These are heady times for the company and Ms. Paulus. She took the reins of the company in 2009 and as a director has won a Tony for directing "Pippin" after nominations for "The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess" and "Hair," all sent to
There's no big secret to choosing projects that connect with today's audiences, the director said.
"All the shows I've done, whether it's 'Hair' or 'Porgy & Bess' or 'Pippin,' they're all about putting a spotlight on ensembles and actors and telling powerful, emotional visceral stories. Certainly with 'Porgy & Bess' that's the heart of what caught me about that show," she said by phone from
"Making theater is like making a gift for the audience -- building the best present you can make and delivering it to your audience," she added. "It's always so thrilling when you feel that connection is made."
"Porgy & Bess" had its origins in 1927 as "Porgy" by
That's a tall order to take on, and in the case of this latest revival of "Porgy & Bess," not everyone was onboard.
"It's often the case with revivals that writers are brought on board to look at the books.
More from Ms. Paulus on taking "Porgy & Bess" on the road, and what's coming next:
Question: When you choose a work for ART, are you also thinking about how it might play on
Answer: Our mission [at ART] is to expand the boundaries of theater through exploring great classics and new works of tomorrow, so that's what we're focused on. When the opportunity arises to continue the work, that's such an incredible experience for everyone involved, primarily because you get to keep working on it. Making theater is hard, and it takes time and it takes layers of attention. It's like spending years on a painting. When they excavate paintings and they see the original drawing that was underneath? That's what it's like.
With this national tour, I was so moved by what I learned about the social-cultural history of 'Porgy & Bess' in the 20th century, and so much of that had to do with when it traveled around America, what it was in
I'm very excited about this tour because ... this is an American masterpiece that belongs in every community across America.
How involved are you in the tour?
I was 100 percent in, on the casting, the rehearsal process, launching the tour in
The really terrific thing is the tour has so many people who were in it from the first reading at the first workshop, and that includes
It is big shoes to fill, and they are incredible and it's so much about their chemistry, which is palpable. It's two individual portraits of these two most unlikely people who would fall in love: 'the liquor-guzzling slut,' in quotes I say, as she's described, and 'the cripple.' These two love without labels. And those two performers, not only do they have the vocal chops to sing that score, but they are very profound actors bringing so much depth to their roles.
And then we have
[Pittsburgh CAPA grad
This production is kind of minimalist in terms of scenery.
The way the production is designed and crafted ... it's about the virtuosic performances and the emotional depth. That's what grabs the audience across the footlights. To me, 'Porgy & Bess' rattles the rafters because it is high-stakes drama -- love, death, natural disaster, hurricane devastating a community. And the music is there that can envelope an audience in a big hall. Plus, we made a commitment to have a big orchestra ... more than 20 musicians [a core that travels with the show, then local musicians hired at each stop] because we wanted that majesty of the music with the tour.
Can there be a tour of "Pippin," which was a great
It's complicated, but it's kind of like the traveling circus. It's like pitching a tent and then everything happens within that tent, so it's a great show for touring. We can't wait for that. And by the way, 'Witness Uganda' just opened at ART. [It is a new musical written by and starring]
What's it like shepherding the place where you got your start in theater?
I went to
In my own way, I hope I can do more for the next generation when it comes to theater, just by impacting young people, whether they go on to be doctors or lawyers. I know from experience what that transformative experience can mean in their lives.
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