BWW Interviews: Triple Rock Theatre Director Logan Vaden Talks The Whys of DANI GIRL
Triple Rock Theatre will present their inaugural production, the Houston premiere of DANI GIRL, from August 8-10, 2014. DANI GIRL is the story of Dani, a precocious nine-year-old, who loses her hair to leukemia and embarks on a magical journey to get it back. Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, DANI GIRL is a tale of life in the face of death, hope in the face of despair, and the indomitable power of the human imagination.
BWW: For those completely unfamiliar with the play, please give a snapshot.
Logan Vaden: The piece follows a young girl named Dani, who has cancer, as she goes on a quest, with the help from some friends, to get her hair back and to figure out exactly "why cancer is."
BWW: What happens in the play?
The show opens on a funeral for one of Dani's stuffed animals. Her guardian angel, Raph, attends and then explains to Dani that life is just a game through a game show type situation. The final question is, "Why is cancer?" If Dani gets the answer right, she will get her hair back.
She then befriends ten-year-old Marty, who she convinces to go on crazy adventures with her and to figure out why cancer is. They run into many obstacles such as Cancer, the evil thing causing all of this, and even have a conversation with God.
Also, through a fairy tale, we get to see quite a bit of what Dani's parents lives were like before and after she was diagnosed.
BWW: In the promotional materials, DANI GIRL is described as simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. As a director, how did you find that balance?
Logan Vaden: You know, that was the most difficult part, I think. I really wanted to create an environment where these kids were playing just games and the audience forgets why they are playing them. And then, all of a sudden, we're back in the hospital room and things are very real. How Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond have written this show is brilliant. Their book, music, and lyrics are so helpful in creating that. I can imagine any director that has tackled this piece before would agree with me.
BWW: There are many plays dealing with the pain and difficulty of chronic illness. What made this play special to you? How and why did you choose this play?
Logan Vaden: Something that appealed to me about this show is that while the kids are dealing with the very heavy subject matter of cancer, they're never really afraid. They are brave and come up with so many ways that they can beat it. They also stay kids, which I think is important. So many times when young people are put in these kinds of situations, they grow up too fast. This is not the case for Dani and Marty. As far as how and why I chose the show, I didn't! It kind of chose me. The show was already chosen and cast by our producer. I was brought in after the fact. And let me tell you, I have not had one problem with any of the decisions that were made before I became involved. Everyone involved is just great!
BWW: Was it a challenge to direct younger actors in a play with such difficult subject matter?
Logan Vaden: Not in the slightest. These actors carry themselves as true professionals. They take their work very seriously. They came in with all of their research done and had a full understanding of what the show meant. I can't even explain to you how impressed I am with them. I was joking last night that I was convinced with every milestone of the show (adding sets, adding lights, adding props, live music, and the first full run), that it would be a train wreck. It has been the complete opposite. They have handled each new challenge so gracefully and there has not been one hiccup.
BWW: Were there any other challenges in bringing this play to fruition?
Logan Vaden: There were quite a few challenges. While the show technically only has one
setting the entire time, a hospital room, Dani has a very active imagination and we end up going many places. So, I had to figure out how to turn a hospital bed into a spaceship that flies off to heaven and a boat that takes them on a journey through the inside of a teddy bear. Raph, Dani's guardian angel, plays many characters throughout the show. So, we had to discover new and interesting ways we could turn him into all of those roles. Not to mention, portraying the personification of Cancer! It's quite the crazy adventure.
BWW: Do you have any words of encouragement for aspiring theater professionals? What advice would you (or do you) give your young actors?
Logan Vaden: It wasn't too long ago that I was in their shoes, deciding where I wanted to take my career as a theatre artist. I would say train as much as you can. Theatre is always evolving. You never completely learn it because it is ever-changing, so never get stuck in a mindset that you know it all. Another thing I always tell my young actors is you are all you have. As actors, we have to protect ourselves. If you ever feel like you are in a position that may be compromising to your career, assess the situation, and remove yourself if you need to.
BWW: What is your favorite snooty Starbucks drink? It can be one you order or one you just like to hear ordered. I personally love a tall, iced (with extra ice) soy caramel macchiato upside down.
Logan Vaden: I knew there was going to be a crazy question! I'm afraid I'm rather boring when it comes to my Starbucks drink. I usually just order a grande white chocolate mocha. But yours sounds interesting. I may just need to grab that on the way to the theatre tonight!
DANI GIRL will be presented at the beautiful San Jacinto College-South Black Box Theatre located at 13735 Beamer Rd, Houston, TX 77089. Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for children. You can purchase tickets at http://triplerocktheatre.ticketleap.com/dani-girl/.