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Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Rachel Chavkin
October 4, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Director.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I remember seeing a production of THE THREEPENNY OPERA when I was, oh, let's say 4. I was a kid, and Sting was playing Mack the Knife (not that that meant anything to me at the time). The actor playing Mr. Peachum dropped his pocket watch, another actor picked it up and handed it back to him, Mr. Peachum thanked him, and the scene kept going. My dad leaned over and whispered to me, "That wasn't supposed to happen" or something along those lines, and my brain just lit up and I thought, "OH...it's live." I have very few memories of growing up, but for some reason that remains emblazoned on my brain. That's probably why, as an adult artist, I'm so interested in productions so live that they border on chaos.

What was the last show you saw that really excited you, and why?
I just saw COCK this weekend, and I was thrilled by it. I'll see Jason Butler Harner in anything, and I thought the whole cast was phenomenal and odd, making insane choices that were purely theatric. The overall direction and design was just really seamless and sparse.

In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
This show is about a number of things - it is Tolstoy after all. The main story is the scandalous love affair between young Natasha Rostov and Anatole Karagin, an infamous Russian rake, and her near total devastation following the affair. This story runs parallel to the spiritual regeneration of Pierre (which incredibly, Dave performs in addition to having adapted, composed, and music directed the piece), who through his pity for Natasha finds his heart reawakened. But the show is also about the joy of music, community and vodka. It's deeply funny in addition to being sexy and ultimately moving. Audiences are going to leave talking about the space we've created - particularly Mimi Lien's scenic design, Dave's wild score - which veers from beautiful classical arias to raging techno. They're going to talk about how amazing our cast is, and even the many layers of Tolstoy. This may sound ridiculous to even say, but War and Peace is SO good. Our whole company is reading it now, and of course Dave and I have both spent a huge amount of time with the book. It's romantic, political, spiritual. And all those layers are present in this piece.

Which famous New Jerseyite would like your show the best: Snooki, Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison?
Springsteen.

Who are your heroes?
Right now, my cast and design team, and the Ars Nova staff.