Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Girl Wrote It: Kristin Skye Hoffmann, Director

Kristin Skye Hoffmann holds a Bachelor's Degree in Performing Arts with a double Major in Acting and Directing and a Minor in Media Studies. She is the Founding Artistic Director of Wide Eyed Productions (2007-11.) Her most recent directing projects include Euripides’ The Trojan Women, Lisa Ferber’s The Return of Toodles von Flooz, Brian Watkins’ My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer, Dale Wasserman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and Euripides' The Medea for Wide Eyed Productions. Other New York credits include: Derek Ahonen’s The You Knows Know as part of Endtimes Productions’ Vignettes for the Apocalypse, A Midsummer Night's Dream for Jackson Rep, the award-winning production of Plays for the Sunni Triangle (Winner Best Comedy), In Sheep's Clothing (S.O.A.F. Best Director and Best Play Nominee), and The Accommodation by Paul Cohen. Favorite acting credits include: Mrs. Slater in A Devil Inside, Amy in First Base Coach, Lizzy in Noah's Arkansas, and many, many more! Currently she is a Directing MFA Candidate at The New School for Drama. Kristin is a part-time acting coach and full-time artist and lover of life. 

  • For our production of A Girl Wrote It, you are directing three monologues: JudithGoudsmit’s Being Late featuring Liz White; Erin Singleton’s Bologna Sandwiches featuring Amy Lee Pearsall; and Liz Magee’s Jeans featuring Carly Knight. Can you tell us a little bit about what your process with these pieces has been like? 

Absolutely! All three of these pieces are very different, so it makes sense that three very different actors were chosen to perform them. 

The moment I read Being Late, I thought of Liz White. I have known and worked with Liz since we met at our freshman orientation for undergrad in 2000. The quirky sensibility and moment-to-moment focus shifts are right up her alley. When she read it, she instantly loved it. Tim Butterfield and I also thought it was a great opener for the evening which sort of bridged last year’s monologues from A Girl Wrote It (all of which Liz performed and I directed) with this new incarnation. Any audience members from last year will recognize her in this immediately. Because Liz and I are so familiar with each other, our work sessions are always quick, efficient and TONS of fun. She knows what makes me laugh and is always receptive to my ideas. Frequently I find myself just helping her flesh out the bits she’s come up with on her own. I really think our audience will enjoy it. 

Carly Knight and I really worked well together, which was exciting since we had only worked together on the directing side of the table prior to this (she was my Assistant Director on Wide Eyed’s production of The Trojan Women last year.) When I first read Liz Magee’s script, I was reminded of Carly’s natural voice -- meaning dry, sharp, quick and somehow vulnerable at the same time. We broke the piece down into sections, and attacked it bit by bit. Carly and I worked hard to honor Ms. Magee’s ideas about what this piece was trying to say. I believe we were successful. 

If there is one actress I would be thrilled to direct in anything, it is Amy Lee Pearsall. She has tackled some pretty serious roles with me in the past (Medea, Nurse Ratched, Titania, and some original roles as well), and she has never let me down. Bologna Sandwiches is no different. Amy Lee brought in her own ideas as she was in the process of memorizing and we discussed who this person really was. We delved deeply into the text trying to bring out the real human who we might observe at “the yogurt shop” and thought about what would drive her. That’s what’s great about working with an actor you know so well; the shorthand is already there -- you can just dive right into the good stuff!  
  • When did you know that you wanted to be involved in the theatre? How did you get started? What inspired you to direct? 

I think an easier question would be “When did you learn to speak about wanting to be in theatre?” In other words, I can’t remember a time when I did not want to perform or tell stories. As a child, my like-minded friends and I would choreograph dances to the songs of the “Disney Afternoon” cartoon line-up and perform them for our parents. We acted out scenes from our favorite movies (can you say THE GOONIES?) and cast each other in our own original works. This love of theatre carried me all the way to university. It was pretty difficult for my mother to argue with me when I said I wanted to major in Performing Arts. There was no way for her to say, “Remember when you were interested in that other thing?” because there wasn’t “that other thing.” It was always theatre. 

