Our 1st Directors Salon Alum Q&A – Isobel Bruce & Rebecca Martinez on directing short plays from Uruguay presented by Ingenue Theatre

We are so psyched to feature our Directors Salon Alums on our blog throughout the rest of the summer!  It’s crazy to think about how many of our alums are directing, self-producing, performing, and devising over the month of August – actually, it’s not so crazy, as they’re some really talented guys and gals and we’re so proud of what they’re doing – and really excited that Salon alums are collaborating.  Check out our first Alum Q&A with 2012 Salon director (and former Working Theater intern) Isobel Bruce and 2011 Salon director (and 2012 Salon Production Manager) Rebecca Martinez.  Shortly after this past April’s Salon, Isobel started a company called Ingenue, and they’ve been holding evenings of short new work at Cocoa Bar’s backyard in Park Slope.  Now they’re moving to Jimmy’s No. 43 to present an evening of short new plays in translation from writers from Uruguay.  The best part?  The night features work directed by three of our Directors Salon alums – Isobel, Rebecca, and 2012 Salon director Tracy Francis!

Keep reading to find out more about Isobel and Rebecca’s experiences directing in the Working Theater Directors Salon as well as their projects that will be performed this Sunday evening.

Tell us briefly about your experiences directing in the 2nd & 3rd Annual Working Theater Directors Salons. Is there anything you have taken from that experience into other projects?

Isobel: I entered the draw to direct a piece in the Salon kind of on impulse but I am so pleased and grateful that I did. I was given a really wonderful short play called Bee by Bekah Brunstetter and stellar actors to work with. It felt like a very safe and supportive space to work within. It also allowed me to realize in more tangible terms what it was I wanted to do and that I was actually capable of doing it.  That sort of realization is hard to come by!

Luke, Dina and Nicole are all young directors themselves and so they understand what other directors really need. Mark Plesent, of Working Theater, is an incredibly generous soul to enable this event to happen every year. That is really what makes the Directors Salon such a unique and special space. I interned at Working Theater from my very first week in New York and Dina directed me in a reading as part of the first Salon. It’s an event that I feel very inspired by. I feel lucky to have watched it grow from the very beginning and to have been a part of it!

Rebecca: In 2011 I participated as one of the 7 directors chosen to direct scenes from Waiting for Lefty. We were given 5 hours of rehearsal time and 20 minutes of tech time to put the scene together.  I hadn’t read the play before or met either of the two actors playing Joe and Edna, so I knew I had to make some quick choices about what to prioritize in the rehearsal process.  I also instantly invited the actors (Philip Callen and Kate Benson) to be active collaborators and trusted their instincts.  In this short process, our goal was simplicity and clarity in storytelling.  And since I’ve been collaborating with 2012 Directors Salon alum Isobel Bruce on a couple of these evenings of 10-minute plays, it’s a skill I am continuing to develop.

Isobel, you started Ingenue Theatre soon after the Salon – did your experience have anything to do with starting this company?

The first 10 Minute Plays event at Cocoa Bar in Park Slope

Isobel: In some ways, yes, it certainly galvanized my need to be creating again and I knew that I needed to grab the bull by the horns in making that happen. And The Directors Salon not only provided a space within which to work but through it I formed some very important connections and friendships. It suddenly felt like a lot of dots began to connect. I was offered a space to hold an event at Cocoa Bar in Park Slope, where I first began to host Ten Minute Plays. I then realized that I could expand this evening into a community and this community could take the form of a theatre company and this theatre company would be called Ingenue.  I liked the idea that by starting a company I would not only be allowing myself to do work that interests and inspires me but I might be able to offer artists and friends in my community that I respect and care about the chance to work themselves. And it makes me learn skills that don’t come naturally to me, like the organizational skills necessary to successfully produce! At the moment I am just taking things as they come and seeing what picture these dots I am connecting make.

 With four directors and plays from miles away, The 10 Minute Plays from Uruguay seem to be about collaboration with various artists. How and when was this installment conceived?

Isobel: Again, it was all a matter of things coming together. The writers from Uruguay were referred to me by a friend of my mother’s, Anthony Fletcher, who is a wonderful writer and director from London. He works in Uruguay every year and wondered whether my event could work as a platform for their work in New York. My focus and passion has always been new writing and collaboration. I think it is especially important and interesting to hear voices that we are not used to hearing. What really struck me about these pieces was that they offered a completely different perspective and I think that that is what I am always looking for when I go to the theatre myself.

Why did you choose to have a bilingual installment?

Isobel: The installment is not intended to be bilingual in that all the pieces being presented are predominantly in English and will be readily understood by those in the audience who do not speak Spanish. I think that all of the directors involved, myself included, felt that it was important to acknowledge the original language. The language in all four plays is rich, alive and very immediate. It’s stylistically very different from the way language is used in a lot contemporary American theatre, which often has an emphasis on sparse, focused dialogue. I think this rich and languid use of language asked us to draw upon the original language to see how this could inform our interpretations.

Tell us about your pieces from Uruguay.  What has the rehearsal process been like?  What has been a challenge?

Isobel: I am presenting a short section of a very beautiful full-length play by Gabriel Calderon called Or. It is a bold and courageous play, heavily stylized, which I find hugely interesting to work with. In short, it is set in the small town of Or in Uruguay where the disappearance of young girls is largely blamed upon the military, which is strongly present in the town, but it turns out that the real answer may be harder to swallow.

So, the challenge for me has been to realize the piece to its full potential- there is so much going on in this piece! We are rehearsing all weekend and I have a really wonderful group of actors involved who are thoroughly committed facing the challenges this play offers head on. I anticipate it will be a lot of fun and I have a lot of ideas that I am looking forward to playing with.

Rebecca: “The standard girl opens one of Marosa’s books; she gets wet, and her brain loses its virginity” is the title of the play from Uruguay that I am working on, and as the title indicates, it is a surrealistic piece, an artist’s response to the writings of Marosa DiGiorgio, an acclaimed Uruguayan writer.  Written in monologue form, it tracks the journey of a “standard girl” looking for a way to stand out from the crowd and discovers that words are the key.  I am working with Colombian actor Laura Riveros on this play and our focus is on clarity of storytelling and finding the emotional journey of the character amidst the density of ideas in the text.

Rebecca, what is it like working on a new play in translation?

Rebecca: We received the script in it’s original Spanish and a translated version.  Laura and I are both bilingual in English and Spanish and we decided to present the play in English, with just a few Spanish phrases.  Our first rehearsal involved going through both versions of the script to clarify intentions of lines.  In a few places, we needed to change the English version to be more grammatically and idiomatically correct.  We have also been in conversation with Luciana Lagisquet, the playwright, about phrases that could have multiple meanings.  Each Spanish-speaking country has it’s own idiomatic phrases and we had to ascertain whether certain phrases were colloquialisms or surrealistic images.  It’s been an interesting challenge.

Ingenue seems to be currently focused on presenting short plays – are full-length productions a future goal for you? What’s next for Ingenue?

A performer at 10 Minute Plays at Cocoa Bar in Park Slope

Isobel: Presenting short plays seemed to be a practical way to begin the process as a producing artist and I love that format for it’s accessibility and the opportunities it provides for emerging artists. One thing that I love about the events so far is the informality. What I mean by that is that I think that I like to think of these evenings as being a slightly elaborate open-mic. I like the rough and ready feel, the bravery of the artists involved and the friendly, respectful audiences that I have been so lucky to host. I am thoroughly committed to continuing Ten Minute Plays for the foreseeable future.

I would love to produce a full-length play. There are some ideas in the works and it may be that we are tackling a full production before the year is out! As I said, I am just taking everything as it comes!

Rebecca, what kind of work are you drawn to as a director?  What is your “dream play” to direct?

Rebecca: I come from a devised theater background, so I am drawn to new works that involve the cast in collaborative creation.  Since I am also a devised choreographer, I am interested in creating works that involve music and movement in the storytelling.  I am interested in the role movement and dance play in furthering narrative and my goal is to continue exploring the intersection between the two.

Isobel, as a grass-roots company, what do you want the audience think about and walk away with, while drinking their fine Jimmy’s no 43 brew?

Isobel: We live in a city where there are 1000 things to do on any given night. I hope that anyone who gives us their time (and money) to come and watch a night of theatre will walk away feeling like they experienced something they might not necessarily have expected. Theatre is not always about watching polished productions or jazz hand-filled musical numbers on Broadway, those things are wonderful, but I think one important role of theatre is to confront audiences with something that is alive, developing and growing before your very eyes. I joked the other day that I hate 3D cinema, I think that it is pointless and if I want to watch something in 3D I go to the theatre. I was being facetious but it is kind of true, for me.

Rebecca, what’s next for you?

Isobel Bruce and Rebecca Martinez performing in “Borderline Bushwick,” curated by Tracy Francis.

Rebecca: My next project is performing in or what she will for the NYC Fringe Festival, directed by 2012 Directors Salon alum Illana Stein!  I love that the Salon is not just about getting a chance to direct, but also forming a community of theater folk who can draw on each other’s talents.  After this project, I am working as an performer/creator with Sojourn Theatre and The TEAM on the devised play, Waiting for You…, which was commissioned by Kansas City Repertory Theater.  As a director/creator, I am collaborating on what I call The Latina Project,a play about the non-immigrant American Latina experience.  And, for fun, I’m working on a dance theater piece titled The Joy Project:  The Show of Funny Dances or One Man Looking for Love.

Join Ingenue Theatre for an evening dedicated to short plays from Uruguay. The writers are so excited to be showcasing their work in NYC for the very first time!

The line-up:

Libertad (Freedom)
Written by Santiago Sanguinetti
Directed by Kate Downey

A White Night
Written by Ines De La Brusela
Directed by Tracy Francis

Selections from OR 
Written by Gabriel Calderon
Directed by Isobel Bruce

The standard girl opens one of Marosa’s books…
Written by Luciana Laguisqet
Directed by Rebecca Martinez

At Jimmy’s No. 43, 43 E. 7th Street.
8pm. $5 . One drink minimum. Bring your friends, bring your roommates, bring your granny.


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