I’m baaaaack! After an amazing four weeks off for winter break (one of the best perks of going back to school, in my opinion), I’ve started the second of six semesters in my M.F.A. Directing Program. And as a special bonus for my first blog of 2017, I’m going to do a special interview… with myself! Get ready for as much JAMES as you can handle.
Welcome back, James!
How was your winter break? You look really good, by the way.
Stop that. Stuff like this is why you’re not supposed to interview me.
I’m sorry. I just –
Forget about it.
Uh, okay. So, how is being back in Indiana?
Great! I mean, I spent winter vacation in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Philippines, so… I’m really excited to be back here.
Wow, Mr. Sarcasm. I meant, how is being back at school?
Oh, being back at school is awesome. I’m really looking forward to this semester.
Are you being serious? I can’t tell from your tone because this is typewritten.
I’m being serious! For me, this semester is very much the “conservatory” style of grad school: everything I’m working on is practical and hands-on. I have 6 hours of Shakespeare training every week with Henry Woronicz, and that’s an amazing opportunity. Henry is, as the kids say, legit as –
Don’t swear. It’s a family blog.
Right. But he’s great, and there’s nothing like somebody who knows their Shakespeare inside and out to get you fired up about it. I’m also taking 6 hours of stage combat every week with movement professor Leraldo Anzaldua, also an awesome dude, and that’s something that I’ve never had any formal training in but is universally useful. So between both those classes, I feel like I’m really getting the kind of training I wanted to in grad school: a deepening of specialized skill sets that have broad practical application in the professional world.
Cool. What else are you taking?
“Directing Realism” with my faculty advisor, Dale McFadden, this semester is also entirely practical: it’s centered around two large projects that I direct under Dale’s supervision, with him evaluating not just my product but my process as well. That’s another thing that I really wanted in grad school – mentorship. I remember two years ago, in my first interview with Dale at the URTAs in Chicago, I told him that I had never had somebody watch me work and give me honest feedback on my process in the rehearsal room, which was one of the reasons I was applying to schools. It’s exciting to be here and finally get that!
What are you directing for the class?
My first project is a collaboration with my dear friend Aaron Ricciardi, who is the first year M.F.A. playwright. He’s written a hysterical and biting short play called Resting Bitch Face, about teenage girls studying for a history test. It’ll be performed on February 22nd in the Studio Theatre! Come see it!
I’m busy that day.
Ha-ha. Anyway, after I’m done with Aaron’s project I’ll take on a full-length play that will be my major directing project for my first year. The script is still being determined, but I can’t wait to work on that one too.
Sounds like everything’s coming up Jimmy this semester, huh?
I… I’m not sure what that means? Am I Jimmy?
Never mind. That’s all you’re taking, three classes?
Well, I’m capped at 12 credit hours, so I can’t go wild with classes – my last class will start the second eight weeks of the semester. It’s an Ensemble Creation class with Ansley Valentine, a new member of the acting and directing faculty who just joined us this year, and somebody who I’ve been eager to work with.
Who else is in these courses with you?
It’s just me in directing class. I get to take Stage Combat with the 3rd Year M.F.A. actors, and all the 2nd year M.F.A. actors are with me in Shakespeare, so I get to see everyone several times a week. I really enjoy all nine of them – they’re a great group. There are also a lot of cool undergrads in Stage Combat — it’s one of a handful of theatre courses at IU that mixes up graduate and undergraduate students.
And you’re also teaching this semester, riiiiiight?
I am! I’ve got my very own, brand new shiny Acting I class! I love teaching, but I’ve never taught a beginning acting class like this before. It’s really fun to get to work with students with little to no experience and teach them some basic technique – you can really get them excited about theatre and how to use pragmatic, tangible technique to approach the work. I leave every class with a big smile on my face.
I bet you look stupid.
Why would you say that? That’s just mean.
Okay, I think we’re done here.
You’re done here.