BWW Interview: Director/Actress Linda Kerns Discusses THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER at Actors Co-op
Linda Kerns has a made a name for herself as both an actress and director. As an actress: Broadway: NINE (Original Cast), Big River, National Tours: Les Miserables, Beauty and the Beast (LA), Wicked (LA). The movie "TITANIC," LAWeekly Award (Best Musical Performance) for Into the Woods at Actors Co-op. As a director: World Premiere Matthew Goldsby's Makin' Hay, Pride and Prejudice, I Do, I Do!, And Then There Were None, Going to St. Ives, among others.
She is currently directing the classic The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op to open Friday November 3.
When did you first get interested in considering acting as a career?
This question always makes me chuckle. I was FIVE! I was cast in the lead role in my kindergarten play The Little White Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings. All the laughs and applause and love just bit me right in the butt (and in the heart!) I knew from the moments of that curtain call that theater was going to be my life.
When did you delve into directing, and what did you learn from that first experience directing a play?
I had helped a friend direct/musical direct a few shows at a school at which he worked, but didn't really think of directing as a "career". Around 16-17 years ago the Artistic Director at a theater I had worked in, called to ask me if I wanted to direct a show there. I was gob-smacked. He said "I think you should direct, and this is the perfect place to start." I've done a fair amount of "on the job" training...and read lots of books!!
Did you have mentors along the way in regards to your directing? And what 'lessons' or guidance do you still pay heed to when you direct?
In terms of mentors - really just the person who first asked me to direct, I guess. He answered a lot of basic questions for me and I felt free to be lousy. J There are some directors out there working that I would love to assist for the sake of learning. Tina Landau, Diane Paulus, Frank Galati, Des McAnuff... I have a few books that were influential, among them, the William Ball book A SENSE OF DIRECTION and Jon Jory's TIPS, IDEAS FOR DIRECTORS. I learned a lot about what to do, and what NOT to do, from directors I have worked with as an actress.
The lessons/tips: 1. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Once you've said it, (to an actor) as the director, you can't take it back. 2. Actors are sensitive, vulnerable people...honor them and their bravery. 3. The hardest and most important part of directing is the casting!
Tell us a bit about the play; and what intrigued you about directing this comedy classic?
Once again, Kaufman and Hart have created a story with a strong plot, full of crazy characters. The play, while centered around a rather mean-spirited man, has a lot of heart, and if one follows the arc of many of the characters we do see in the end that "love conquers all". I was ready to direct something lighter, and more fun than some of the pieces I've directed in the recent past.
What do you want the audience to take away?
I want them to laugh! I want an enjoyable evening in the theater, where one can leave outside the dark time the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, and get lost in a story that isn't life and death, that isn't political, that has no real darkness in it. Don't get me wrong, I love that kind of thought-provoking theater, but just at this moment, I need joy!
In addition to directing, you are also a working actress and an Adjunct Professor in the Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program at UCLA. Acting or directing, do you favor one or the other?
When I first started to direct I thought "Oh THIS is where I belong", but acting is really my first love, and thank heavens I've gotten better at it over the years. Some of us are late bloomers! J And I love teaching. Seeing the 'light bulb' moment , or watching the growth and success of a student is glorious!
What's up next for you in regards to directing and/or acting?
I don't know! Got a job for me? (She laughs.)
Was there anything you wished we had asked or you'd like us to know about you or about the production?
I love these actors! AND theater (and the arts in general) can change lives in ways that nothing else can.
Actors Co-op Theatre Company presents Moss Hart and George F. Kaufman's beloved comedy classic THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, directed by Linda Kerns, produced by Thomas Chavira, about the nightmare holiday guest who never leaves - or so it seems. Opens November 3 at 8:00 pm. Runs November 3 - December 17, 2017. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. Dark November 24, 25 and 26. Additional Saturday Matinees: November 11 and November 18 at 2:30 pm. Tickets: $30.00. Seniors (60+): $25.00. Students: $20.00. Group rates available for parties of 6 or more.
To buy tickets or make reservations please visit www.ActorsCo-op.org or call (323) 462-8460. Actors Co-op David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St. (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood) in Hollywood.