Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Girl Wrote It: Tim Butterfield, Director

Tim Butterfield, Artistic Director of Wide Eyed Productions, holds a BA in Theater from Brooklyn College and an MFA in Directing form The New School for Drama. Tim has studied with wide array of artists that include Doug Hughes, Jo Bonney, Kate Loewald, Lou Jacobs, Elinor Renfield, Bob LuPone, Casey Biggs, Austin Pendleton and Arthur Storch. Tim’s work has been seen Off-Broadway, Off-off Broadway and Regionally. Wide Eyed is the third company for which he has served as Artistic Director. Recent directing projects include the short films Underneath and Lesbianism, as well as This is My Gun, Don Juan Comes Back from the War, and Residue for the stage. Tim works as a writing coach and script-doctor. He teaches playwriting, directing and stage combat. Tim also has worked with Yale School of Drama faculty over the last few years in curriculum development.
  • For our production of A Girl Wrote It, you are directing Laura Maria Censabella’s Posing. Can you tell us a little bit about what your process with this piece has been like?
My process with this piece has been quite involved. Laura had sent me four pieces to consider for AGWI. They all were so good and poignant that I seriously considered just doing an evening of her short plays. When I realized that idea was not as realistic as I would have liked it to be, I still could not shake Posing and Stones Fall, Birds Fly. The juxtaposition of people who believed they were worth very little versus a man who knew he could fly fascinated me and I knew they had to be on the same stage. I entrusted Stones Fall, Birds Fly to the absurdly capable Sherri Eden Barber and was able to focus on Posing. We found our Elaine and Pete in Dana and Nate, and we went into the rehearsal room to begin wrestling with the piece. I say wrestle because it is not an easy piece to direct or act. Laura has written two characters that have made some very questionable decisions in their lives, and are about to make more, but she was able to do so without judging them. For those of us who don’t live in despair, like Pete and Elaine do, it can be hard to understand the motivations in such a dark world. Laura has shown us a love story of two physically and emotionally damaged individuals and done so in way that we cheer for those we typically wouldn’t do so for. Nate and Dana have been fearless in their pursuit of these characters. They have also been incredibly trusting and supportive of each other which, I believe, is what has allowed them to go to the deepest parts of these characters. It has been inspiring for me to watch. It is a great example of what can be achieved when people give themselves fully to their work. Laura has worked with us closely on this piece which has been wonderful. It’s always such a blessing to have the playwright in the room and the four us developed a very strong working relationship which I would love to repeat in the future.
  • When did you know that you wanted to be involved in the theatre? How did you get started? What inspired you to direct?
When I was nine years old, I was the shortest boy in school and had injured my ankle, forcing me to use crutches for a few days. As the holidays neared and the school started to put together a production of A Christmas Carol; guess who was cast as Tiny Tim? I had seen plays before, but this was my first involvement in a production. For the next decade, I worked in every capacity in the theater. I like knowing a little something about everything, and I discovered I could do every job. Trouble was, I didn’t enjoy any of those jobs very much. In my early twenties, I began directing on a regular basis and I discovered that when I was directing, when I was in the rehearsal room, I was more of the person I wanted to be than at any other time in my life. I was at my best personally and artistically. That’s when I knew what was right for me.
  • Who or what do you consider to have been your biggest creative influences to date? Why?
My mother; she’s always been everything I could hope for in a mom. Ann Tully and Lynda Goldsen were amazing influences in my teens. They were the Speech and Theater teachers in my high school, at a time when I was quite a f&*k up. They always knew that I was more than I would allow myself to believe and they didn’t take any sh*t from me at a time when I got away with a lot. They also taught me the joys of a well-placed curse word. Doug Hughes has had a huge impact on me in the last few years. I was fortunate to train with him during my graduate studies. He is a person you just want to be around and who inspires confidence in everyone around him. It’s not just a knack he has; it’s something he works at as a person and a director. He has taught me to always try to extract the negative from life, to see the best in others, and to try to help them achieve their best. Gordon Rogoff has been a mentor and friend for the last several years. He’s the kind of person that makes you feel like you’re getting smarter when you’re just standing next to him. He has such a wealth of knowledge and a sage-like understanding of this industry. Above all, my wife. She is the reason I always strive to be a better man. She is my everything.
  • You are currently serving as Wide Eyed’s Artistic Director. What upcoming projects for the company are you excited about? Where would you like to see the company in five years?
I have been working very closely with our Apprentice Playwrights Program over the last several months and it is something I am very excited about and proud of. They will be having staged readings of their plays in front of an industry invited audience at 6pm, May 16-19. They are not to be missed.

There are some exciting things in the works for next seasons, but I can’t announce anything yet. In five years I believe the company should be the Off-Broadway company to watch. With the caliber of talent in the company and the work that is being produced, there’s no excuse for that not to be the case.
  • Are you working on any additional projects outside of the company at the moment? Care to share with us?
I’m in post-production for a film I directed that company members Jake Paque and Trevor Dallier produced. Jake and Trevor are the featured actors in the piece, along with company member Lisa Mamazza and AGWI cast member Ali Scaramella. If you look real close, you can also see a mussy-haired Michael Komala tossed in to the fray.

I’m in pre-production for a project with company member Duane Ferguson. I’m really excited to finally work with Duane. I also work as a freelance writing coach and script-doctor. I usually have at least five scripts at a time that I am working on or coaching someone on. I guess what I’m saying is I never sleep. Ever.

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