nd, 5th through 9th at 8 p.m. and November 3rd at 2 p.m. Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theater. CSU Fresno (559) 278-2216 or www.fresnostate.edu/theatrearts Tickets: $17 Adult. $15 Senior, Fresno State Alumni, and Military. $10 Student. General Admission.
*hat tip to The Next Stage Blog