BWW Interviews: Director Leslie Jo Bissett-Hood Opens Up About RING OF FIRE
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Leslie Jo Bissett-Hood, who is the director and choreographer of Ring of Fire. Ring of Fire is running at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts (part of the Cincinnati Landmark Productions) until September 29, 2013.
What is your experience in the theater community and with Covedale Center?
Leslie Jo: I have been involved in the professional theatre for over 40 years as a singer, dancer, actor, choreographer, director and writer. Working in various unions and nonunions theaters throughout the country, including the Miami Valley and Cincinnati area. I've performed and directed on the Showboat Majestic, another Landmark Productions venue, but I'm honored to have the privilege to work on the Covedale stage for the first time.
Give us a quick summary of Ring of Fire?
A talented cast of four men and three women, backed by amazing local musicians under the direction of Mike Kennedy, use the timeless music of Johnny Cash to tell his story. From the days on the family farm, through the ups and downs of his life; we get the chance to see his joys and sadness and how his music became an intricate part of those emotions.
Why Ring of Fire? Is it safe to assume you are a pretty big fan of Johnny Cash?
If i hadn't been [a fan] before this project, I am now! Through my research of Johnny, I've come to realize that many of the things that were important to him mirror what is important in my life. He was dedicated to his family, passionate about his music, and through the love of June, he put God at the forefront of his life.
Favorite Johnny Cash song and favorite song that made it into the musical?
Tough question but I would probably say "I've Been Everywhere" as it relates to my musical journey. It was the very first song I ever sang onstage with a live band. Johnny's songs showing off his sense of humor, particularly "A Boy Name Sue" is right up there with other favorites like "I Walk the Line" and "Jackson!"
Is there a moment in the show that was particularly important to you?
Yes, the moment where the audience feels Johnny make the decision to leave this world behind and move on to be with his heavenly family. Our amazing cast's rendition of Johnny's "Angel Band" brings me to tears every rehearsal.
Most difficult part of being a director?
Encouraging actors to spread their wings and trust their instincts. Many performers are afraid to be vulnerable in front of myself, other actors and audiences. It's always a challenge to get them to step outside the comfort box and take the chances that make you a better actor.
What show(s) on Broadway currently are you dying to see?
Hands down, "Once." With so many theaters getting rid of live musicians, which I will go on records as saying is one of the most disappointing parts of my industry, "Once" forces us to see the importance of the live instruments and how they alone can tell part of the story. Add beautiful vocals and visual magic and you can't lose. I would love to see "Once!"
What musical theater performer would you love to be able to work with?
Any and all performers who do it for the love of the theatre and not just because it's their "job." Any performer who would take a couple hours of their time to sign autographs and talk to their fan. Any performer who understands that the people in the seats are not just there to make them feel good about themselves, but who have come to invest in their talent.