Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spotlight On...Steven Manuel

Name: Steven Manuel

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Education: BFA in Theatre Design/Technology from the University of Evansville

Favorite Credits:
Co-Founder of Sans A Production; Costume Coordinator on Season 2 of HBO's GIRLS; Costume Designer of Exit Carolyn for Sans A Productions.

Why theater?: Theatre is the only art form that exists in which every other art form is relevant and can be utilized. Theatre is also the only art form that truly engages in a direct dialogue with its audience. It's this wide net of artistic talent that theatre casts, and the conversations it not only sparks but engages in, that make theatre truly unique and exceptionally exciting to be a part of. Sans A Productions, as a company, strives to gather all of that wide range of talent into a singular space, with a singular work, and together we collaborate to create a fully immersive product takes advantage of every artistic form theatre can be while directly engaging and reverberating with our audience.

Tell us about Bears: Bears came to Sans A Productions as a reading in the Summer of 2011, and we've been in love with it every since. We as a group were drawn to the script because it seemed perfectly in sync with our mission. Sans A looks for plays that require every possible aspect of theatre in order to tell the full story. We seek out stories that are challenging for actors, directors, and designers. Bears is exactly that. Bears follows the story of two bears, Timmy and Growl Bear, living in a zoo during an apocalypse. Enter Susie, a wild bear who leads them out of the zoo and into the wilderness. This play speaks to us as a company because the environment and the characters provide incredible creative challenges and opportunities.

What is it like being a part of Bears?:
Bears, and any Sans A production, is all about collaboration. That's our mission as a company. As a part of Bears, you're constantly in conversation with the director, other designers, and even actors to discuss and build a collaborative world for the play. This is something truly unique and exciting. A lot of off-off-broadway shows I've worked on, you have one or two meetings with the director, and then you're sent off to do what you do. Not with Sans A. You're having conversations every day, doing research together, having meetings. It's a lot of work, but everyone knows we're all working towards a better, more succinct storytelling experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatre that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Fantasy and period peaces are wonderful, and the spectacle can be truly magical. But there's something about plays that show real life through the magic of theatre than can be transformative in a way no other art can. I know that maybe sounds like something opposite of Bears, but trust me, it isn't. I enjoy theatre that is more than just a script being read, but theatre that is fully immersive to every sense you have as an audience member, that draws you into a deliberate and specific world, commanding your thoughts through words, sights and sounds. 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are so many people I'd love to work with, I don't even know where to begin. There are newer people like Alex Timbers and Sam Gold that would just be so much fun to work with, I think. Then there are those that I'd love to work with but probably just stand in awe of the whole time: Tracy Letts, David Lindsay-Abaire, Tony Kushner, Martin McDonagh. And those are just writer/directors! I took a workshop once with John Lee Beatty. It'd be a dream to collaborate with him on something. But also just sitting in a room watching him work would be surreal. Is that creepy?

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Bears, of course! No, honestly, I've personally been kind of MIA on the theatre scene lately. I'm very excited to see Peter and the Starcatcher move to New World Stages. I could see that show five more times. Also, I'd love to catch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf before it closes.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: My boyfriend says "that's you!" every time Andrew Rannells pops up on "Girls". While very flattering, I think it's a bit of a stretch, but he'd probably do a great job! Unfortunately he probably couldn't use his beautiful singing voice in my life story, as my singing is decidedly dismal. As for the title, as long as it doesn't have some sort of play on "Even Steven," then we're headed in the right direction.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: TV on DVD (and/or Netflix). I'm always binging on one or two series from beginning to end. Right now it's "Parks and Rec" and "Boardwalk Empire". I also just finished "House of Cards". It's incredible!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: If I weren't working in theatre, I would probably have pursued a career in graphic design, or something like that. Something creative, in the marketing field. I couldn't live if I didn't have a creative outlet of some kind.

What’s up next?: For Sans A, we'll see! Summer's a busy time for everyone, especially in theatre. I'm excited to see what's going on in the city, and what we as a company might be able to contribute. We have a few buns in the oven, but nothing finalized yet. As for me personally, I plan on having a lot of free time after Bears to work on some personal projects. You know, like laundry.

For more on Sans A Productions, visit