BWW Interview: Director Emma Rice and Wallis Artistic Director Paul Crewes Discuss 946: THE AMAZING STORY OF ADOLPHUS TIPS
There's still one week left to catch Kneehigh's 946: THE AMAZING STORY OF ADOLPHUS TIPS at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The show's director, Emma Rice, and the Wallis' Artistic Director, Paul Crewes, were nice enough to take time to discuss Kneehigh's latest piece of "theatre alchemy" with BroadwayWorld.
A Bit about Emma and Paul
Emma Rice, who is also the Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe, is essentially the British version of Julie Taymor. She has a solid reputation for making flashy and bold design choices, and also apparently loves puppets.
Paul Crewes took over as the Wallis' Artistic Director last April. He's fresh off the boat from Cornwall where he previously led Kneehigh, the innovative and Tony-nominated theatre troupe. The "theatre alchemists" at Kneehigh are the creators behind this production. They pretty much just followed Paul Over here like stalkers.
A Bit about 946
946 is adapted from Michael Morpurgo's young adult novel of the same name, and set in the midst of World War II. I could explain what the story is about, or I could just link you to the amazing trailer Kneehigh put together for the show:
Q. Hi Emma and Paul. Thanks for taking the time out of your schedules to talk to BroadwayWorld about 946. Emma, I understand you were actually the mastermind who wanted to adapt Michael Morpurgo's book to the stage. What made you want to do that?
EMMA: My Mum told me to, and I always try and do what my mother tells me! She had been reading the book to my nieces and wrote to say that I had to read it; it had everything I loved. I did, and it did! It has history and personality, politics and surprise, it tackles deep and difficult truths but reveals a rare hope that leaves the reader, and I hope the audience, truly satisfied by the extraordinary journey we have been taken on.
Q. Paul, 946 was actually the last theatrical piece you produced when you were still at Kneehigh. Was it your idea to bring it to the Wallis, or did they just stalk you over here?
PAUL: It was one of the first productions I programmed. I had brought our production of Brief Encounter here to The Wallis, which had been a great success, and I hope 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips will prove equally successful.
Q. Before coming to the US, this show ran at Shakespeare's Globe. That has to be a very different performance space than any theatre you'll encounter here. As a director, do you find yourself having to do much to manage that transition?
EMMA: The show is told by such a wonderful group of actors and musicians that they revel in adapting to new spaces. The extraordinary thing about The Globe is that many of the audience are standing and in broad daylight. This makes the audience very present and very vocal. Our job has been to bring that fun and freshness to The Wallis, which has been a great challenge. As director, I just try and keep an open mind and look for opportunities to reveal the show in ways that chime with each space we are in. It's the best job in the world!
Q. I couldn't help but noticing that the actress who plays Lily might be a little older than 12. Was casting an adult as opposed to a child for this role done solely for legal concerns or is there an artistic reason behind it?
EMMA: Ha! I only ever do things for artistic reasons! I needed a leading actor with a huge emotional capacity to take on this journey. Katy Owen is a shining star and truly channels what it is to be a child. For me, she becomes far more believable than a child actor would be; her experience, skill and star quality take us on a journey that is unforgettable and unique. I wouldn't trade her for the world!
Q. If you had to point out the one biggest difference between American and British tastes in theatre, what would that be?
EMMA: I find that wherever the work travels, people have far more similarities than differences. If pushed to find a difference, perhaps us Brits are slightly more used to men playing women and women playing men - but that only adds to the fun!
PAUL: Difficult to answer, although I do believe good theatre is universal. I think there is a tradition in the UK, driven by public funding in the Arts, to explore different ways of making work. This has developed a broader range of theatre, and therefore a broader taste.
Q. Paul, some people say Los Angeles isn't a theatre town. What do you say to those people?
PAUL: I think LA is a town which is culturally exciting, and is home to many creative and artistic people. I think the Arts are flourishing at the moment, and I believe theatre is part of that excitement. Film has obviously been the major industry in LA, however there is an appetite here for more great theatre.
Q. Before we go, if you could sum up Los Angeles theatre in one-word, what would it be?
How to See 946
Tickets range from $29 - $129 and are available online or by phone by calling (310) 746-4000.