BWW Q&A: Kimberly Christie on RUDDIGORE at Young Victorian Theatre Company

On stage July 14th through July 21st.

By: Jul. 01, 2024
BWW Q&A: Kimberly Christie on RUDDIGORE at Young Victorian Theatre Company
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Young Vic is Baltimore's Gilbert & Sullivan company. They began in 1971 as an enthusiastic group of high school students and have evolved into an acclaimed and full-fledged performing arts organization today. Their professional-caliber productions attract a wide range of promising young talent and accomplished performers. Members of our casts and orchestra have performed on local, national and international stages.

The Baronets of Ruddigore are under a centuries-old curse: they must commit a crime every day, or die in agony. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd is the next in line and devises a plan to break the jinx. But when his scheme falls apart, he must contend with a picture gallery of ghostly ancestral portraits that have other ideas. With beautiful music, hilarious twists and mistaken identities, this supernatural show keeps you guessing between laughs.

Soprano, Kimberly Christie, is a dynamic and versatile singer, equally skilled in opera, oratorio, recital and musical theater.  She performs primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region with a wide variety of companies including Washington National Opera, Maryland Opera, Washington Concert Opera, Live Arts Maryland and NJ MasterChorale among others.  Kimberly recently entered the world of stage direction assisting Artistic Director, James Harp, in Maryland Opera's production of Tosca.  She is excited to continue her tutelage as assistant director to Young Vic's Artistic Director, Catrin Davies, in this summer's production of Ruddigore!  Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Rutgers University as well as Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Peabody Conservatory.  She lives in Baltimore with her husband and fur babies, Linus & Lucy.

What attracted you to the world of stage direction after having a successful career as a soprano?

I have always loved acting as much I love singing, which is why I pursued opera and musical theater as a performer. What is fun as a director is that I get to be all of the characters. I get to explore each character’s motivations with the artists, exchange ideas, and watch them inhabit the characters. I also get to see the ideas in my head come alive onstage, all of which is exciting and fulfilling in a new way.

Can you explain the transition from being in the spotlight as a performer to working behind the scenes as an assistant director?

I am still a performer, so I would say it is rather an expansion of what I do, and it was one that happened very naturally and serendipitously. Maryland Opera Artistic Director, James Harp, needed an assistant director for their recent production of Tosca and asked if I would be interested. I have enjoyed working with Mr. Harp for years as a performer, and was intrigued at the idea of working with him in this new way. I have some directing experience from college and graduate school, and have worked as a voice teacher and coach for many years, so I found that these skills translated very easily to direction. I really enjoyed working with Mr. Harp as well as the artists to help make Tosca the success that it was. I enjoyed the experience so much I decided to pursue other opportunities and continue to hone this skill.

How has your experience as a performer influenced your approach to directing?

My work as a performer informs what I do as a director and vice versa. As a performer I have always worked hard to bring my director’s vision forward, and so, as a director, I want to trust the performers to do the same while also leaving room for them to explore their own instincts. I also draw on my own past experience to know what directing styles were the most effective. For me, these were always ones based in collaboration, encouragement, open-mindedness and, of course, respect. A good director should challenge artists while also respecting their boundaries, and value creating a safe working and performance space.

What drew you to the Young Victorian Theatre Company?

I have had the pleasure of performing with and being directed by Catrin Davies for several productions, and have always had tremendous respect for her in both regards. When I got bit by the directing bug, she was my first call because I knew she is someone from whom I could learn a great deal. Lucky for me, she suggested I assist her in this summer’s production of Ruddigore. I have performed and worked with Maestro Ernie Green for many years as well, so I knew it was a great opportunity to not only learn, but have some fun with friends!

What are some of the unique challenges of directing a production of Ruddigore?

The biggest challenge in Ruddigore is the Act II entrance of the ghosts. Robin has reclaimed his rightful place as the Baron of Ruddigore, and is trying to be at home in Ruddigore Castle surrounded by portraits of his ancestors. A technical challenge presents itself when the painted ancestors suddenly come alive and step out of the portraits. Chris Flint, our director of production, has come up with a creative solution that I believe will delight our audiences and achieve the desired effect. Another challenge is the amount of chorus music that must, in true Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, be not only sung but danced. There is quite a lot of choreography to learn and solidify by a large cast in a short amount of time. We are fortunate to have a talented choreographer in Thomas Hochla, who is also playing Robin, to tackle these challenges with aplomb.

Can you share a bit about the process of working with Artistic Director, Catrin Davies on this summer's production of Ruddigore?

Working with Catrin has been really fun and enlightening! She has been including me in her staging process and production meetings so I can learn how the team works together to bring the score to the stage. There is also a great deal of patience and organizational skill required to plan rehearsals and work with a cast of 38 in a way that is effective and efficient. I am learning a great deal observing how Catrin goes about achieving this, and she is always open to any questions or suggestions that I have. She also trusts me to provide some staging and run scenes with artists on my own. All of which is an invaluable opportunity to gain the experience I’m looking for.

How does Young Vic balance maintaining traditional elements of Gilbert and Sullivan productions while keeping it fresh for modern audiences?

The YVTC audience does appreciate us maintaining a certain level of traditional elements, especially in respect to Gilbert’s text, but each year it is a group effort to update choice lyrics to reference pop culture and, of course, Baltimore icons like the Orioles and Natty Boh. These are little surprises that always delight audiences.

Why must audiences come and see the show?

The last time Young Vic performed Ruddigore was 1998! So, this is a rare opportunity for the audience to see it performed in Baltimore by their own G&S company with a full professional orchestra. Ruddigore has the same topsy turvy, lovers falling in love with the wrong people, proper silliness that audiences expect but with a spooky ghost story twist. I think the special effect and surprise of Act II sets it apart from other G&S productions. Also, modern audiences seem to have a shared curiosity about these past eras as seen in the tremendous success of shows like Bridgerton and Downton Abbey. Our production of Ruddigore calls back to those same traditions with beautiful costumes, romance, courtly dances and wholesome humor, so there is plenty to pique the interest of stalwart and new audiences alike. And, of course, there’s nothing like live performance!


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