BWW Interviews: Landing Theatre Director Paige Kiliany Talks ALL IN THE TIMING
Before VENUS IN FURS was a twinkle in David Ives' eye, there was ALL IN THE TIMING, a collection of one-act plays with a range of subjects and themes - all funny and entertaining. How else do you describe a mix of Trotsky and The Honeymooners? Though the collection of plays premiered Off-Broadway in 1993, and a few were written before I was born, they are all still side-splitting. In disbelief? Well, take a gander at this interview with Paige Kiliany, a twenty-something who prefers ALL IN THE TIMING to Saturday Night Live. How's that for current?
BWW: How would you describe ALL IN THE TIMING?
Paige Kiliany: ALL IN THE TIMING is a collection of six unique short plays by David Ives. Each of the plays explores language, romance, relationships and word play and includes different, fun (sometimes historical) characters.
BWW: ALL IN THE TIMING is an old collection of plays that is very popular with young artists and audiences. Do you think that's true? Why do you think that's true?
Paige Kiliany: Yes, I do. Many people involved in this production have had experience with ALL IN THE TIMING, mostly in school. I think there are not many playwrights of David Ives' caliber who have managed to have a collection of short plays published. There are many 10 minute play festivals out there, but because most professional theaters are interested in full length plays, that's where playwrights (rightfully so) focus their efforts. But the collection of short plays format works really well for high schools and colleges, so as a result "All in the Timing" is many young artists' first experience with witty top notch dialogue and holds a very special place in their hearts.
BWW: What can audiences expect from the production?
Paige Kiliany: This is a very fun, energetic cast and the atmosphere of the bar (with an intermission dinner option) combined with a sharp script makes for a fantastic theatrical experience. It's perfect for any summer night!
BWW: ALL IN THE TIMING has a reputation for being sharply intelligent and referential, which is perhaps not accessible. How have you approached this in your directing? Did you go full Sartre or did you try to find ways to clue the audience in?
Paige Kiliany: Some of the plays in ALL IN THE TIMING are actually older than I am and some of the references can be seen as a bit esoteric as well. It's a fantastic play the way it's written, but I didn't want it to seem too highbrow for younger audiences in particular. So as a director I was afraid of alienating some of the audience members, but my way of combating that was to find something universally humorous in each of the plays. That way, there's something in all six pieces for everyone. If you know about Philip Glass or "Einstein on the Beach", "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread" will be extra funny for you, but we've made the piece so outrageous that even those who do not get the reference are into it and laughing.
My other strategy for this was to cast a very young, modern, diverse cast. All six actors have very different comedic styles, which really fueled creativity in the rehearsal room because there were so many ideas and interpretations going around.
BWW: Collections of vignettes usually carry the risk of lagging in certain places or appearing disconnected. How did you manage pacing and coherence?
Paige Kiliany: I have six actors in this show so they all play at least two different characters and we start the show with all six of them welcoming the audience and delivering the pre-show speech together. I think that helps with the disconnect problem, because the audience recognizes each of the actors when they perform and associates them as a group of players, not just as "that guy from one of the plays." My other strategy was to play loud, upbeat music during the quick scene transitions between the plays so the show didn't lose energy.
BWW: What was the most difficult aspect of directing this play?
Paige Kiliany: I think the fact that they're six really different plays and some of them appeared more difficult than others to me at first was a big challenge. I wanted all of them to be fantastic so I had to find a way into each of them individually. Also, as previously mentioned, I didn't want this production to seem outdated or too high brow so I was aware of that even at casting to make sure this was a fun, down to earth show.
BWW: What do you mean by getting "a way into each of them individually?"
Paige Kiliany: When I say "find a way into each play" I mean find something about it that grabs me and that I really connect with. If I'm super passionate, I can get the actors really passionate about it too. So I usually read the play really closely over and over again until I've found something that grabs me; sometimes it's a character or a line that stands out like a thesis statement, sometimes it's a concept that I come up with from inspiration in the script. For "All in the Timing", it was very different things that I connected with in each of the six plays.
BWW: Could you tell me some of the things you connected with specifically?
