DANIELLE HISEY just moved to the Cleveland area from Akron this past Fall, but she’s jumped right into a whole new world – the world of Cleveland theater directing. Here are some of her thoughts on being new to the challenges of directing.
KM: So you’re relatively new to directing: what got you into it?
DH: I am relatively new to professional theatre altogether. I graduated almost three years ago and recently moved to Cleveland in the fall. In college, my professor (Tammie McKenzie) asked me to direct in an event called 24-hour Theatre. It’s an event where a play is written rehearsed and performed in 24 hours. She must have had a ton of confidence in me because that was my first time directing and I just went for it. Since then I have really enjoyed the process of pulling the vision of a show together and guiding actors in their discovery.
KM: Did you study directing?
DH: My degree is in Communication Arts with an emphasis in theatre, so I didn’t go to school specifically for directing, but the theatre part of my degree helped with that. I did a little bit of everything while I was doing theatre in college. Directing just stood out to me as the thing I enjoyed doing the most.
KM: How have the Cleveland community of directors and actors supported you in your first ventures?
DH: I would say that the biggest and most inspiring kind of support that I have received is trust. When you feel like you have people behind you, supporting you and trusting you, it gives you that push to not let them or yourself down. It also gives you the confidence that you need to take risks.
KM: How do you prepare/research for a new project?
DH: If I have the time, I usually read a play, then put it down for about a month and write down ideas that come to me during that time that remind me or connect with the story. I do research by reading other plays the playwright has written and by learning how the subject matter might affect or speak to the community in which it is being performed.
KM: What’s the hardest part about starting a project? Ending a project?
DH: I think the hardest part (and sometimes the best part) of starting a project is working with new people. It is always great to get new perspectives on things. However, when working with the same people for a while you learn about them; what they hate, what they’re passionate about, what pushes their buttons, and I feel like the work can get to a more honest place. [It’s] kind of like dating, so inevitably if you’re in that place with a group, like in any relationship, breaking up sucks. If you’re not, you have still learned something and you can carry that to the next potential [production] partner.
KM: Do you have anyone in town that you feel is a mentor of sorts?
DH: To me, the term ‘mentor’ carries the connotation that a great deal of time has been spent learning from someone. While I don’t think that I have been in Cleveland long enough to have worked with many people on that level, Beth Wood, Chris Seibert and Raymond Bobgan [of Cleveland Public Theatre] are three people that have been strongly influential and supportive. I have been inspired by their work and their attitude towards their work and hope to continue learning from them.
KM: Do you prefer directing plays or musicals? What have you done in Cleveland so far?
DH: Definitely plays. Musicals are a whole new ballgame to me. I enjoy musicals a lot, but when it comes to working on a musical, there is about twice as much to consider, which makes it twice as hard to make the storyline work, which I have only seen done well a few times. So I have great admiration for anyone who can do so. I spent most of last season stage managing- I assisted on Goldstar, Ohio and stage managed Boom, The Aperture, Cut to Pieces, Antony and Cleopatra and The Alice Seed. I also directed a piece called Kissmet by Katherine Kurre in the ‘[Big] Box’ series at CPT last season, and Mother/Tongue by Claire Robinson-May in the ‘Little Box’ series at CPT current season. This season I also performed in and co-wrote a piece that Doug Snyder, Carly Garinger and I collaborated on called Cramped for the opening weekend of ‘[Big] Box’. I will also be performing in Open Mind Firmament, which was developed by Raymond Bobgan at Cleveland Public Theatre.
KM: Do you have a favorite Cleveland-area venue in which to work? If so, why is it so great?
DH: Most of my time has been spent at Cleveland Public Theatre and that has been an amazing experience for me. CPT operates with a high level of professionalism. They trust and support their artists and have a great passion for their community. Because of those things they are able to present great work. It isn’t easy to do all of those things simultaneously, but they do it and they do it well.
KM: What inspires you creatively?
DH: Right now, different types of religion/spirituality or the absence of religion. People live and die for religion and I think that something that makes people that passionate is inspiring. And music…always music.
KM: What’s your favorite play or musical?
DH: That is a very difficult question. I really like the musical Avenue Q. It’s hilarious- there are puppets and the story is totally relevant for someone my age.
As far as plays go, there are two that I saw recently that were probably two of the best productions I have seen- Cut to Pieces (which I also had the great privilege of working on) and the Theater Ninjas’ A Proper Murder.
KM: What are some hobbies that you have outside of the theater?
DH: Painting and creating art out of recycled materials (i.e. newspapers, buttons, cork, windows, my laptop that fell off the shelf and died). I also like reading and watching television shows on DVD, usually after they have been cancelled due to poor decisions made by the television networks, unless I can’t wait (i.e. Battlestar Gallactica, Dollhouse, Scrubs, The Office.)
KM: What show haven’t you directed yet that you really, really, really want to work on?
DH: I feel like it is difficult and takes a lot of time to find a play that I ‘really really really’ want to direct. There are few that I would like to direct. However, at this point in my life, I feel like there are more inspiring people that I really want to work with than plays I would like to direct.
We’ll be seeing a lot more from Danielle in the future! In March, she’ll begin rehearsals (as a performer) for “Open Mind Firmament” at Cleveland Public Theatre.
If you’d like to contact her for a project, please email her at [email protected]
For more information on Cleveland Public Theatre, visit http://www.cptonline.org/index.php
PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to keep up on future pieces! And remember to share the link with your friends.
Do you have a performing arts related article that would be of interest to this column? If so, contact Kate Miller at [email protected]