I have directed at professional theatres, colleges, and universities across the nation for over 25 years, including serving as the Founding Artistic Director of (Mostly) Harmless Theatre and Inevitable Theatre Company.
Favorite productions include The Laramie Project, Marisol, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Jordan, Unsuspecting Susan, The Skriker, Defying Gravity, and Four Modern Noh Plays.
Click here to read my Directing Philosophy.
by José Rivera
PRODUCTION PHOTO GALLERY
At its heart, my directing style fuses a dynamic visual aesthetic with a strong belief in text-based dramaturgy. A director can be true to a playwright’s vision on the page and still express his or her own distinctive artistic vision, without compromising either. When I read a play, the words come alive as vibrant images in my imagination. I always strive to recreate the visual arc that those images evoke for me personally onstage in a way that serves the characters, story, and tone of the total production.
I take great pride in my ability to collaborate intensely with designers and other members of an artistic team in a way that unifies often-disparate points of view. As St. Louis critic Judith Newmark noted of my production of The Laramie Project, my work releases “the emotional potential of design,” whether that means the bare bones minimalism of a ten-minute play or the single iconic set piece at the visual center of Jordan or The Laramie Project’s multiple levels of weathered lumber and scrim prairie skyline or the metallic, modified Japanese configuration of Four Modern Noh Plays.
This collaboration naturally extends to actors, dramaturgs, and playwrights as well, and I value the give-and-take that occurs in the rehearsal room as we challenge each other to dig always deeper to uncover the complexities of the human beings who populate the script. How else can we bring them to life onstage? For without this element, there is no “live” in live theatre.
I acknowledge several major influences on my work as a director, particularly the hypnotic ensemble cultivation of Anne Bogart, the overt theatricality of Robert Wilson, the in-your-face rock and roll junk aesthetic of Michael Greif, and the alternating wickedness and elegant sophistication of James Lapine.
From this power quartet, I learned that it is not enough to populate the stage with striking visual moments; I try to imbue each play I direct with a strong sense of emotional honesty as well as human vulnerability and strength. Without a sense of “heart” at a production’s core, the most breathtaking design or perfect choreography or stimulating stage composition feels hollow. Too many times I have been to the theatre as an audience member and witnessed outstanding technical expertise from the performers and designers, but nevertheless left the performance unfulfilled and cold. I want to leave my audiences breathless, in wonder, maybe even enraged, but always transformed by the magical and the miraculous power of the theatre that captured me so long ago and has yet to release its hold over my mind and soul.
Whether I am working on a production of Shakespeare or Ibsen or Nō or a rock musical, I will always attempt to provide my audiences with intelligent, daring theatrical productions that seek to empower, educate, and cultivate the best of humanity. I am most attracted to plays that are structurally innovative, philosophically challenging, provide strong roles for actors of all backgrounds, address significant historical and social issues, and encourage active collaboration with the community-at-large.
Above all, I trust my audiences and feel that I can appeal to a wide base and entertain them without pandering. Challenge audiences to rise to the occasion, don’t talk down to them, and they will thank you for it time and again.
From the first time I sat in my elementary school’s cafetorium and saw a funky Wolf in a leisure suit tempt a Studio 54-inspired, sequin and rhinestone-studded Little Red Riding Hood, accompanied by the disco madness of “A Fifth of Beethoven,” I was caught in the theatre’s magic spell. I knew then and there that I wanted to do that with my life, no matter what it took. I can trace so much of my current directing style back to this pivotal moment in that 1977 audience. I believe in the power of bold, unapologetic theatricality, a reinvention/recycling of the familiar so that it becomes new again, and a cohesive collaboration between all the design elements in a production to achieve a singular artistic vision onstage. And a rocking sound design never hurts.
by Stewart Permutt