Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spotlight On...Josh Hecht

Name: Josh Hecht

Hometown: NYC, Baby!

Wesleyan University

Favorite Credits: Allison Moore's Slasher at The Humana Festival; Bradford Louryk's Christine Jorgensen Reveals at New World Stages, Brian Sutow's The Personals at No Rules / Signature Theatre DC, Wearing Lorca's Bowtie at The Duke, Anna Ziegler's BFF at the DR2.  But of course, I love all my babies equally...

Why theater?: Many years ago, I remember Lucy Thurber telling me that she went into theater because it helped her feel less lonely.  At the time, I didn't really understand what she meant, but I knew instinctively that I agreed.  But now I think that when people say that, they mean that the theater has a unique ability to enlarge our souls.  It's what Jung would call a “trans-personal experience,” one of the few times in our life when we somehow are able to be inside another person.  Me, the actor, the playwright and finally, the audience – all of us are together for a few moments inhabiting a character, seeing ourselves in one another, having the same experience.  What a rare thing that is.

Tell us about The Clearing?:
What a beautiful play Jake has written.  The play is about two brothers who witnessed terrible tragedy when they were age 7 and 10 and impulsively decided not to tell anyone what they saw.  The play opens 18 years later, when the younger brother –  a sensitive man in his late twenties who has spent his life devoted to his lonesome mother and life-impaired brother – finds himself in love for the first time.  Together, they must all decide whether they have the courage to break the dynamic that has kept them locked in their grief for nearly two decades.  It's an incredibly intimate play about moving on.  But it's also highly theatrical, and these designers have managed to bring an entire forest clearing into the Theatre at St. Clement's.  Mostly, though, it's been so wonderful to work on something this deeply felt.

What inspired you to direct The Clearing?: I first encountered the play when I was on a committee evaluating plays for a contest in the Hudson Valley.  About a year later, the artistic director of a company called Axial Theatre asked me if I'd be interested in directing the play at his theater.  There's such a beautiful longing in the play, I instantly responded to it.  And I had a vision for how this play, which is set at the edge of a gorge in the middle of a woods in someplace like Upstate New York, could fit inside that theater, which uses a beautiful, century-old stone church that has been converted into a theater.  The Theatre at St. Clement's, an historic off-Broadway theater, is similarly a church that has been converted into a beautiful theater space.  I think the play engages the space around it in a wonderfully theatrical way.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that makes me feel something, whether it's funny or touching, quirky or deeply sad.  I go to the theater to be moved, to be in touch with our common humanity.  To learn about myself and others.  The theater does this through empathy, it seems to me, rather than through the intellect. Most of my work is with new plays, but I'll say that one of the things I've enjoyed about making and teaching devised theater is that it teaches us that inspiration is found everywhere.  When you start to become aware of it, you can find little compositions in the most mundane daily life around us.  This stuff, this ephemera, the dailiness of our lives, when it's put on a stage, can show us the most touching parts of our humanity.  That's what inspires me: the pathos and humor of our human experience. As for who it is that inspires me, perhaps I'll just say that I've learned most from the writers who have taught me to understand and accept the parts of myself (and of all of us) I want not to look at; the actors who have been fearless in transferring deep emotion onto strangers; the designers who have challenged me to be bolder, more spare, more theatrical, more lush; the directors who have shown me ways to see the unseeable; and producers who  find ways to say yes (even when they are saying no).

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Oh wow.  There are so many people on my “hit list” – writers, actors, designers.  But the thing that comes to mind when you ask me this question is: it be great to build something from the ground up with a movement person.  I haven't done something like that since I created Heliantha with Rachel Schroeder at Dixon Place, DTW and the Berkshire Theatre Festival back in '08.  That was a very different experience for me than what I'm used to.  I miss that kind of wordless collaboration, maybe because in my daily life I'm so verbal (in case you hadn't noticed! Keep it brief, Hecht!).

What show have you recommended to your friends?: In the last year, it's been Old Hats, Machinal, Marie Antoinette...but I was also out of town much of the fall, so I'm a little behind!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: This question cracks me up.  Oh the pressure to be mordant with the title!  Okay, okay, um... Bradley Cooper [cuz why not, it's a fantasy, right?]  in “I Can't Believe You Asked Me to Come Up with the Title when Everyone KNOWS that's the Hardest Part of any Play/Movie/Book!” (gotcha!)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Reality television.  There, I said it.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Damn it – new iphone. Technology shortcut fail! The other day I found myself listening to Patsy Cline, John Hartford and ol Willie Nelson.  Maybe it's this show, but I was in a classic Americana mood.  So, can I answer most-recently-remembered, rather than most-played?

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _______?: A Therapist.  I like understanding why people do what they do.

What’s up next?: Workshops, workshops, workshops.  I have 6 new play and musical workshops, both in town and out of town, in the next three months!  (Another thing I love about directing: going from world to world to world...)  So it's a lot of time on the road. I think of it as “R&D” for the next two years of productions.  But I'm also trying to carve out some time for a prose writing project I've started that I'm loving working on – something new for me.  The next thing people can come see are presentations of Anna Moench's play HUNGER at BRIC in March.