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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with David Muse

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with David Muse
David Muse. Photo by Teddy Wolff.

Today's subject David Muse is currently living his theatre life as the Artistic Director of Studio Theatre. This season marks his ninth in the position. He became only the second Artistic Director in the company's history when founder Joy Zinoman stepped down in 2010. He is currently represented as a director with Studio Theatre's current production of The Children which is playing now through June 9th in the Metheny Theatre space.

As director, Muse's varied and eclectic list of past Studio Theatre credits include The Remains, The Effect, The Father, Constellations, Chimerica, Murder Ballad, Belleville, Cock, Tribes, The Real Thing, An Iliad, Dirt, Bachelorette, The Habit of Art, Venus in Fur, Circle Mirror Transformation, reasons to be pretty, Blackbird, Frozen, and The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow.

Before coming to Studio Theatre, Muse was Associate Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, where he directed nine productions, including Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus, and King Charles III which was a co-production of ACT and Seattle Rep).

Other directing projects include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at Arena Stage, The Bluest Eye at Theater Alliance, and Swansong for New York Summer Play Festival.

Muse has helped to develop new work at numerous theatres, including New York Theatre Workshop, Geva Theatre Center, Arena Stage, Ford's Theatre, and The Kennedy Center.

He has taught acting and directing at Georgetown, Yale, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Academy of Classical Acting.

Muse is a nine-time Helen Hayes Award nominee for Outstanding Direction, and is a recipient of the DC Mayor's Arts Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist and the National Theatre Conference Emerging Artist Award.

The sign of a good director is when he can direct all styles of theatre well. David Muse's credits show that he is more than capable of this requirement.

One moment he could be directing a big three hour plus epic like Chimerica and then move over to a small intimate thriller like Blackbird. No matter what the project David Muse's work is sure to please and evoke good conversation afterwards.

As Artistic Director of Studio Theatre, David is taking the company to new heights. Read on to see what exciting things he has in store for you.

Grab your seats to The Children at Studio Theatre before it goes away June 9th. By doing so, you will be witness to the wonderful direction you've come to expect from David Muse. A man who lives his theatre life to the max and lights up Fourteenth Street with every production he chooses.

At what age did you get interested in theatre?

I was in a church play during middle school - that's when it started. And then it continued all through high school.

Where did you go to school for directing?

I got an MFA in directing from Yale [School of] Drama.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with David Muse
The 2003 Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival production of
Antony and Cleopatra.
The show was David Muse's first professional production as a director.
Photo provided by the company.

What was your first ever professional directing job?

It depends a bit on what counts as professional. The one that certainly qualifies would be Antony and Cleopatra at Hudson Valley Shakes [Shakespeare Festival] in 2003.

Can you please tell us a little something about your latest directorial project at Studio Theatre, The Children?

It's the second play I've directed from a British writer I like quite a lot named Lucy Kirkwood. This is a three-character drama that plays out in real time and in a single location. On the surface, it's about a fictional disaster at a coastal nuclear power plant. More generally, it's a play about problems we pass on to our children, like climate change.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with David Muse
L-R Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen and Naomi Jacobson in Studio Theatre's production of The Children. Photo: Carol Rosegg.

As a director what attracted you to the script?

I like how it succeeds on two levels. On the one hand, it's a well-crafted realistic drama with great dialogue and good parts for three actors in their sixties. And then more thematically, it's a play that confronts urgent contemporary problems from a human-scaled perspective.

When you assumed the position of Artistic Director at Studio Theatre, Joy Zinoman had been the only other person that held the job after starting the company. Was there any nervousness or trepidation about assuming the position from the founder of the company?

Succeeding a founder is the type of assignment that people warn artistic directors about! And it wasn't easy, trying to both honor its legacy and push the theatre in some new directions, both artistically and managerially. I've done my best to get that balance right and to let changes play out over a long timeframe.

You have quite the season planned for 19/20. How do you go about picking a Studio Theatre season? Is there input from the audience?

Season selection is an ongoing process-I consider it my most important job. The final choice is mine, but I have a lot of help from the artistic staff of the theatre, and from a 'literary committee' who read and discuss plays. There is no formal mechanism for audience input-we like to think that we lead them more than they lead us.

There is a new division at Studio Theatre starting this summer called SHOWROOM. Can you please tell us a little something about it?

It's a new thing we're piloting this summer. The idea is that rather than produce a full-blown single production, we're going to transform one of our theatres into a hang-out space-think drinks and café tables-and present a series of shows, all with a dressed-down summertime spirit.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with David Muse
Michael Kahn and David Muse at the opening night performance of Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Hamlet.
Photo by Kevin Allen Photography.

You were the Associate Artistic Director at Shakespeare Theatre Company. With Artistic Director Michael Kahn retiring do you think working with him helped prepare you to run your own company?

Michael likes to think that he has run an informal training program, turning out a new generation of institutional leaders and directors capable of handling the classics. And I think he has. It was like Artistic Director and Play Director bootcamp for seven years.

What do you consider to be some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming Artistic Director at Studio Theatre and what are you most looking forward to seeing happen with the company in the future?

I'm pleased about the new play development program we've built, about the increasing sophistication of Studio's off-subscription programming, and about some overall institutional maturation on the managerial side. I look forward to building on the work we've been doing lately with immersive and environmental productions, and to taking our community engagement efforts to the next level.

Special thanks to Studio Theatre's Associate Director of Marketing & Communications Mike Fila for his assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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