Theatre is an art form that requires and celebrates togetherness. Theatre makers spend a lot of time in the rehearsal hall – or preparing to start rehearsals – or moving from the rehearsal hall into the theatre. But right now, we can’t do any of that. While we’re out of our rehearsal halls, we’re looking for ways to stay connected with our community and our theatre making family. So we’ve launched a new project – a podcast! Here on Geva Journal, we’ll share some additional information to accompany each episode of the podcast.
You can find Out of the Rehearsal Hall on your favorite podcast service, including Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, Radio Public or subscribe by RSS feed. Or, keep up with us on the podcast’s website, here.
Episode One: Shelley Butler
I’ve posted Shelley’s full bio at the end of this post, but Geva’s new play audiences will remember workshops that Shelley has directed at Geva over the last six years. I first met Shelley when a playwright whose play we were workshopping in our Festival of New Theatre, Christina Telesca, asked to work with her on her new play, Far from the Trees. We had a great artistic connection, and since then, Shelley has directed a new play workshop at Geva nearly once a year, and in 2019, she directed our world premiere production of Lila Rose Kaplan’s play The Magician’s Daughter. She also directed readings of Separate Rooms by Joe Calarco, The Dust People and Dangerous Dress by Catherine Trieschmann, The Lotus Paradox by Dorothy Fortenberry and the workshop of Kaplan’s The Magician’s Daughter. (Also check out Shelley’s website at https://www.shelleybutler.com)
I was joined for this first episode by Geva’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Community Engagement, Pirronne Yousefzadeh. Pirronne and I were delighted to spend time talking with Shelley about her work, her life now during this period of isolation, and her thoughts about what’s in the future. We talked about how regional theatres like Geva support artistic exploration, what it was like to premiere a Broadway musical in Japan, and the incredible impact of impossible stage directions.
When the pandemic first hit the United States, Shelley and her family were in Las Vegas, where Shelley’s husband, also a director, was finishing up a contract. Rather than flying back to New York City, they rented an RV and drove across the country to South Carolina, where they are currently staying with family. On social media, Shelley shared images from their trip, which she’s given us permission to share here.
And of course, while on the road, homeschooling began! Shelley’s son Dashiell is 10 years old (although he was a mere nine years old when they were driving). One of his assignments was to make movie trailers – which he created in the RV. In my opinion, they show signs of remarkable genius – and I’m sure we’ll all be hearing about the Oscar-winning Dashiell Clay Hyler in the very near future. For your enjoyment:
We also discussed the projects that Shelley was preparing for, before the pandemic required theatres to postpone all productions. While we didn’t talk about this in the episode, the day that we recorded our interview was originally reserved for Shelley’s first rehearsal of Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, to be produced at South Coast Repertory Theatre. Scenic designer Reid Thompson (who designed Geva’s production of Queen by Madhuri Shekar earlier this season) shared these images of the set model for that production, which is currently postponed, until further notice.
And these costume renderings for Arcadia, designed by Sara Clement, show how richly designed the world of this play will be.
I thoroughly enjoyed re-connecting with Shelley – please check out the podcast, and be on the lookout for new episodes! We expect to release a new interview each Monday, and will talk to a wide variety of theatre makers from around the country and right here in Rochester.
Shelley Butler has over thirty Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional credits to date and has worked extensively with writers on new plays and musicals. Recent productions include the world premiere of Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House Part 2 at South Coast Repertory and the Japanese premiere of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo. She has directed and developed work across the country for theaters including: Ars Nova, Primary Stages, E.S.T., WP Theater, Hartford Stage, South Coast Repertory, Denver Center Theatre Company, Pioneer Theatre Company, Geva, The Old Globe, Contemporary American Theater Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, New York Stage and Film, Dallas Lyric Stage, PlayPenn, New Dramatists, the Lark, New Georges, Dixon Place, The Playwright’s Realm, Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theatre and Keen Company. Shelley is the recipient of a Drama League Directing Fellowship, a 2005 Director’s Guild of America Trainee, a member of SDC, the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab and the Women’s Project Directors Lab. Shelley spent two seasons as artistic associate in charge of new play development for Hartford Stage and three seasons as artistic associate for Great Lakes Theater Festival.