The talented and sought after, Leslie Kincaid Burby, has brought success to WorkShop with her salient direction of The Navigator and The Chekhov Dreams, the productions receiving notable attention with Drama Desk nominations and NYIT Award wins. Here’s what Leslie has to say about A La Carte:
What was it about directing all 6 plays that appealed to you? What was the biggest challenge?
I have to admit that I was pretty stunned when artistic director Thomas Cote asked me to take on this project. The thought of directing 6 new plays, including a couple of pretty intense dramas, seemed overwhelming. Thomas had great faith in me, and encouraged me to take the leap. He felt that having one director would give the evening a cohesiveness that would feel more like a whole event, rather than a typical one act festival of unrelated plays.
One of the biggest hurdles was actually casting the plays. It was a lot of roles to fill, and all very demanding in their own way. We ended up doubling several actors into more than one piece, which I think is fun and also helps tie the evening together with a nice company feel. Another big challenge was getting all of the scripts re-written and edited in time for rehearsal. Some of the pieces continued to get re-writes throughout the rehearsal process. I am used to dealing with one writer quite intensively as I work on a new play. Keeping track of the thoughts and suggestions of six writers was certainly a challenge. Once I actually got into rehearsal for these plays I felt ecstatic to be working on such great writing, and with such talented actors and designers. It was a real treat.
Leslie, since you worked for years as an actor you know what opening night is like from that perspective. But what’s opening night feel like as a director? What is the process for you after a show opens?
Yes, for actors, opening is a total game changer and then the run begins. And for me, every piece I direct feels different for me on opening night. Sometimes I feel sad when a play opens because I don’t get to share in the fun of playing the piece before an audience. After all the hard work of organizing, coaching, and brainstorming, I miss being on the play’s team sometimes. With A La Carte, however, I felt delighted to watch the actors take over and bring their art to performance level. Many of the pieces really demand an audience, and become frustrating to rehearse without that audience response. The team was really needing to open, and I felt like a proud mom watching them go off on their adventures.
After opening, I generally keep an eye on any show that I direct, and occasionally give notes if an actor is open to that. Otherwise I confine my participation to pointing out any technical issues to the stage manager, and clapping enthusiastically. It is often interesting to notice how I don’t need to give notes as actors usually have a good internal barometer and correct their own courses once they are in performance mode. I also enjoy catching up on my sleep!