Thursday, September 13, 2012

Interview with Steve Jarrard

Steve Jarrard is the Managing Director of Collaborative Artists Ensemble.  He has directed 7 of their 10 previous productions including Nicky Silver's The Food Chain, How I Learned to Drive, Eleemosynary, and Lucia Mad.   Some of his other directing credits include Civilization, Doubting Thomason, and Noel Coward’s Present Laughter at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. 
He is currently directing The Square Root of Wonderful, which is being revived from September 14-October 14 at the Raven Playhouse in NoHo.

How did you first get involved in theatre?

About a decade ago I was walking through the NOHO Arts Festival and, on a whim, signed up for an acting class. As luck would have it, the class was taught by Michael Holmes, who appeared in the original Broadway production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, who is an award-winning director, and who is a master acting coach. Turns out I could act a bit and was asked to join his company, The Action/Reaction Theatre Company. I fell in love with theatre then and have been involved in theatre ever since.

How did Collaborative Artists Ensemble come to be?

Meg Wallace has been making theatre all of her life and when she moved to Los Angeles, she wanted to keep making theatre. But she kept running into the lets-do-a-play-to-get-an-agent mentality. And she wanted to make theatre for theatre’s sake. So she and a few like-minded people started a company that would put on plays that are challenging to the actors and meaningful to an audience. A company where actors could be actors.

Member of the Wedding is the play that Carson McCullers is best known for. How did the rarely produced The Square Root of Wonderful come to your attention?

Meg is a big fan of Carson McCullers and was looking up Carson online when she came across the title. And the title, the beauty of it, grabbed her. She had to read anything titled The Square Root of Wonderful.

What drove you to choose this particular play for production?

When Meg and I read the play, we found it to be this beautiful mixture of funny and sad, of heartbreaking and heartwarming, of tragic and life affirming. We wanted to find out why this play that moved us so much was not well received in 1957. Digging into it, we felt that the mixing of tone along with the issues of suicide and spousal abuse, things that were not talked about in Eisenhower’s America, were the reasons. We also felt that those very things would resonate deeply with modern audiences. And the only way to find something out in the theatre is to do it. So we decided to give it a go.

You directed this play last spring and are now reviving it. What have you learned from having directed the play the first time around?

What I learned is that audiences today do respond to it; that they are moved by it. One person who saw it emailed us to say that she had to walk around NOHO for a half-hour before she could drive home. We also had High School students, who came as a class assignment, stay and talk to us after the show because they loved it so much.

What do you want your audiences to experience and come away with having seen the play?

We want them to experience the Joy and the Heartbreak that was Carson McCullers. We want them to come away wanting more of Carson McCullers, to discover, or rediscover her.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about The Square Root of Wonderful?

That this was her most personal work. Her life echoes loudly throughout this play. She wrote it in response to her husband’s suicide and her mother’s death. She poured her heart and soul, her life really, into this play. And when it didn’t do well on Broadway, it devastated her.

What is up next for Collaborative Artists Ensemble?

We have produced five plays a year for the past five years and next year we will do the same. We have several balls in the air at the moment and are trying to work out various things like rights, schedules, etc., for the spring and fall. One of the plays on our radar, that we’re very high on, is a musical version of They Shoot Horses Don’t They?

-guest interviewer Steve Peterson

No comments: