2015 Salon: Q&A with Panelist Daniel Jáquez

SALON WEEK IS HERE! Join us at our Directors’ Roundtable tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17th at 7pm, for a peer-led discussion by the Curators about how we can create our own opportunities as directors, and what kind of challenges we face in doing so. Then, come back to The Wild Project on Wednesday, March 18th at 7pm for our Q&A Panel with professional directors Rachel Chavkin, Alec Duffy, and Daniel Jáquez – directors who we feel have successfully forged their own paths in very different ways. 

Panelist Daniel Jáquez, a freelance director and translator (INTAR’s UNIT52, The Lark Play Development Center’s US/Mexico Playwright Exchange, Calpulli Mexican Dance Theatre) with a background ranging from mathematics to Mexican folklore, took the time to answer a few questions about his work and his advice for emerging directors. Join us on March 18th to be able to ask him your own questions! 

Q. You’ve studied and practiced in several other fields before becoming a theatre director – how have these other areas of experience informed and furthered your work as a director?

A. I assume you are referring to my careers in Mathematics, Choreography, and Mexican Folklore. I wouldn’t know what kind of director I would’ve been if I didn’t have all those experiences. I just know that having “a lot” of “life” experience is always a great thing to bring into the creation of theatre. It allows you to dive deeper into the worlds and characters you are putting on the stage.

Danced for a  Dollar Photograph

2015 Salon Panelist Daniel Jáquez

I like working with large ensembles. From choreography, I learned to be very conscious of how an ensemble moves on stage, what it all means, what each person’s role is in the story I am staging. I try to harness the power of silent communication to deepen the characters’ relationships. It is very important to me to visualize the “movements” of the play, which for me, are not necessarily the scenes. I look for rhythms in story and character. I strive for synchronicity, perfect timing, etc.

From mathematics, I guess I tend to search for logic and patterns, track the progression of the stories I want to focus on. The world around us is so full of complications and the human brain works at many levels, conscious and subconscious, that I like to play brain games with the audience, take into consideration how they will respond to the piece and how I can influence that response with the production elements that are under my control. The text (language) and the characters are always my motivation, where I find the soul and guiding elements, but I geek out on Jon Whitmore’s Directing Postmodern Theater: Shaping Signification in Performance. The book discusses the director’s use of semiotics to take control of the meaning of a particular production. It is fascinating.

From Mexican folklore I look to integrate breath, ritual, community and a lot of cool music into my work.

Q. What are some ways in which emerging directors can create their own opportunities?

The word “emerging” has gotten me into a lot of trouble… but here goes.

I think the most important thing to do is to keep doing the work. Anything, from scene work to readings to attending performances and following theatres and directors you like. I think you can create intimate works most anywhere. Think alternative spaces. Surround yourself by people you’d like to work with and create a company. Meet playwrights and offer to put on a reading of their play. If you don’t have the time or resources to put on a full show, find amazing actors and create a “scene night” for your friends, colleagues, and community. Be a theatre-maker; come up with an idea that interests and inspires you and search out collaborators: writers, composers, visual artists, musicians, and see what comes out of it. Make bold choices. Make a piece about the epic-ness of life, about hope and fate; forget the kitchen sinks and keep us at the edge of our seats, for those are the pieces that will define you.

On a practical note “you gotta know people”, “you gotta get out there,” volunteer to work at fundraising events, work at the reception desk of amazing theatres. Meet everyone and treat them nicely. Work at the bar of a space you like, at the front desk of rehearsal studios, places where you can get to “use” space for free at some point, etc.

Q. Thinking of your trajectory as a director and artist- what is the most helpful piece of advice you’ve received?

A. These quotes were significant enough for me to remember them, and they were triggers that led me to make important choices; it was specific advice at the time, but I don’t think they are necessarily a panacea:

“If you focus on the work you do then the professional relationships will follow.”

“Keep finding the pleasure that comes from working in this field and relish in the fact that you can do it.”

“Keep working everywhere, and anywhere until you find your voice, don’t rush it.”

“Remember that theatre changes lives, it changes communities.”

Q. What relationships related to the field of theater are the most valuable for emerging directors to cultivate?

A. Know who you are and what you can contribute to the telling of stories, to making this a better world through theatre. Know what plays in “the cannon” resonate with you and figure out why. Having said that, I feel you have to cultivate playwrights, theatre-makers and organizations that serve playwrights.

Q. What resources exist in NYC that you recommend to emerging directors?

A. There are many, but these two have been very helpful to me: visit New Dramatists to read new plays and look up the directors’ union SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers Society) and the SDC Foundation.

Daniel Jáquez will be a panelist at the 2015 Directors Salon Q&A Panel along with Alec Duffy and Rachel Chavkin on Wednesday, March 18th at 7pm at The Wild Project. Admission is FREE! Visit us on Facebook to RSVP and learn more about the rest of the lineup for The 5th Anniversary Directors Salon.

Daniel Jáquez, an SDC member, is a freelance director, theater-maker and translator. He is the Director of UNIT52: Intar Theatre’s acting company in training and was Director-Producer of their renowned NewWorks Lab. He is on the advisory committee for The Lark Play Development Center’s US/Mexico Playwright Exchange and is co-founder of Calpulli Mexican Dance Theatre and served for eight years as its Artistic Director. Daniel is an associate artist at Teatro V!da in Springfield, MA and at the Miracle Theatre in Portland, Oregon where he has directed several productions and recently premiered his Dance for a Dollar, co-created with Mariana Carreño. He is a member of the Latino Theatre Commons Steering Committee and a graduate of the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University. www.danieljaquez.com

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