BWW Interview: Noah Taylor, Director of GODSPELL at Easley Foothills Playhouse

BWW Interview: Noah Taylor, Director of GODSPELL at Easley Foothills Playhouse

Prepare ye for a timeless tale of friendship, loyalty, and love based on the Gospel According to Matthew.

A new production of Godspell opens the 2018-19 season at Foothills Playhouse, the first under new artistic director Will Ragland.

We asked director Noah Taylor to tell us a bit about himself and his vision for this enduring musical.


First, tell us a little about yourself.

I am the founding Executive Artistic Director of The Market Theatre Company, which is located in downtown Anderson at the Anderson Arts Center. We produce a full season of mainstage shows, plus an annual 24 Hour Musical for charity, as well as Shakespeare in the Park. I studied both theatre and graphic design at Anderson University - I couldn't settle for just one major. Now I am a freelance graphic designer; I specifically enjoy designing for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. I actually had the exciting opportunity to design Foothills Playhouse's new brand and website. I also spend my days managing operations at The Market, producing shows, directing, and occasionally dabbling in scenic design. My wife Carlie and I just welcomed our son Elias in January, so this year has been unforgettable!

Next please tell us a little about the main cast and crew.

I can't say enough good things about this cast and crew. I am blessed to have such a passionate creative team. Ashley Bingham (who serves as both choreographer and stage manager) and Julia West (music director) are both coming straight from working on Cabaret at The Market Theatre. They are fiercely creative, detailed, and story-driven. I've also had the pleasure of working with new collaborators like Katie Halstensgard (costume design), John King (lighting design), Annette Miller (propmaster), and my upbeat, gracious, supportive assistant director, Donna Duffie. Will Ragland designed the set, so you know it's going to be good!

The cast is full of old and new collaborators, some veterans of Upstate stages, some newcomers, and some who go way back with Foothills Playhouse. Drew Whitley (Jesus) and Austin Smith (who plays both John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot) both bring incredible life, honesty, wit, and development to their roles. The Disciples are Cristin Brown, Sims Hall, Drew Kenyon, Ryvers Martin, Maggie McNeil, Bradley Miller, Hannah Morton, Nathan Oliver, Ben Otto Sunderman, and Kellsey Vickers.

What is your approach to the show? Are you embracing the "hippie" vibe?

The original production of Godspell was revolutionary. But over time, the iconic "hippie" vibe and urban setting have become expected, making them less effective. We want audiences to be inspired by Jesus's love by experiencing his life and teachings in a new, unexpected, relatable way.

In the foreword to the script, Stephen Schwartz says the play should have an emphasis on "simplicity, on 'Theatre of Poverty', on theatrical magic created by the actors without 'production values' ... the sense of fun and beauty created by urban garbage..."

The words "theatre of poverty" and "urban garbage" made me think "outsiders", "unwanted", "rejected". Our community can't necessarily relate to "urban garbage", but it does understand what it's like to live in a place that has seen its share of success followed by neglect and decay. All around the Upstate you can find crumbling mills. We decided to set the show in one of these abandoned cotton mills, which is beautiful in its own right, with vibrant history, architecture, as well as the hope of renovation and renewal.

"Outsiders" in Easley don't look like hippies. We portray the disciples as normal people that we can all relate to, each with their own struggles, insecurities, and problems that make them feel like "outsiders" at times. Each character has a distinct arc and grows throughout the show; they are made better for having known Jesus.

BWW Interview: Noah Taylor, Director of GODSPELL at Easley Foothills PlayhouseWhy do you think Godspell has continued to resonate with audiences?

I think what makes Godspell special is the way it makes Jesus's life, mission, and message relatable to a contemporary audience. In the south, many of us have grown up hearing the story of the Gospel. Because its so familiar, we often forget that Jesus and his disciples were real people. They had fun. They laughed. They had problems. Jesus was fully human. And his message is timeless. Godspell helps us experience Jesus's message of love in a new and powerful way by telling his story through a completely unique lens. We've embraced that by focusing every decision on making the show relatable to our specific community.

Do you feel any extra pressure being the first show under the Playhouse's new artistic direction?

Not so much pressure as excitement! I was absolutely thrilled when Will Ragland asked me to direct this first show in the new era at Foothills Playhouse. I want to see this theatre succeed and bring excitement and energy to the Easley community.


Godspell runs October 5-21, 2018 at Foothills Playhouse in Easley, SC.

TICKET PRICES

$12 for the general public
$10 for seniors (age 65+)
$10 for military
$
10 for students (18 and under)

Shows run at 7:30 pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 pm on Sundays.

For reservations and additional information visit foothillsplayhouse.org.

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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