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BWW Interview: Director David Staller on His Latest Shaw Show- WIDOWERS' HOUSES


Very few directors will stick with a singular playwright for a majority of their career, but that is not the case for David Staller. Staller has worked on all 65 of George Bernard Shaw's plays and he isn't stopping yet. TACT NYC and the Gingold Theatrical Group are happy to present Shaw's very first play- WIDOWERS' HOUSES.

In Shaw's debut play - written during his time as an arts journalist in response to a dare by a fellow critic - a young man discovers an unsavory truth about his family-to-be, and is faced with choosing between his love and his ideals. Widowers' Houses will play a strictly limited engagement at The Beckett Theatre @ Theatre Row (410 W. 42ndStreet, New York, NY 10036) through Saturday, April 2.

Widowers' Houses features Jeremy Beck (The Cocktail Party) as "Dr. Harry Trench," Jonathan Hadley(Rothschild & Sons) as "William De Burgh Cokane," Hanna Cheek (The Persians...a comedy about war with five songs) as "Waitress" and "Annie," Terry Layman (Broadway's Cat On a Hot Tin Roof) as "Sartoius," Talene Monahon (Encores' The Wild Party) as "Blanche Sartorius," and John Plumpis (The Man Who Had All the Luck) as "Lickcheese."

BroadwayWorld sat down with David Staller to chat about directing Windowers' Houses, his long-standing relationship with Shaw's work and so much more! Check out the entire interview below!

You have worked on all 65 of George Bernard Shaw's plays! What drew you to working on Shaw in the first place?

When I was about 10, I heard an old recording of Shaw from a radio broadcast saying, "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." It fascinated me, particularly since everyone I knew seemed to be in therapy. The notion of not allowing others to define whom we wish to be resonated and I began exploring his work. He'd given his life to fighting for humanitarian causes, standing up for the disenfranchised in the world; and, face it, that's all of us. The more I read, the more intrigued by his work and his life I became.

In 2006, I founded Gingold Theatrical Group to produce an experimental monthly reading series called PROJECT SHAW. The hope was to present all of Shaw's 65 plays as staged readings to promote lively and peaceful discussion. It was a particularly troubling time in the world, as it is now, as it seems always to be, and I was looking for clarity, for some perspective. We launched the series at The Players Club. It became such a hit with every reading sold out to capacity that here we are, eleven years later (now uptown at Symphony Space), still selling out and still looking for clarity. Shaw remains maddeningly relevant.

Can you tell me a little bit about WIDOWERS' HOUSES?

Shaw's very first play was born out of his belief that we needed a modern English drama to represent what was dawning at the 20th century. He'd become enamored of Ibsen and Chekhov and saw the need to blow the dust off of the old mold of the Victorian theatre. At the time he was an extremely well known theatre critic and kept challenging the writers of the time to step up. Finally, with no takers, he threw his own hat in the ring. After years of writing, speaking and marching for the forward thinking socio-political issues of the time, he realized that the theatre could be his most effective groundbreaking soapbox. That his plays are almost all sly comedies was his most powerful means of challenging the times. That human nature and the issues he wrote about are unchanged keeps his work astonishingly modern.

What do you like about this show in particular? What makes it stand out from some of Shaw's other work? Jonathan Hadley and Jeremy Beck in Widowers' Houses_ Photo by Marielle Solan.jpg" align="right" width="400" />

This is one of the most impressive first plays from any established playwright of his or any time. It's remarkably complete. Streamlined. Though I've been accused of making cuts, I have in fact added bits of dialogue from his later rewrites. This play takes a hard look at human nature in an amazing complex and entertaining way. There are no heroes and no villains in Shaw's work, so he brilliantly employs the stock theatrical characters of the time and then surprises us by giving them full reign to fly. This particularly play cleverly begins as if it's a play by his pal, Oscar Wilde, before morphing into an incredibly complex examination of the moral compass we're all faced with on a daily basis.

How has it been directing this cast?

Each and every member of this cast has been a dream to work with-a very pleasant and amusing dream, the kind you awaken from with smiles. They wasted no time embracing the play, the heightened style and the elements of research, quickly becoming a non-competitive collaborative unit and it shows on stage. Three of the cast came from the TACT company membership and three were from the outside world.

It's also important not to forget about stage managers, and this team has been astonishingly delightful. The design team, as well, was such fun: so helpful and creatively charged.

How has it been partnering with TACT for this production?

As a long-time company member of TACT, it's a comfortable fit. It's like bringing two family units together for a party. Gingold Theatrical Group's mission of presenting works championing human rights and free speech ties in well with TACT's mission of presenting unique text-driven plays that are rarely presented. The entire enterprise has been wonderfully larkish, in fact.

David Staller is the Founding Artistic Director of Gingold Theatrical Group, which he created in 2006. He has directed performances of all of Shaw's 65 plays, including local productions of Major Barbara and You Never Can Tell as a co-production with The Pearl Theatre Company, Man and Superman with The Irish Repertory Theatre, and Candida at the Two River Theatre. He directs all of GTG's PROJECT SHAW popular monthly readings at Symphony Space, oversees GTG's new play development program and the SHAW CLUB discussion group, and is currently bringing Shaw's socio-political humanitarian precepts to SUNY Stony Brook's undergraduates. He has directed many plays and special events around the world and is frequently invited upon the international theatre and socio-political scene as a speaker about equal human rights and all things Shaw. Member: TACT, SDC, AEA, SAG/AFTRA.

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