Meet the Directors’ Studio
In an effort to continue its vision to provide a training ground for the next generation of theatre artists, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has launched its first-ever Directors’ Studio, a series of workshops and discussions designed to investigate the craft of theatrical direction created for local, early-career directors. By application, six directors have been selected for the 2015–2016 season’s Directors’ Studio: Catrin Rowenna Davies, Rick Hammerly, Lee Liebeskind, Carter Lowe, Angela Kay Pirko, and Jason Schlafstein.
As these directors collaborate with one another, they will also meet and learn from local and international directors and participate in an evolving dialogue about directing classic works. To kick-start this dialogue, not only among the Directors’ Studio, but between STC, the Directors’ Studio, and the community, we interviewed each of the participants. Over the next month and a half, we will be publishing these interviews, so you can meet and learn about each of our Directors’ Studio members and start participating in this dialogue with us.
Now, without further ado, meet Directors’ Studio participant Catrin Davies.
An Interview with Catrin Davies
Describe your artistic vision/goals:
If your newsfeed is anything like mine, a certain quotation appears with great frequency whenever a senseless tragedy has occurred—9/11, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Tunis, Paris, San Bernardino: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” In context, the sentence completes the following paragraph and is a quotation of Leonard Bernstein in response to the death of John F. Kennedy: “We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same.”
I have had friends question the appropriateness of these sentiments in the face of devastating events. In truth, there have been moments when I also feel that my life in the arts is a poor choice in light of the drama of humanity. Why is making art an important response to the tenuousness of the human condition? How can a symphony or a play be weighty enough to combat ignorance and hate? Wouldn’t we make more progress if we were political and social activists instead of artists?
There are two personal philosophies that speak to this and which guide me as an artist. One is that I believe the arts can be a vocation—a calling that is just as specific as teaching or healing or faith. I would not be as effective in the political arena, for example, as I can be by doing what I am compelled to do. But while this justifies my participation in the arts, why does it matter to anyone else? The answer lies in my second personal philosophy which is that art transforms, not only the artist, but everyone who sees, hears, touches, tastes, and feels it. I believe this at a visceral level. I do not suggest that every good novel or great performance will persuade someone to change their opinion about prejudice or violence, but I am an convinced that it opens them up to the possibility of change.
As a director and a performer, the arts bring me great joy, and a greater understanding of who I am. To me, this knowledge and growth, this transformation, is the purpose of art, and is why I am an artist. I will end with a quotation from a poet, Welsh like me, with whose sentiments I totally agree:
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”—Dylan Thomas
What do you hope to learn from the Directors’ Studio?
It is a chance to learn from incredible mentors in a give-and-take environment, to brainstorm with other emerging local directors in a non-competitive arena, to have a more structured and formal educational platform, and to be able to bring the acquired knowledge back to my chosen art-form—opera—and apply it in full.
What got you started in the arts?
It started in the second grade with a St. Patrick’s Elementary Day School production of The Sound of Music, in which I was asked to play Gretel. (Ethan McSweeney was our Captain Von Trapp. Truly. I have photos.) But that led to other musicals, plays, operettas, and opera; poetry recitation competitions and piano recitals; church choirs, chamber choirs, and a capella groups. And then directing.
What’s your dream show to direct?
I would choose to direct Verdi’s Otello. My first professional opera chorus job with the Baltimore Opera was a production of Otello. It was huge and overwhelming, confused and thrilling, had an aging superstar soprano and (due to vocal health and other complications) four Otellos. I have been enamored of it ever since.
Does the idea of directing classical theatre scare you, excite you, or both?
As primarily a director of opera, classical theatre is what I gravitate towards. For me, spoken verse has a musical quality and form which I find dramatically and aesthetically compelling.
Catrin Rowenna Davies has directed at Peabody Conservatory, Live Arts Maryland, Lyric Opera Baltimore, Opera Delaware, Harford Community College, Annapolis Chorale, Harbor Opera, Towson University, and the Figaro Project. Davies received her graduate performance diploma from the Peabody Institute.