How I Became a Director: Detroit
It’s that time of year again! After the wonderfully rewarding experience we had on “The Actor’s Double Bill” last year, the folks at GASP Theatre Company are back with a new contemporary play to shock and delight audiences in North Carolina’s Triangle area.
As readers at LeBlog know, I’ve been involved in theatre mostly from the performance side of things since I was very young. My high school’s thespian troupe was selected to take a production of Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” to the international festival in Indiana the summer after my senior year, an honor just a handful of high school productions are given each year. I then went on and acquired a BFA in Theatre with a concentration in acting from East Carolina University, where I was fully trained in Sanford Meisner’s technique. Meisner was a member of the Group Theatre, whose approach to the art form and performance revolutionized how the work has been done over the last eighty years. Actors such as Robert DuVall, Naomi Watts, James Caan, Grace Kelly, Christopher Lloyd, John Turturro, Jeff Bridges, James Franco, and many more have received their training through Meisner’s approach.
After spending some time acting in theatre in Chicago in my 20s I relocated back to North Carolina and have continued performing here, as LeBlog readers have seen here, here, and here. Then last year I got the chance to try my hand at directing for the first time in quite a few years and found that I liked it pretty well. The advantages GASP has of a home theater space with full facilities and parking and an established group of artists and patrons to pull from have made our continued work possible.
After last summer’s experiment in broad comedy through the production of a pair of very meta theatrical pieces with differing grasps on reality, we decided to go with something darker and more naturalistic. Lisa D’Amour’s play “Detroit” was first produced at the legendary Steppenwolf theater in Chicago just five years ago and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 and won the prestigious Obie Award for Best New American Play in 2013. I’m not sure how all of those dates work out, but the nature of theatre, with its longer production and performance schedules can lead to such things. The overall point is that the show is both very new and has been rightly recognized as a wonderfully written piece of theatre. Actors such as Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne, The Big Bang Theory), David Schwimmer (Friends, Madagascar), Amy Ryan (Birdman, Gone Baby Gone), and John Cullum (Northern Exposure, 1776) have appeared in professional productions of “Detroit.” Our production of “Detroit” will be its premiere in the Triangle area of North Carolina, the 27th largest media market in the country.
Our cast includes two repeat performers from last year’s “Actor’s Double Bill” in Allison Driskill (far left), who is playing Mary, and Matt Lyles (left center), who plays her husband Ben. We are blessed to be joined this year by Katie Barrett (right center) as Sharon and Daniel Doyle (far right) as Kenny. This quartet plays a pair of couples who become neighbors and strike up a friendship. Ben and Mary have hit a couple of hiccups on their way to achieving the American dream and Sharon and Kenny are new to the neighborhood after having both spent a stint in a drug rehab facility.
One of our primary missions at GASP is to integrate young graduates from founder Kevin Ferguson’s Cardinal Gibbons drama department with veteran performers from around the area. This year we managed to secure the services of Shawn Smith (above on the left), who has been working in regional theatre here for decades. I have had the chance to work with Shawn before and am excited to be able to take advantage of his talents for a key role in our production this year.
The night before opening my friends and I sat down and talked to Alex Matsuo of Triangle on Stage to talk about the newest chapter in the life of GASP.
“Detroit” raises questions about the current state of the American dream, what it might mean to different people, and what exactly second chances are made of. It is the kind of nuanced story that should leave audience members firmly disagreeing with one another as they leave the theater. What actually happened, and why? In the meantime, it also provides real laughs and a fully involving theatrical experience.
Detroit is Playing:
July 31st, August 1st, 6th, 7th, & 8th at 7:30pm
in the studio theatre at Cardinal Gibbons
1401 Edwards Mill Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607