by Sonja Pardee, Curious Content Team
What would you like to share with our audience about you and your experience as a Curious Company member?
I’ve been an artistic company member here since 2002. The first show I directed, I co-directed with Chip called Fuddy Meers. And this is my 13th production that I’ve directed here. I think I have directed here more than I have any other place.
I direct all across the state and across the country but I have to say it was very joyful and refreshing to come back through these doors again. I love this building, I love the artists that I get to work with, and I love the staff. I think it’s important to say that I consider our audience and our very generous donors dear friends of mine. This is the place where I hang my hat, even though I travel elsewhere. I will always consider Curious my theatrical home.
What stands out to you about Constellations from all the other shows you’ve directed at Curious?
I think that it’s simplicity. I’ve done some bigger shows at Curious, like Good People or Red and it reminds me a little bit of a play I did at Curious a little while ago called A Number. And simple isn’t easy to do, actually simple is very hard to do. It’s like trying to make a wonderful meal with as few ingredients as possible. But I think that’s what makes Constellations different from any other show that I’ve done here.
Talk about your concept for the show.
I’ve always felt that Constellations can be summed up in two words which are: a wondering. It asks the question of what if your life could fall out differently. What if you zig this way and zag this way? My thoughts about this play are that ultimately it is a love story and you don’t need a Ph.D. in quantum mechanics to understand it. At its heart, it’s very simple. So, we wanted to do things very simply.
When people come experience the play, they’ll see we used the full breadth of the entire stage, which we don’t do very often. I wanted this vastness so people could feel the universe in it, but I also wanted the possibility for things to become intimate. So, we have these platforms that are sprinkled throughout to help create more intimate moments. Clever audience members will notice that these platforms are in the shape of a hexagon which is a very sacred shape in mathematics and in geometry. Both of these elements represent Marianne and Roland, the characters in the play. The vastness of space and the projections of nebulas represent Marianne who studies quantum mechanics and cosmology. The hexagons represent Roland, who is a beekeeper. They will also notice that the sound that happens in the play is all modern cello music. It is one woman playing cello with herself. So sometimes it sounds like there are many stringed instruments but it’s really one person. I thought that was symbolic of parallel universes that happen in the play and was inspired by string theory.
There are 66 little scenes in this hour long play and 66 different universes. There’s no scenery or scenery changes. There are very little stage directions in the play, just a couple and there are just two props. I wanted the emphasis to be on the actors and on their story.
Share what the rehearsal process was like.
I have worked with Brett before on Proof at Curious and we did Cabaret together at the Arvada Center. He has always been one of my favorite people. Kelsey is new to town, I just met her at auditions and thought she was fabulous. We spent a fair amount of time sitting at the table and talking about what each universe was, how they were different, and how the change of a word made everything different. Putting it up on stage actually went relatively quick. This script is difficult to memorize, as people would gather, but these guys seemed to get it down pretty fast. We brought in experts to help us with the sign language scenes and the dance scenes. It was really enjoyable.
What were your favorite parts about directing this show?
I think that the relationship between Roland and Marianne was very fun to explore, the whole journey of it. To dig very deep into what does it mean to have a life on this planet, falling in love, breaking up, getting back together again, going through elements of life and death. I just love the script so very much it’s just so very human.
Were there any challenges for this show?
I think the challenge was to just take our time and to carefully mine each universe so we knew what the given circumstances were. And to let it have its moment in time and space before we moved on to the next one. To give ourselves permission to trust the play.
What did you learn from directing Constellations?
I have learned that the universe is very mysterious and there are many things about how the world works that I can not fully wrap my brain around. I think most of us humans have trouble understanding why it is we’re here and what it is we are meant to spend our lives doing. However, I enjoy the puzzle of it all even though I don’t have a lot of answers.
What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a director?
First of all, I think that people who are interested in directing should see a lot of theater and read a lot of plays. You should start directing plays as often as you can no matter where you can, whether it’s in your community theater or at your high school. When you start out, never think that anything is beneath you, just direct as much as you can because you learn an awful lot just by doing it. Another aspect of it is to assist directors. So, find some people whose work you like and that you feel are similar minded and try to get into the room and just get in there and observe. It’s kind of like that great model of reading about it, watching other people do it, and then do it yourself. And give yourself permission to fail, failure gets a bad wrap. It’s good to take risks and throw yourself out there.
What’s next for you?
Next, I am going to Theatre Aspen to direct another production of Sex with Strangers which I did last year at Curious. And the Artistic Director was Paige Price who played Olivia in our production. But we’re going to get a totally different cast this time around. Then I’m going to Creede, Colorado to direct the world premiere of General Store. Then I am directing at Local Theater Company in Boulder.