Monday, February 9, 2015

Q & A With Seret Scott, Director of The Whipping Man

If the world of theatre is still a boys club, primarily when it comes to directing, someone forgot to tell Seret Scott.

She is an accomplished, Drama Desk Award-winning actress and Helen Hayes Award-nominated director, as well as a vocal supporter of African American advancement in the arts.  Now, she’s at the helm of the latest George Street production, tackling the tough issues of both race and religion in the searing all-male drama, The Whipping Man.

Q:  What initially attracted you to directing this show and why is it important to you?
A:  I'm a history buff. I love reading about historical events and individuals.  The story of black Jews and slavery has not been explored in theatre.  It's rich.

Q:  How has your acting experience affected the way you direct?
A:  I'm often told I direct from an actor's head (whatever that means).  I still have an actor's perspective and I love character work; rehearsal is my favorite time. 

Q:  How has being a female director of an all-male cast affected the rehearsal process?
A:  For some reason, most of the shows I've directed over the years have heavily male characters.  I'm very comfortable working with strong men actors -- they inspire me. If news reports are any indication, male actors don't have as much trouble with women directors, it seems, as men in the outside world have with women supervisors.

Q:  What is an average rehearsal day like for you and the actors/creative team?
A:  Rehearsal days are concentrated and intense.  Often, personal information is revealed in the course of developing characters.  It's understood that all statements are confidential.

Q:  What has been your biggest challenge with this piece thus far?
A:  The play has several very physical movement areas; we've had to spend a fair amount of time on those sections.

Q:  What other creative works (literature, theater, film, etc.) inspire you?
A:  I enjoy watching documentaries on just about any subject.  People have so many interests and concerns that you may never have thought about.  I learn so much.

Q:  What overall feeling or message do you hope to impart to the audience?
Luke Forbes, Ron Canada, and Adam Gerber, photo by T. Charles Erickson
A:  I hope the audience will want more information about all aspects of the Civil War and perhaps recognize how much all wars have in common.

Q:  In an interview, Lopez, who is neither black nor Jewish, commented, “I don’t know if you have to be in a certain group to tell a story…”  However, GSP Artistic Director David Saint felt it was essential to have an African American direct this piece. Do you feel as though being African American has influenced your direction or given you a deeper understanding to this play?
A:  There have been few stories about the Civil War told from an African-American perspective, and even fewer Civil War stories told from an African-American woman's perspective.  David's decision to use an African-American woman, I think, gives the work another dimension.

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