Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Spotlight On...Craig J. George

Name: Craig J. George

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Education: BA from Trinity University, MFA from UC Irvine

Favorite Credits: As a director, projects are like your children--  you try never to have favorites. With that said, I usually favor the one that I’ve just finished.  Particularly close to my heart is a new musical I just directed for New York Musical Theatre Festival called The Calico Buffalo.

Why theater?: My high school drama teacher would always say, “if you can be happy doing something else besides theater, then for god’s sake do it!”  I constantly ask myself this question, but the answer is always the same.

Tell us about The Screenwriter Dies of His Own Free Will:  Willy is a successful Hollywood screenwriter and has made a fortune writing summer popcorn movies.  When he learns he’s dying, he desperately wants to leave something important behind, so he writes an arty meta-fictional movie (or play?)  about getting his arty meta-fictional movie (or play) made.  An old friend/rival is now the hard-edged studio head that must decide the movie’s fate, but as the writer, Willy literally has the power to put words in his mouth.  Or does he? Let the games begin!

What inspired you to direct The Screenwriter Dies of His Own Free Will?: This is my fourth Jim Shankman play, so I guess you could say I’m a big fan.  Jim’s plays are incredibly well crafted, but also invite a great deal of collaboration.  Screenwriter is no exception.  There are very few stage directions and virtually no scenery or props.  Every move must be deliberate and every gesture meaningful in some way - it’s just the two of them and two chairs, so the work is magnified. But mostly I enjoy the pure theatricality of this play.  We don’t just break the fourth wall, we don’t even have one.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love all kinds of theater, but what inspires me most is when you have to invent your way out of a fiscal or production constraint (like in a Festival setting).  Fiasco Theater takes these kinds of restraints and transforms them into an asset.  Their invention and high level of craft is always inspiring to watch.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I’m obsessed with dramatic and musical structure, which is why I love new works.  I would love to direct the premiere of a Jason Robert Brown musical.  I think he’s a brilliant composer/lyricist and a master of musical structure.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  I thought John Doyle’s chamber musical staging of Sondheim’s Passion at Classic Stage Company was stunning in its elegance and simplicity.  It’s the way that musical should always be staged.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  I’m a director for a reason – I don’t enjoy being in the spotlight!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Any one of Shakespeare’s original productions, but especially Measure for Measure or Titus Andronicus.  These are his problem plays and it would be fascinating to see if the same “problems” existed back then or if they worked for that audience.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I generally don’t enjoy watching TV, but I did watch the entire season of "How to Get Away With Murder" during a long flight from Latin America recently.  It was trashy and salacious in the best possible way.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I enjoyed teaching when I was first out of grad school.  I imagine I’ll go back to that one day.

What’s up next?: I have four different new works under development.  I’m guessing the fall will bring lots of staged readings!

For more on Craig, visit http://www.craigjgeorge.com/