Camilla Bianchi, ‘19
It was that time of the year again, everyone’s favorite time. Not only was it almost winter break but this year’s play was about to come out! Enjoy this exclusive interview with Ms. Dolan about the play.
What is the name of the play that you will be performing?
It’s called “Groundhog day,” it was originally a movie and we adapted it for the stage. There is a musical of this movie but I don’t really like musicals very much, and we don’t have the resources to do a musical anyway.
What is the genre of the play?
Well, it is comedy I guess. But it’s also sort of philosophy because it asks the question “what would happen if you woke up and every single day this was your day?” What would you do? What would you think? What would you try? And you were the only person and everyone you told wouldn’t believe you. You could rob a bank. You could kill a few people. You could learn a new language. In some ways it’s kind of like a hell and in some ways it’s sort of like a heaven. Our whole lives are predicated on the idea that when we wake up we start a new day and the main character never has a new day.
Do you prefer comedy? Is there a difference when directing different genres?
Well, of course I’m as unself-aware as the next person, but I am generally a happy person. Life is very tough and bad things are happening out there so if you do a comedy at least it’s pleasurable for those who are doing it and for the audiences. Comedy is actually quite hard to do because you have to really be funny. This is not exactly a comedy, there’s not many laughs, there are a few. You know, there is definitely a snobbish preference in the Academy for tragedies. However, among theatre people we understand that it is much harder to do comedies than tragedies. The preference for tragedies is snobbishness by people who are miserable and so they think that tragedy is better. I had a friend and he used to get looked down on because he was so funny. And I remember once saying to somebody, “you try writing a funny page and you will see how hard it is.” Comedy changes with the audience, what’s funny changes. You really need to have to have explored the world to make an audience laugh. I do have some pressure to not do a comedy next semester. The reason why i might do a tragedy next semester is not because of the pressure, however, it’s because students are reading Greek tragedies.
How do the individuals that sign up for their class affect the decision of the play to be performed?
We have to do a play that fits the people that sign up for the class. Sometimes I’ll start out with 20 people and then 10 of them drop out because, you know, theatre clashes with calculus etc. This is why people usually play multiple roles. I can’t choose the play until after add/drop.
How is working with professional actors different? Is it harder or is it easier?
Professional actors are very easy to work with. One of the things is that I’m always saying to people “I can’t hear you, speak louder,” and they speak at exactly the same volume, they think that they’re lowder but they’re not. If I tell a professional actor “you’re astonished,” next time they’ll perform they will be completely astonished. But if I tell a student actor that, they will think that they’re astonished but they won’t actually be. And I think that’s because students see so many movies and movies are very subtle because of the close camera work. On stage you really have to show your feelings and students have a very hard time realizing the emotional size that is needed on stage.
Is there anything that particularly strikes you about your group of students this year?
They’re very nice. Not necessarily nicer than last year’s students but it’s a small group. Professional actors tend to be quite neurotic and self-absorbed, these students are not neurotic, they’re very sweet and nice. People that are self-absorbed are hard to work with because they have big egos and they’re insecure. These students are able to sacrifice for the good of the whole show. The kinds of students that are attracted to theatre are those who are willing to work for the good of a group and not just for their own self-aggrandisement.
Did you use to act?
Yes. But I like to write. Playwriting is completely different from writing a story, it’s more like writing poetry, you have to think in a completely different way. Acting is very demanding in terms of time and maybe I’m too much of an alpha dog to be an actor. You have no control as an actor and, as a writer, you have complete control. As a director, you have to tell everyone what to do and I don’t really like that aspect of directing, but I have to do it.
Do you have anything else that you would like to add?
The thing I love about theatre is that it’s like a team because it gives you a chance to be very collaborative. We accept everyone in theatre, it’s also not like being on a team, you don’t have to be skilled. Everyone is able to be in the play. The other thing I love about theatre is that it’s cheap. With $120 you could tour a play in this neighborhood. It’s not like film that requires lots and lots of money, so in that way it’s sort of democratic.