The Elephant in My Closet
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Adam Knight
September 20, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Director and Co-Creator.
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
At Slant Theatre Project our guiding beacon is Emily Dickinson's line "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--" and for me that means creating art that embraces invention as a means of getting to the truth. Or, put another way, art that tries overtly to say something important usually ends up being a sham-fest.
Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I was asked this question last year in Edinburgh, while at a fancy dinner party with these international kids from Oxford. Lots of grandiose words were being thrown around about essence and the importance of voice and audience connection. When it came my turn to answer, I said, "Well I just think it's the best damn thing there is." (Okay, so I was pretending to be a little bit of a cowboy, but it's really how I feel.) I grew up in the theatre and love the minutia of it. I like how things look on stage, and can sense what the lights and sound and staging need to do to make a moment pop. I wish I had that affinity and intuition for film and t.v., but I just can't get into them. I am never as happy as when I am in the dark of the theatre.
How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
David Lee Nelson and I grew up together in South Carolina, then reconnected once we both ended up in New York. I've directed him in two plays and this is our third solo show together. It's great to have that kind of history with a fellow artist -- we've developed an incredible trust and short-hand, and can push each other into territory we'd otherwise be wary of. I like that on our projects it's hard for me to tell where his work ends and mine begins.
Which famous New Jerseyite would like your show the best: Snooki, Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison?
The Boss, of course! Our play is a lot about political identity and when the right time is to stand up and be counted. Springsteen's stumping for Kerry in 2004 took a lot more courage than people realize.
Who are your heroes?
I moved to New York to work on Sam Shepard plays, and I've been lucky enough to take part in two of his productions at Signature Theatre. Though I've grown up a lot since arriving in 2001, and my taste has expanded, in many ways Sam's plays still represent to me what is most visceral and mysterious about the theatrical form.