BWW Interview: Artistic Director Paul Rush at Sixty-six Theater Co. Welcomes MY THING OF LOVE
Paul Rush is the artistic director of Sixty-six Theater Co. located inside the Strasberg Institute in Hollywood. This past weekend April 26 - 28 he opened a play in the Marilyn Monroe Theater of the Institute entitled My Thing of Love. In our chat Rush talks about the play, the Sixty-six Theater Co. and why he started it three years ago.
Tell us about Sixty-six Theater Co. and its mission.
It was founded by myself and two of my friends (Maggie Cleary and Coleman Kelly) while we, new to LA, were in that typical Hollywood routine of asking people to look at us, and we got kind of tired of just humbly asking to be looked at. We thought we weren't giving to the community. We wanted to really create thought-provoking theatre with an intention of giving to our audience.
Do you look to do first-run or lesser known shows?
Not always, no. We have done material that has been produced before, but LA, in our short little experience here, has been notorious in that competition for popular productions, which has made it difficult.
I am a member of The Road Theatre in the valley and everything they do is first run.
They do great work up there.
You've been artistic director for three years in Hollywood, but where were you before? Tell us about your background in producing theatre.
I was in the military for six years on the east coast. While I was on the east coast I produced a few plays at my University. But professional productions really started when I transferred out here.
Whereabouts on the east coast?
Maine. The University of Maine.
I'm from Massachusetts. I took a workshop at Stage West in West Springfield. It's always fine to talk with a fellow New Englander.
Yeah, I read that in your bio. The theatre community in New England is really wonderful. I got immersed in it while I was growing up. There's a great book about Stage West and the kind of theatre they produced. Many Tony winning actors came out of there.
cast of My Thing of Love
Yes, Rae Allen was a Tony winner and she was artistic director there. Let's forge ahead to the play you're opening this week My Thing of Love by Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros. It's gotten great reviews back east. Tell us about the play and why you find it so special.
There's a romantic triangle betweem a husband, wife and mistress. I find the play special because the female protagonist in the play, the wife, is unapologetic. She understands what'g going on in the world, while everybody else seems to really bring her into their tornado, their storm. And this woman just weathers it. There's a wonderful statement about how strong women are in American society...really what they represent and how they hold it together even when we don't want to be held together. It was originally done at the Steppenwolf Theatre in 1992. Laurie Metcalf did it on Broadway in 1995. When I read that, I thought, yes, of course, she did this play. She'd be an absolute powerhouse in it. This female protagonist is just a powerhouse. It's nice to see that kind of writing. The thing about female playwrights is they don't get produced very often. And they're really wonderful. They have a strong voice. I'm very happy they're able to do it.
Was the playwright nominated for a Pulitzer for it?
She was. She was a co-author with Theresa Rebeck, another great writer.
Expound a little more on the female character's strength.
The strength that the character shows is not only in the way that she handles all of the situations she's in, but it's also in her sensitivity. You very rarely see full-rounded characters like that, especially in comedies, like in this dark comedy.
What else can you say about the play without offering a spoiler alert?
(he laughs) I don't want to give anything away...(he laughs again)
You should get a good female audience.
It puts the female protagonist on the stage front and center. Alexandra does a great job of just throwing the world at her and having her deal with it.
What are your challenges as director of the piece?
The actors in LA are absolutely phenomenal. A lot of the good ones work. They book work all the time. They understand that theatre training and theatre acting are second to none. I'll Take That right into the dirt with me. It's hard work. Three, four, sometimes five rehearsals a week for five and a half weeks. It's a big commitment. The actors who I've worked with and who are able to dive in and stay there...they grow. The end result is there.
Are there standouts in your cast?
The female lead Liz Greig ... this is her west coast premiere. She's originally from Australia. She's just a powerhouse with the character Elly's sensitivity and strength. Her young antagonist Kelly, the mistress, is essentially the younger version of Elly. It's Elly when she was younger. Brittany Lewis who is playing Kelly...I give her a year before she breaks out on a TV show. She's quick. The other night at rehearsal, it was their final reheasrsal, so I wanted it to be a fun one in which they make each other laugh. I gave them a challenge to see if they couldn't break each other. She did something. I was in the lighting booth and I couldn't stop laughing for five minutes. It's just a matter of time for her. She does her work, but it's not really work, it's fun.
Do you have a favorite playwright?
scene from My Thing of Love
It fluctuates for sure, but Martin McDonagh is kind of my guy. His approach to comedy is just borderline to realism. I love how unapologetic he is. He does not apologize for his comedy. In my opnion he throws that mirror up to nature. Without the politics that sometimes interweaves itself into American theatre, he does not apologize for his writing.
Which of his plays do you appreciate most?
The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Pillowman are among his best, powerhouse stuff. I also like Sarah Ruhl. She's whimsical, but her writing is very theatrical. Eurydice, The Vibrator Play, In the Next Room are some of her best plays.
Do you prefer comedy to drama?
We have a tendency here at Sixty-six to do dark comedies. We don't like to do straight comedies. In a dark comedy, the focus is on realism. Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis was very successful for us. We did the show last year and our lead actor...you know when you have one of those actors that bleed for you? ... this guy was a bleeder; he went up onstage and bled...it was really something...
In conclusion, what do you want our readers to experience at Sixty-six?
I would like to welcome people into the Marilyn Monroe Theatre. We haven't been there for too long; it's a beautiful, beautiful stage and we're getting the doors open, we're producing original content, and we're looking forward to becoming a staple here in West Hollywood. We want to grow with our community.We really do. We believe that acting asnd storytelling is for the audience, and we do it for them. We'd really like them to come in and visit our home.
April 26 through May 18, 8 pm.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
For TICKETS: https://sixtysixtheater.com/tickets/