BWW Interviews: Director Jeff Moses Shares His Thoughts on MAN OF LA MANCHA
The McCallum Theatre and the Rabobank Broadway Blockbuster Series present the national tour of Man of LaMancha for five performances, Friday, January 24, through Sunday, January 26. Man of La Mancha returns in an all-new production complete with the Tony Award winning score and book that has inspired theatregoers since the very first note of "The Impossible Dream" was heard on opening night. The original Broadway production ran for 2,328 and won five Tony Awards, including "Best Musical" and Man of LaMancha remains one of the most enduring works of musical theatre. I caught up with director, Jeff Moses, to get his thoughts on this acclaimed production and more. Here are a few excerpts from that interview ...
DG: Let's start with you. Tell me about your background.
JM: I come from New York. I grew up here. I grew up watching all of the shows here. I've been in the business a long time.
DG: What the first professional show you directed?
JM: The first professional show I directed was South Pacific. I was a scenic designer before I was a director. Worked with a lot of shows and a lot of people. And I started directing, and I got this job to direct South Pacific - and I went to the auditions the first day and the second or third person walked in and he wanted to play Luther Billis - and he said to me "would you like me to show you what I did in St. Louis"? And then and there I knew I was in trouble. I said "No, I don't want to see what you did in t. Louis. Why would I want to see that"? That began my path as a director. Trying to find out what the shows are about and not necessarily what the performers had done somewhere else.
DG: What stands out as one of your favorite or finest moments?
JM: I realize the more I do this, the moments that are exciting for me are when I see something in a show that I haven't seen before. When we discover something about a play that I see on the page, but when I see on the stage with the right actors saying the lines and singing the songs we discover something more interesting about it. It happens in La Mancha - it's wonderful to find out what scenes are about in a new way that's exciting. You know, it's always the show I'm currently working on that I love the most. But if you ask me about the best moments - the best moments come in the rehearsals when the light bulb goes off because the actor has said something in a particular way, or you have heard something and can bring yet another color to the stage.
DG: Tell me about the genesis of this particular production. Why bring MAN OF LA MANCHA back to the stage now?
JM: Because we like it. That's the first reason to do something, Because you genuinely like it. As Sancho says to Aldonza about Quixote "I like him" .. well, we like it. We felt it was show - you know, when you do something on the road you do have to look around and see what's out there, you can't just be a blind person and say let's put this out there and hope somebody buys it - but even before that, for me, it has to be a show that you like and that you can bring something to in a way that will certainly be interesting to an audience.
DG: So, what new perspective do you believe you bring to this production?
JM: I don't know how knew this is. I do think, however, that in an interesting way MAN OF LA MANCHA is very much about a woman. It is very much about a woman who becomes Aldonza in this play within a play and what happens to her by the end of this play.
DG: Did you have a difficult time casting this production?
JM: Umm, yes, because we are so demanding I think. And casting this show was a - it's a ritual we like to do --- but we want to make sure that the people we are hiring can carry out what we want it to be about. The casting process is difficult because you have to weed out those who can't do the work, and also those who won't be able to make it on the road. It takes a lot of discipline to do what we do, night after night on different places.
DG: As a director, what advice might you give young actors who are beginning to pursues a career in theatre.
JM: You know, I don't know what to tell them. I can only tell them, when they ask me - when new, relatively inexperienced performers come to audition for a show - and I see this all the time - I see it at equity, non-equity and whatever is in between - what is it we're looking for, what is it they have to bring to us. The actor that brings choices in the actor that gets the role. That's what I tell performers just starting out. We want to see choices. We want to see something about you. If you start at the top, and you think about stars that are on the stage - stars are the people you can't take your eyes off of ... umm .. it starts with the idea that the performer makes interesting choices about the material they are given. Find ways to make interesting choices. Don't be like anybody else. It's easy to say, but it's hard to do. I'd rather have you sing Happy Birthday in a very interesting way and make me remember you than a very complicated song. I'm not auditioning the song, I'm auditioning you, There's all of that.