« Submit Your Scripts to the Free Screenplay Contest | Main | Calling All Indie Filmmakers! »

Q&A with Director Sue Lawless

Last week I saw a depressing yet deeply satisfying drama called No Entrance by Alec Gutherz, directed by Sue Lawless at Access Theatre. Unfortunately the run is over, but Lawless, a Broadway veteran director (The Five O'Clock Girl) and a Drama Desk nominee (Best Director, In Gay Company) is a name you've likely seen or that you'll see again.

No Entrance is, or was, a series of intertwining playlets that range from a mother obstructing her son's football game (played by Alison Edwards and Christopher Cole), to two strangers in a bus station (Matthew Stapleton and Emily Loeb), to a particularly chilling, ambiguous scene between two soldiers who fought in Iraq (Cole and Jacob Troy). Each character has a substantial arc in every scene, and although the scenery never changes, I genuinely believed in every setting. Impressed by this, I decided to do a Q&A with Lawless.

Q: As a Broadway veteran director, what's it like to work with a scrim and a couple of chairs?

A: Never endingly daunting. It's different when you have a huge budget and top of the line designers, access to extraordinary talent at the top of their game, a well paid union crew, not to mention a decent rehearsal tech time. In No Entrance it is only the words, the actors, volunteer dedicated crew, a few well-focused lights, clothes from home, limited rehearsal time and space...putting that together is tricky. But there's joy in it when you tell yourself and your actors:  focus, no distractions, get the audience in your lap, discover, no second guessing, do it by acting. 

Q: Almost every character in the show had a very distinct, powerful story, as  well as considerable stage time. How did you get each of the actors to shine in 90 minutes?

A:  One of my feelings about actors, of whom I have always been in constant awe, is that they simply show the way.  Young or inexperienced actors sometimes don't understand that.  Close to studies they sometimes can't grasp that no one is going to tell them what to do.  One must do homework; must understand their character; do research.  Bring in choices.  The director helps them to find their position in the overall interpretation of The Play.  When it is a play of ideas and perhaps surrealism as Alec's, there is a thin line between reality and "playing" abstract.  I stick basically to what is termed the Stanislavsky method.  Abstract is interpretation of emotion, but you have to have the emotion first. 

Q: What do you value to most in an actor?

How obvious is it to say talent, but also important is a work ethic; a technique, a desire to work arduously to contribute to the play.  An ensemble ability at the same time of understanding their own particular role and shining in it.  I enjoy actors who challenge me and me question the 'why' of a scene.  I like those who show me 40 ways of saying "I love you" and make me believe it. I adore actors who make me laugh, are pleasant to be around.  I worship actors who are gifted.   However,  confession, there are times when one is willing to trade some of the above for a good solid actor who is a dependable company person. 

 Q:....and what characteristics make you cringe?

Characteristics that make me cringe are of course the exact oppositeI take my beloved profession very seriously.Theatre is not for the sissy.   This isn't something you do on weekends.  Anyone who calls themselves a professional actor can't think of it as an entertainment, something they do that their friends will admire or perhaps even dismiss, or "well, maybe when I grow up, I won't want to do this but isn't it fun...." I become enraged with lack of preparation, attitude, diva-ism, and above all indifference as if it were not a real career or profession or even craft.   I even believe it is good to have to sacrifice for your art.  Yes, wait on tables, but take the acting job first.  You don't need a flat screen and taxi rides.  If you do have it, spend it on the gym, acting classes, and attending the arts. 

---Halley Bondy

Dig This


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Q&A with Director Sue Lawless:


The comments to this entry are closed.