Mastering the demanding art of directing
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Directing a theater production is a bit of a balancing act. The director must weigh all options, from the minute, in-the-moment acting decisions to whether a big chunk of money is spent on a fabulous set piece. Personalities are managed everywhere: in rehearsals, in production meetings, in design.
Kristin Clippard has walked this tightrope many times, and loves every minute of it.
Director Kristin Clippard is flanked by Allyson Malandra (as Miss Kate Hardcastle) and Luke Millington-Drake (as Young Charles Marlow), actors in She Stoops to Conquer. Photo by Thomas Eslinger.
“It’s satisfying to be the person who can bring a lot of talented people together to create this baby, this new living, breathing thing,” says Clippard, who will direct She Stoops to Conquer, the final production of the 2012-2013 University Theatres Mainstage season. “I love collaborating. I love working with people to find the right solutions, to find the perfect moment that makes everything work.”
Clippard, a student in the University of Iowa theater arts department’s Master of Fine Arts program, will direct her eighth play at the UI when She Stoops to Conquer opens at 8 p.m. Friday, April 19. The production runs through April 27 in E.C. Mabie Theatre in the UI Theatre Building.
Think maintaining your social network and trudging through online dating is challenging? Not to mention dealing with your dysfunctional family? Step back 240 years to a time when things were just as difficult (but hilariously so). She Stoops to Conquer features an upstanding country girl named Kate Hardcastle and a socially awkward city boy named Charles Marlow. After Charles flubs their first meeting, Kate disguises herself as a barmaid to get to know him better. Meanwhile, another couple attempts to elope with the help of Tony Lumpkin, who attempts to pinch the family jewels of the Hardcastle house. The audience will follow awkward lovers through courtship, see city slickers manage mistaken identities, and watch a family debacle while Kate corrects the mistakes of a night.
“It’s a very fun show; the audience can expect to laugh,” Clippard says of the show, which contains adult themes and is not suitable for children.
By Oliver Goldsmith
Directed by Kristin Clippard
E.C. Mabie Theatre
8 p.m., April 19-20, April 25-27
2 p.m., April 21
Tickets are $17 ($12 for senior citizens, $10 for youth, and $5 for UI students with valid UI ID) and are available through the Hancher Box Office in the Old Capitol Town Center, 319-335-1160, 800-426-2437, www.hancher.uiowa.edu/tickets.
The Department of Theatre Arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For accommodations at the production, contact the Department of Theatre Arts at 319-335-2700. For a UI arts calendar and details about upcoming events visit the new Arts Iowa website.
Clippard’s path toward theater arts is a tried-and-true story: as a youth, she and her siblings would put on plays for her grandparents at home; eventually she started doing drama through school. The light bulb moment that the pursuit of theater was tangible happened when she performed the role of Thelma “Mama” Cates (“I always played those roles, because I was tall,” Clippard says) in ‘night, Mother at a state conference for thespians.
“Basically the play is about a despondent daughter telling her mother that she intends to kill herself, all the while cleaning the house and preparing her mother for life afterward,” Clippard says. “People came up to me afterward, crying as they were so affected by the play. I couldn’t believe that theater could do that to people. I would never forget that reaction; I was hooked.”
Clippard would play a number of varied roles on stage, from Adriana in Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival to a convict in a production at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. The Shakespeare tour took her before audiences rural and urban, providing a fabulous experience. “It was cool to perform for students who’d never seen that work before, or for adults gathered in a public library,” she says.
Directing was something Clippard knew she could do well; that role has become her primary focus. She has directed some two dozen productions, workshops, and readings, taking the helm of works by Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Christopher Marlowe, and the Brothers Grimm. One primary attraction to the University of Iowa’s program was the opportunity to, as she puts it, “do, do, do.”
“You’re able to direct a lot of plays while you’re at Iowa, as soon as your first year—that’s not necessarily the norm elsewhere,” says Clippard, who will receive an Master of Fine Arts in May. “I was able to focus on new works here, too. I love Shakespeare, but I was looking for a change of pace, and found that here.”
That change-of-pace style will be on full display with She Stoops to Conquer, as Clippard approaches the work from a mash-up perspective. “My approach is about blending the old with the new and seeing the production through fresh eyes,” she says.