Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spotlight On...Isaac Byrne

Name: Isaac Byrne

Hometown: Granbury Texas

Education: BA in English, Schreiner University

Favorite Credits: The Other Mozart is probably the most successful and the most important show I've been blessed to be a part of, “In Vestments” was probably the most challenging, To Nineveh was one of the most fun plays I've gotten to work on, and 52 Man Pick Up is maybe the wildest and most unpredictable show I've ever directed. As an actor “Butcher Holler Here We Come” is a pretty special show for me.

Why theater?: I’m just not happy doing anything else. I'm a fighter and an idealist. I'm not gonna cure cancer, make solar power replace oil, and I'm not a politician. Theatre is where I feel I can actually reach people. Give them a thrill and hopefully widen their point of view a little bit. It may not reach everyone, but sometimes in a small dark theatre, sometimes you can really affect someone and create a connection and an understanding with them that alters you both forever.

Tell us about Kiss It, Make It Better: It's such a beautiful, sweet, and searingly honest play. It starts out so sweet and innocent and gets real fucked up. But it somehow stays sweet and beautiful. Erika Phoebus is a goddamn poet. She found a way to tell the story of these two kids whose life just kind of mauls but they fight it with love and grace and innocence--and somehow it never shies away from the darkness and also never loses its natural human innocence. Usually when you see art about trauma and assault, it hits all the darkness, terror, and sadness but skips the recovery part. You know, the real struggle. The part that's messy, confusing, tedious, and human. “Kiss It, Make It Better” takes you through it all. These rehearsals are wild rides. Last night we laughed rehearsing one scene until we were all red in the face and crying tears of joy. And then at the end of the rehearsal, one of the actors and a producer just sat and cried for about 15 minutes.

What made you want to direct Kiss It, Make It Better?: Erika Phoebus. She's awesome. I asked my wife to be a silent nun in a show last year called “In Vestments” and to make it more fun for my wife, I asked Erika to be one of the other nuns because they're good friends. I got to know Erika over the run of the show and she told me about this play she was writing.  I convinced her to show me what she had written so far. We were waiting in line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets and she gave me a scene to read. When you laugh out loud more than once reading a scene for the first time in public and then end up wiping tears away by the end of it--you know you just read something special. It was as honest and dark as anything I'd ever directed but also maybe more hopeful and sweet than anything I've ever worked on.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Anything honest and risky. Sometimes it's the magnitude of the idea, like Mr. Burns. My god, Anne Washburn was just fearless writing that. I like the popular stuff that's all about the excellent artistic execution of it, like Hamilton or Curious Incident. Mostly whatever I'm watching needs good solid acting and some real humanity. I love the New York Neo Futurists. They're so messy and chaotic but so incredibly brave.  I just like to see people doing something vulnerable. Makes me want to be brave, and I think we all need help being brave.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Anne Washburn would pretty fun and challenging. I just never know what to expect with her plays. Sarah Ruhl would be a very close second.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Well it's closed now but I pushed the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening like my life depended on it. Michael Arden probably won't get the Tony for directing but he deserves it. I always recommend the New York Neo Futurists because even when they have an off night you're going to remember and talk about whatever they did for a long while. The Honeycomb Trilogy was fucking awesome. Mac Rogers is a badass. I'm betting his next one, Universal Robots, will be awesome too. So I'll push that one, I'm sure.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Russell Crowe, since Hoffman is dead, and he's the next most appropriately paunchy enough to pull it off. Let's see...let's call it "JEHOSHAPHAT". No real reason. I just like the name. I mean it has "phat" in it.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Eleonora Duse in Hamlet. Or Maria Callas in Tosca.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sleep.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Miserable. I mean maybe I could be moderately happy in TV or film, but I'd miss theatre.

What’s up next?: I'll be switching gears and performing onstage in a short run of Butcher Holler again at IRT in July.