Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spotlight On...Jean Randich

Name: Jean Randich

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Education: BA, MA, Brown University; MFA, Yale School of Drama

Favorite Credits: Antigone, Cabaret, The Dispute, The Don Juan Project, Girl Under Grain, Gum, The Floating Box, Lemkin’s House, Love, Sex and Death in the Amazon, Peer Gynt, Six Characters Looking for an Author, The Unknown

Why theater?: Theater, from the Greek “theatron,” “the seeing place” is the place where people gather to see what it is to be human. If you are lucky, you see Other and Self in a deeper, ancestral way, and awake to our interconnectedness. The mysteries of life, death, love, and sex are all there for us in this ancient game of entrances and exits.

Tell us about Collider Theater and Love, Sex and Death in the Amazon: Collider Theater is based on the idea of a particle collider. I see it as a theatrical accelerator in which one can smash together cultures to see how they collide, interact, and behave. In a sense, it’s a laboratory version of New York City. Robert Murphy and I celebrate diversity, but acknowledge that it doesn’t always go hand in hand with tolerance. We hope to stage plays in which this intercultural tension is explored. In “Love, Sex and Death in the Amazon,” we explore what happens when an atheist American has to help his late partner’s overbearing mother perform Afro-Brazilian Umbanda rituals in the Amazon rain forest. That’s when the spirit world decides to mess with these flawed, impatient humans who can’t let go.

What inspired you to direct Love, Sex and Death in the Amazon?: Robert Murphy and I have been good friends and collaborators since we met at Yale years ago. I also knew his partner and watched Bob negotiate the illness, care-giving, death, and grieving. But when he started to write about it, something magical emerged. The play is an evocative dream, a love story, a ghost dance. What I love about working on this show is that so much loss – the loss of Robert Murphy’s partner to leukemia, the loss of the world of Brazil to the playwright – creates so much mystery and joy. It inspired Bob to write the play, the designers to create such exotic beauty, the actors to dream these characters into life, and the creation of Collider Theater, itself. Playwright Karen Hartman describes Robert Murphy’s semi-autobiographic work as "A love story that defies all stereotypes. Moving, unexpected, hilarious and humane." We run through 31 October, so I would urge everyone who loves a juicy story to come out and see it.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that is as complex and elemental as life. I like a balance of the artificial with the real so that they play off each other. I also respond to the grotesque contrast of sublime and profane, raw and spiritual, heady and visceral. I love imagistic theater in which the composition of space/time echoes the turns in the plot, or the dilemma of the characters. I love rhythm as a structuring element of how an experience moves through space and time. It corresponds to our heartbeat, to Shakespearean iambic, to how our eyes see. I have been inspired by artists I have worked with: Mia Katigbak and the National Asian American Theater Company, Ping Chong, Dana Reitz, Karen Hartman, Catherine Filloux, Sarah Cameron Sunde and Susan Bernfield of New Georges, but also by the designers and actors who collaborate with me. People give so much of their time to these projects for so little remuneration. They do it because they are artists, and they create out of love. That inspires me to be the best I can be for them, too, as well as for the audiences.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to work with Steven Hoggett of Frantic Assembly, or Simon McBurney of Complicite. Their styles connect the physical to the emotional/intellectual in stunning, inexplicable ways. You always leave their work with new eyes – new ways of seeing.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Gob Squad’s Before Your Very Eyes.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: This is really hard to answer. Since we’re fantasizing here, I’ll say that Elena Ferrante should write the movie, and it should cover a lifetime, as her intoxicating Neapolitan novels do. I should be played by four actors, I think, maybe 5. One of them should be the young Jeanne Moreau – Catherine in “Jules et Jim.” I like her turbulence, spontaneity, intelligence, and recklessness. Unknown first time actors should also be in the mix. Maybe one of my avatars could be a fish. Title: "Writ in Water".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: If we’ve got a time machine, I’d take it to Elizabethan England and check out everything on and behind the scenes with the Chamberlain’s Men and the King’s Men. Would be great to find out how much devising figured into the work of Shakespeare. I’d also LOVE to fly on Mozart’s shoulder and watch him whip Figaro and Don Giovanni into life.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Coffee. And nature. Being in it. Gardening. Just watching the wind in the trees.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Reading, writing, doing more yoga, gardening.

What’s up next?: I’m working on a new opera by Kitty Brazelton, The Art of Memory, about St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. And I’m also directing a reading for Dutch Kills Theater of a new play, Sanctuary, North, by Robert Schneider. It’s about Ernest Hemingway’s youngest son, Gigi, who became a doctor, but moved to Montana where he secretly battled bi-polar disorder and his compulsion to cross-dress. And Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is coming up in the spring.

For more on Jean, visit