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Meet the Directors’ Studio: Angela Pirko

Meet the Directors’ Studio

In an effort to continue its vision to provide a training ground for the next generation of theatre artists, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has launched its first-ever Directors’ Studio, a series of workshops and discussions designed to investigate the craft of theatrical direction created for local, early-career directors. By application, six directors have been selected for the 2015–2016 season’s Directors’ Studio: Catrin Rowenna Davies, Rick Hammerly, Lee Liebeskind, Carter Lowe, Angela Kay Pirko, and Jason Schlafstein.

As these directors collaborate with one another, they will also meet and learn from local and international directors and participate in an evolving dialogue about directing classic works. To kick-start this dialogue, not only among the Directors’ Studio, but between STC, the Directors’ Studio, and the community, we interviewed each of the participants. Over the next couple weeks, we will be publishing the last two interviews, so you can meet and learn about our Directors’ Studio members and start participating in this dialogue with us.

Now, without further ado, meet Directors’ Studio participant Angela Kay Pirko.

An Interview with Angela Kay Pirko
Angela Pirko Headshot

What do you hope to learn from the Directors’ Studio?

Directors can be very solitary creatures.  Unless you’re assisting or you perform as well, it’s hard to get to learn any other rehearsal structure, techniques, or styles of directing apart from your own. I want to learn more about how other directors think, why we approach our art in the way that we do—not just from a technical standpoint, but a holistic one as well. How do other directors feel about their art? Why are we drawn to this world, and why do what we do? How do we keep doing it and grow, expand, and thrive as we do so?

Michael Kahn, in one of our first meetings all together, talked about the director’s soul—I can’t remember the last time I heard someone openly use that beautiful word, “soul”, but it’s so crucial to what we as artists do.  I want to know more about my artist’s soul.

What got you started in the arts?

I’ve been in theatre for as long as I can remember; there’s video footage of me at three years-old in the middle of what was clearly (in my mind) a magnificent musical finale—I’m dancing and leaping about on a fireplace, singing dramatic nonsense at the top of my lungs. Always, art—theatre—has been the thing in my life that has made me happy and that my world is shaped around.  I can’t imagine my life not creating.

What’s your dream show to direct?

A rock opera of Dante’s Inferno. Have to write it first, though.

Who’s your favorite director? What do you admire about their work?

Oh, so many.  Peter Brook, Julie Taymor, Yaël Farber, Robert Lepage…They all have this wonderful common thread for me of incredible world building—they manage to create fantastic spectacles while still keeping a focus on the connection of actor-to-actor and actor-to-audience.  I feel intoxicated when I’m watching their plays, like I can push back the walls of the theatre and keep going into the world they’ve created.  They manage to take common themes and touchstones of our everyday and craft them into art that transcends reality.

Does the idea of directing classical theatre scare you, excite you, or both? 

Excites and fascinates.  Classical drama seems to me much of the time to have far less boundaries on it than contemporary theatre. It feels like there’s more opportunity for interpretation and exploration—you can set a show anywhere, cast it with anyone, create any world. I love that feeling of limitlessness.

Which Shakespeare play would you most like to direct? 

Romeo and Juliet—which surprises even me.  But I feel like people have become very cynical about it over the past few years—it’s become so in vogue to dismiss their love and passion as teenage hormonal lust or to say the play matters more for the politics and family aspects of the story.  I think it’s so much more interesting if you really and truly believe it’s a love story.  Love doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t happen for a reason, and it isn’t nice—love, real love, is terrifying.  We do unspeakable acts in the name of love—lie, fight, kill, die.  We always have, and we always will.  I think that trying to play out that level of feeling for another human being on stage, finding out what that depth and height is, and getting the audience to really believe in it as well, would be an amazing challenge for a director.


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