Friday, August 8, 2014

Spotlight On...Noah Himmelstein

Name: Noah Himmelstein

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Education: Emerson College

Favorite Credits: Positions 1956: a new opera by Michael Korie (lyricist of Grey Gardens) and composer Conrad Cummings. I directed the premiere in DC two years ago. It's a remarkable piece using found text from 1950's marriage, fitness and dance manuals with chamber ensemble: strings, saxophone and synth! I assisted Bart Sher on the Lincoln Center production of Golden Boy; that was a transformative experience.

Why theater?: I like the room and coming in with say the color orange and someone else says how about we make it red and then we have...orange-red which is totally different. There's a lot of work I do on my own to prepare but I basically do it so I can throw it all away on the 1st day and be spontaneous. I kind of know where it's going go, but just dimly.

Tell us about Things I Left in Long Island?: It's about rituals and experiences with your family. The nonsense, the fights, and inside jokes, the minutiae, the chromosomes and the stories. Sara pulls a lot from judaic mythology which become part of our lives without out realizing; great mythical stories from the old testament we never talk about which directly influence how parents and children connect. It's about naming those things and then forgetting them to see your parents as children.

What inspired you to direct Things I Left in Long Island?: I've worked with Sara on a series of chamber operas and a musical (Loving Leo which premiered at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont last summer), with our other collaborator, Zach Redler. Sara writes vivid, flawed people who speak fast and don't care who they offend. That's a lot of fun; but there's often a deep melancholy that goes somewhere else, too. We've developed a short hand and it's rare to find a collaborator where we're really on the same page even though our lives are completely different. It's a kind of alchemy I don't share with too many. She asked me to do two readings of the play last year, which featured much of this cast. I prefer new work.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I've learned a lot from Robert Wilson; slowing down time and thinking about pieces as moving experiences and objects in space and using light. That sounds kinda pretentious but there's a lot there. De Kooning, Matisse and Kandinsky. I wish I had seen the early productions of the Berliner Ensemble.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Stephen Karam, and he knows it!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I loved Act One.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "One And Only", Adele

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A butcher.

What’s up next?: I'm directing an oratorio called I Am Harvey Milk by Andrew Lippa at Lincoln Center in October. I did the premiere in San Francisco last year with Laura Benanti and just came back from doing a different production of it in LA at Disney Hall. It's a truly extraordinary theatrical work for a large chorus, soloists and orchestra. The NY production will use elements of both of the previous stagings and several new aspects. It will feature Kristin Chenoweth. I've been developing it with Andrew since fall of 2012. It's combines all I love about theatre and opera and it's about moving our lives forward with compassion and awareness.

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