It was at the University of Northern Colorado that I discovered directing. All acting majors were required to take an Intro to Directing class where we would direct Theatre Minors in a scene. I chose McNally’s Frankie and Johnny at the Clare de Lune and just had THE BEST TIME. I had never found anything that I enjoyed doing more than acting but directing tied that race up pretty quick. I loved helping the actors find the truth in the text and the position of director really suited my personality…which, for lack of a better term is rather bossy. From those presentations, a select few were invited to join the Directing program to double major. Eventually, I became one of those select few and the rest is history. 
  • Who or what do you consider to have been your biggest creative influences to date? Why? 

This is always a difficult question for me to answer, because I feel so influenced by so many people and artists. I believe I am extremely lucky to have had (and currently have) such amazing teachers throughout my life who have all influenced me in their own ways but probably the people who influence my work most are the members of Wide Eyed Productions. The things that excite them excite me. I have never met more passionate, talented artists and I feel endlessly blessed by their enthusiasm confidence in me. I love hearing what they want to work on, which stories they want to tell and I’m always so thrilled to assist them in making that work a reality. The smartest thing I ever did was learn how to surround myself with smart, creative and dedicated artists. They are a bottomless well of inspiration. 
  • You are one of the founders of Wide Eyed Productions and served as the Artistic Director for four seasons. What compelled you to found the company? Where would you like to see the company in five years? 

This is a such a long story that I will try to “nutshell it” for you. When I moved to New York, I was planning on being an actor but the universe had a directing path planned out for me. Directing opportunity after directing opportunity kept falling into my lap and soon it was all I was doing. As this was going on, I was quickly developing a very talented acting pool with artists who, for whatever reason, wanted to continue to work with me. The one thing they all had in common was that they had a serious desire to do work they were proud of doing. They were tired of working endlessly on indie plays that they were embarrassed to invite their friends and colleagues to attend. At the same time, a large crop UNC alumni were pouring into the city, among them Sky Seals and Liz White. 

I was hired to direct Euripides’ The Medea for Hudson Shakespeare based out of New Jersey. Because I’m not foolish, I stocked the cast with my favorite actors and together, with the help of a pretty hefty (and timely) heartbreak in my personal life, we created a show that was possibly the most personal and beautiful piece I have ever worked on. The group truly taught me the meaning of “ensemble.” Sadly, we only received 4 performances and the cast agreed that we needed to restage this thing! Liz and Sky, who were both members of the cast, and I decided that we should make The Medea our inaugural performance for the theatre company that we all knew was just waiting to happen. We went back into rehearsal and, with the help of a lot of wonderful people, we did. Making this company happen is easily the best and most difficult thing I have ever done. In 5 years, I would love to see us with our own theatre space and working as a self-sustaining, reputable theatre company. It’s a big goal but not impossible for a group like this. 
  • Are you working on any additional projects at the moment? Care to share with us? 

Me? Nah… Oh, wait, YES!  Right now, I’m earning my MFA in Directing at The New School for Drama. They keep us pretty busy over there. Currently, I’m directing my first musical titled Le Pond by Dan Kitrosser, which also happened to be a devised piece that the writer, cast and myself created together. For another one of my classes, I’m directing a slightly adapted version of David Ives’ Venus in Fur with a stellar cast of student actors including Aurea Tomeski and Jeffrey Adams, which I’m really loving. It’s so wonderful to sink my teeth into such involved work with talented and brave actors like these. I’m also lucky enough to be directing a play titled Take My Job as part of Writopia’s creative writing lab for kids ages 8-18. It will be going up at 59E59 in May, and I encourage everyone to attend. It is really amazing what these kids are doing! 

Last but not least, I’m directing a staged reading of a new play by playwright Sam Byron which will be going up as part of the Dark Nights series with Wide Eyed on May 6 at 6pm. It’s a really creepy and exciting look at a post-apocalyptic world and what the human mind can do when left in solitude for too long. It features one of Wide Eyed’s favorite company members, Neil Fennell, and a few NSD students as well! I hope people will come out and give us some feedback since it is still in the early stages of development. So…if you don’t see me around it is because I’m in rehearsal…right where I want to be. 

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