by Lorie Lewis Ham
This weekend Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened in Fresno, presented by Artists Repertory Theatre (ART). We took a moment to chat with the show’s director Brad Myers.
KRL: Can you tell us a bit about the play?
Brad: George, a professor at a small university, and his wife, Martha, the daughter of the university’s president, return home after attending a faculty party at the home of Martha’s father. It is after 2:00 in the morning. However, Martha informs George that she has invited over a new young faculty member (Nick) and his wife (Honey). The unsuspecting couple arrives, and is introduced to the remarkable wit and vindictiveness of the older couple. George and Martha engage in playful but abusive banter. However, their well-exercised games begin to cross dangerous new boundaries. Through the course of the evening, the party antics whirl out of control, leading George to conduct a drastic and final game.
Many people may remember the 1966 film adaptation of the play. Nominated for 13 Academy Awards, Elizabeth Taylor won for Best Actress and Sandy Dennis won for Best Supporting Actress.
KRL: Why did you personally want to direct this play?
Brad: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is an American masterpiece. And, to my knowledge, there has not been a production of the play in Fresno for over 30 years. Also, the play remains a powerful indictment of the American dream today. I performed the role of George when I was in graduate school in a production, which was viewed by the playwright, Edward Albee. Although Mr. Albee was very kind, I have realized how much I missed in that portrayal. The opportunity to direct the play provided me a chance to atone for all that I thought that I had missed in my grad school performance.
KRL: I understand that you are not only directing the show, but that now you are playing the character George–what is that like?
Brad: I swore that I would never direct and act in a production at the same time. However, unavoidable circumstances required me to take over the role of George three weeks before we open. There are great challenges in attempting to wear both hats. Fortunately, the show was already staged and conceptualized. However, it is difficult for me to provide the audience perspective which is a big part of the director’s job while I am on stage most of the play. It is also difficult for the other actors to rehearse with an actor who is also assessing their performances at the same time. To lessen these problems, I have asked Bob Creasey to come in as the Assistant Director. He will be my eyes in the audience, providing crucial feedback on how well we actors are sharing the story.
KRL: What is it like to direct this show?
Brad: It is thrilling, frustrating, and soul-nourishing to get to work on this glorious play, with this extraordinary cast. The four characters are fascinating and complex, and every rehearsal is a constant revelation. I alternate between spasms of euphoria as the other actors and I explore, and an obsessive compulsion from knowing there is more to discover.
KRL: Any special challenges?
Brad: Every play has its own special challenges. This play has some of the most brilliant wit ever written in an American play, coupled with enormously intricate characters. George and Martha’s attacks on each other are undeniable, but excavating the deep love that is the foundation of their relationship is crucial to the show’s success.
KRL: What do you enjoy the most about this show?
Brad: There are many things to enjoy. But most exciting for me is getting to work with these actors. Leslie Martin and Justin Ringhofer are friends and artists with whom I have a long history; Bridget Martin has impressed me in many earlier productions and I am happy to have the chance to finally work with her.
As previously mentioned, there are four actors/characters in this play. In addition to me playing George, Leslie Martin plays Martha, Justin Ringhofer is Nick, and Bridget Martin is Honey.
KRL: Can you tell us all the details about the performances?
Brad: The show is performing at the California Arts Academy, Severance Theater, 1401 N. Wishon Avenue, Fresno, CA 93728
Purchase Tickets at:
www.ARTFresno.com or Phone: 800-838-3006
$20 general; $15 students and seniors
Friday, 7/11 – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, 7/12 – 8:00 p.m.
Friday, 7/18 – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, 7/19 – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, 7/20 – 2:00 p.m.
Friday, 7/25 – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, 7/26 – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, 7/27 – 2:00 p.m.
KRL: Anything to add?
Brad: The show has very MATURE CONTENT. Ample cursing. Frequent sexual references
We also asked ART’s artistic director Daniel Chavez Jr. why did ART picked this play?
Daniel: We chose this play because of the incredible writing and the complex relationships. We wanted something moving and thought provoking and something that would challenge incredible actors and our audience members alike.
Check out more local arts and entertainment articles in KRL’s A & E section.