Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spotlight On...Chris O'Connor

Name: Chris O'Connor

Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Education: BFA in acting from Carnegie-Mellon University; MFA in directing from Rutgers University

Favorite Credits: Recent favorites for acting: George in Billy Elliot at Maltz Jupiter Theatre and Art at Mile Square Theatre. Directing: Circle Mirror Transformation at MST.

Why theater?: I’m completely inspired by the magic of theatre. The idea that people will agree to enter a darkened room together and engage in a ritual of belief is truly beautiful to me. I’m proud to be a member of the theatre community and thrilled to have a venue that is a platform for theatre-making.

Tell us about Mile Square Theatre: We have a new space, which we opened in April 2016. We are a professional non-profit theatre modeled as a regional theatre, so we have a broad mission. We produce a broad range of theatrical styles and genres; the classics, contemporary drama, new works, and are committed to producing theatre for young audiences. Last year we did our first premiere, Joseph Gallo’s Long Gone Daddy, and this year we are producing Erin Mallon’s new play The Net Will Appear. Most of us are teaching artists as well, so we have a strong thrust as an educational organization. We offer classes at our space and we are doing a lot of work with the local schools.

What inspired you to create Mile Square Theatre?: I started MST in 2003 (while getting my MFA in directing at Rutgers) because I saw a need for art and theatre in Hoboken and Hudson County. I found it strange that there was no professional theatre on this side of the Hudson, yet just a river crossing away was arguably the greatest theatre city in the world. I wanted to create an arts organization that had a cultural impact on its community.

Why is theater in Hoboken important?: I’ve lived here for 20 years and I love this city. Like any city, having a rich arts environment and cultural landscape is key to its quality of life. Theatre has a unique way of engaging with the community; it involves a lot of people, it gets people talking, it can educate, and when you have a venue, the impact is multiplied because it gives a platform for other artists and events. It also spurs economic development. It’s great for business!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love so many forms of theatre. I do want to be moved when I go to the theatre. I want the visceral punch of feeling the emotional depth of performance. I was blown away by Ivo Van Hove’s A View from the Bridge recently. The raw emotion of that piece was not only in the actors but in the brilliant design. There was spectacle in that, but I can be just as satisfied by seeing a pair of actors alone on stage. It’s inspiring to know that you can work with what you have and make moving work.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Bill Irwin

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently, I saw The Skin of Our Teeth at Theatre for New Audience. It was a beautiful production of a fascinating play that continues to have relevance, particularly now. I recommended it to friends and to my directing students.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Hugh Jackman, of course. “Hugh Jackman in O’Connor’s Folly"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: My very boring answer is basketball. I love to play and I love to watch it.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A struggling musician!

What’s up next?: I’m directing Betrayal by Harold Pinter at Mile Square Theatre

For more on Mile Square Theatre, visit www.milesquaretheatre.org