Paige Kiliany: I've always loved "Sure Thing" because it's the most interesting version of a "cute meet" and all the little things that have to line up to create a successful relationship. For "Universal Language", once I saw Will and Sammi do it together at callbacks I couldn't wait to rehearse it because the two of them have such great chemistry and hilarious interpretations. For "Philip Glass", I really got into the idea of making (respectable) fun of stuck up theater that takes itself so seriously. And for "Trotsky," with all the different stops and starts I got an idea upon closer script examination to really play with the idea of variations and different genres of entertainment for each beat. It definitely makes the actors work hard, but our audiences have really enjoyed it so far.
BWW: Darkness and death aside, I'm partial to the Trotsky piece. Do you have a favorite one-act in the collection?
Paige Kiliany: I love the Trotsky piece too! That was one of plays I was really afraid of at first, but as soon as I figured it out and got it on its feet with actors I became really obsessed. I've always loved "Sure Thing", but I don't know if I have an absolute favorite play in the collection. This group of actors honestly makes me love different parts of each of the six plays.
BWW: Silly question: ALL IN THE TIMING or SNL?
Paige Kiliany: Oh [Pauses] ALL IN THE TIMING, I think. I don't really watch much SNL unless it's a specific sketch I've heard great things about or Tina Fey or Justin Timberlake are on. I love ALL IN THE TIMING because it is so witty and I love wordplay.
BWW: Is there anything that Houston audiences just have to know about the production?
Paige Kiliany: I really want audiences to know how much of a fun, complete experience this show is and that it's perfect for a summer night. It's in a bar, you have the option of a big delicious dinner brought right to you during intermission. And this show is so entertaining, you won't be disappointed.
BWW: Let's switch tacks. Tell me more about your career. Is there a moment in your life that you can pinpoint where you were convinced, or where you determined, to make a career in theatre?
Paige Kiliany: Theater has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, as cliche as that sounds. My parents used to play the recordings of epic musicals (Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, Rent) during long car rides and I would act them out with dolls and action figures. I was never interested in sports, it's was always music, dance, theater and writing for me. When I was around thirteen, I became really interested in directing and once I found my niche, it was a done deal.
BWW: You were involved in musical theatre and dance. How did you make the switch to directing?
Paige Kiliany: I had the opportunity to perform in summer stock when I was a kid, so I got to see a world beyond just an onstage performance. Directing was just so appealing to me and included so many aspects of creativity and research. So I wrote a couple plays, directed in class and made films with friends, and read a ton of different playwrights.
I'm still interesting in directing musical theatre, it's just more expensive to produce so most of the opportunities I have at this point as a director are with straight theater but I try to assistant direct musical theater when I can.
BWW: You have a BFA. Do have any input on the great debate? Whether or not it's necessary for success in the theatre?
Paige Kiliany: I think it definitely helps, but I know too many people who have different success stories to make a generalization about what is and is not necessary. I was very fortunate to attend an amazing school, Carnegie Mellon, with fantastic professors and peers that really pushed me and shaped me into a director. I have no doubt that in twenty years, I'll still be saying that this school was paramount to my development as a director.
BWW: Do you have any advice for aspiring directors?
Paige Kiliany: Read different classic and new playwrights and meet other directors, actors, designers and writers. You learn so much from like minded and different minded artists.
BWW: Can you offer any words of encouragement for those scratching at the theatre industry's door?
Paige Kiliany: Well, I still feel like I'm scratching at the theatre industry's door and I've read interviews of some of the directors I admire where they talk about fear of failure even though they have had much success. Perhaps it's in our nature as critical artists to never be satisfied. [Pauses] But I try to always look for opportunities and stories I want to tell onstage. This is a very competitive field, but no risk, no reward.
This is the last weekend to see ALL IN THE TIMING produced by The Landing Theatre Company. The production runs until July 27th at The Alley Kat Bar and Lounge, 3718 Main Street (@ Alabama), Houston, Texas 77002. All seats are $15. Admission plus dinner is $30. The following showtimes are available: Thursday, July 24th, 2014 at 7:00 PM, Friday, July 25th, 2014 at 7:00 PM, Saturday, July 26th, 2014 at 7:00 PM, and Sunday, July 27th, 2014 at 7:00 PM. To purchase tickets, click on show dates and times listed above or visit www.landingtheatre.org.