Bay Theatre Company's Artistic Director Janet Luby steps back out on the boards in Christopher Durang's madcap comedy Beyond Therapy
(running to 3/20), which skewers modern relationships and psychiatry. Playing the aphasic shrink (Charlotte), Ms. Luby and
her stage nemesis, the talented Nigel Reed (Stuart), square off to violate every professional standard for their respective
clients, who have their own take on a courting ritual. I was able to interview Ms. Luby during the second week of the
run when she talked about audience building, offered insights into the current production, and spoke about the craft of acting.
shows at the Bay Theatre Company were excellent when you were co-artistic director and are excellent now, though of late I
keep wondering how you can top the last one ... and you do! How do you view your programming and direction as a company
and do you have plans for future expansion?
Luby: I want to have a season of plays that will appeal to the less experienced theatergoers - the people
who just want to be entertained - and the others who I call advanced theater people who expect and want more of a thought-provoking
experience. I think this year we had two plays in each category.
I would love to expand. We are working on that one with a new board of directors and a new group called
the Designers Circle. The bottom line is people and money. With an increase in both of those, we will grow.
DU: I know you relocated to this area from
the Midwest - specifically Minneapolis - and have worked in San Francisco and New York. Do you see differences in the
way theaters operate in various parts of the country?
I think theaters can take more risks in San Francisco and New York. I haven't lived and worked in the Midwest
for a while, but Minneapolis is a pretty sophisticated city. There is definitely more of an understanding of the power
of theater in those cities. Annapolis has never had a professional theater so we are all learning together on what works
DU: What did Director
Richard Pilcher tell the cast and creative team during the first read-through of Beyond Therapy?
JL: He talked a lot about the "Durang
Universe" and how it's really not that different from real life. We shared a lot of personal stories about
situations that were far weirder that anything in Beyond Therapy. A friend of mine was on a blind date with a guy who liked
to cross dress and he justified his position by saying that something like 75% of men are secret cross dressers [!!]. She
tried to go with it but couldn't. Just like Prudence [played by Mundy Spears]. The play is really not that "out
there" compared to the quirks of every day life.
How you see your character? How did you prepare for the role?
JL: I see Charlotte as totally honest and logical in her mind. I thought of people
who were very much like her. For instance, my mother would always say stuff like "go out to the refrigerator and
get the mail" and if I corrected her it was like "oh, please you know what I mean" - very insignificant in
the scheme of things. For Charlotte, language gets in the way of what she really means. But she can rattle
off the important stuff like Chekhov with no problem whatsoever.
DU: When you are performing, what type of rituals do you employ: Do you zone out or
get engaged with cast and crew?
I engage very much with the cast and crew right up until about three minutes before I enter the stage. Some
actors have to be left alone for practically the whole time and others are telling jokes right up until they say their first
line. There really isn't a ritual. I can't keep my hands off the box office stuff and I can hear from
the dressing room if there is a mistake with an audience member's seat, etc. Not a very good warm up!
DU: There is usually a break from the last
weekend matinee to the first weekday evening. How do you prepare for a performance following the Sunday - Thursday layover?
JL: We try to have a line through, i.e.,
the actors sitting in a circle doing a speed reading of just the lines with no movement. If schedules are an issue,
you can sometimes do it over the phone.
From an actor's perspective, how do you see shows change over the course of a run?
JL: It feels like a totally different show from opening night
to closing night. Nerves are high of course and there's the insecurity of not knowing how it will go over with the
audience. It usually gets better and shorter. Towards the end, it's a little bittersweet because you know
the experience is going to be gone forever.
Do you read reviews during a run? How do you handle criticism, negative and positive?
JL: Usually I do. There was one this year that someone gave
me a heads-up that it was pretty bad and I refused to read it. I still haven't. It's hard to not know though
because everyone at the theatre talks about it from the actors to the ushers. It's also REALLY fun to get a great
one so it charges everyone up!
I see from his bio that Richard is a practitioner of the Alexander technique. Do you yourself adhere to any program
JL: I went to
grad school at ACT - American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. They were very into Alexander and Yoga. The
Alexander is quite an amazing technique. I didn't have much chance to talk to Richard about it because we were pretty
tight on time, but we're planning to meet for coffee soon and I will talk about that for sure - he probably knows my teacher!
DU: What's up next for you in your
theater career? Are there any roles on your performance wish list?
JL: Yes. More from Moliere, (Toinette in Imaginary Invalid) and some of the interesting
characters from Chekhov, Mamet, Miller.....
Janet for your insights into both the practical and creative elements of the artistic process. We all look forward to
seeing your current show, which is extended to March 20, and getting Beyond Therapy!
John F. Glass - February 19, 2011