AAPEX Interview with dramaturg Katie Rasor and her role with MADAM: THE C.J. WALKER MUSICAL — AAPEX Interview , Madam — AAPEX

Saturday, March 7, 2009

AAPEX Interview with dramaturg Katie Rasor and her role with MADAM: THE C.J. WALKER MUSICAL

I am excited to be working with dramaturg Katie Rasor, who will be doing the costume research for the AAPEX production of MADAM - The C J Walker Musical. I asked Katie to tell us about her background and her work.
Jaz Dorsey

1) What role did theater and the arts play in your upbringing and childhood?
I was the oldest child in my family and in an attempt to do everything "right" and expose me to culture, my athlete mom decided to take me to see a Broadway tour of Brigadoon. I'm pretty sure she regretted that choice because from then on, no amount of swimming lessons or team sports could distract me from theater.

2) Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I started out singing (I think musicals are how a lot of people initially get introduced to theatre). But I'm no belter so I always got little chorus parts in the school musicals. Finally I auditioned for a straight play and was utterly relieved to discover that I could tell a story without having to sing it. When I went to college, I expected to do theater on the side but got cast as Emily in Our Town and that was pretty much it for me. The more I got into theatre, the more I realized that I still had to learn. I wasn't content to just do it peripherally. The theatre program I got involved in at Hanover College was excellent for tempering a single-minded person like me because majors weren't allowed to just focus on one emphasis. Everyone helped with every production and took a turn doing lights, costumes, stage management, and so on. This was essential to my personal as well as artistic growth because it taught me to see each project from a variety of perspectives. It showed me the artistry there is even in details that seem gritty and the importance of recognizing the gifts of the people you're collaborating with. Studying at the ART was like being taught to swim by jumping into the deep end. It is a very learn-by-doing experience. There were times that I really didn't know if I could find the information the director wanted or fulfill an expectation of a teacher, but the show had to go on and no one was asking if I felt up to it, so somehow I always found a way to do it. It was very empowering. By the time I got to the Williamstown Theatre Festival, I'd stopped second guessing myself to directors. It's a waste of their time. Between the ART and the Moscow Art Theatre, I was exposed to edgier work than I'd ever even imagined existed. They were constantly challenging my definition of theatre and broadening it. I remember going for my interview and being given tickets to see Robert Woodruff's production of Island of the Slaves complete with professional drag queens. When they put a pig mask on Karen McDonald, tied her to a wheel and threw paint at her, I knew was in over my head! I'm glad to have studied at Hanover where a barebones approach to theatre was the norm. Williamstown was a good counterpoint to ART's avante garde world too because I got to see the benefits of more accessible commerical theatre as well. I hope these places have taught me to see the value in a wide range of theatrical asthetics. My job is to help the director hone his or her best vision for a production, not my personal preferences, so it helps to have seen a spectrum and to respect as many as possible.

3) How & why did you become a dramaturg?
History has always intrigued me. As a kid, if I heard about something that piqued my interest, I couldn't think about anything else until I knew everything about it. I didn't know there was job for people like that though! I became a dramaturg by accident! I was in college, rotating through my theatrical disciplines to complete my major requirements and my turn came to work as a sound technician, but I have a bad back and couldn't get the equipment up into the sound booth! The department said "Well, you're a literature major too, right? Would you want to dramaturg this show?" I didn't even know what that meant. When I found out what it entailed, I was hooked. For awhile, I'd wanted more artistic agency in the process than I'd gotten as an actor, and this field combined so many things I loved! I knew that that was what I wanted to do. I applied to grad school with a very "se la vie" attitude though for fear of being disappointed if I didn't get in. When I did, my parents asked "You're not really going to go are you?" How could I not? I couldn't dream of a job that was a better fit for me!

4) What are your favorite dramaturgical duties & why?
I love research. I'm a very detail-oriented person and hate it when something is anachronistic or sloppy and, on the flip side, am utterly delighted by the level of detail that can be achieved through thorough study of a topic. I was taught that every single thing onstage should tell the audience something. If I can give the director a detail that makes the show more accurate or conveys a particular message, then I've been useful. Maybe only three people in the audience will notice, but for those three people, it will enhance the experience. Working on new plays is fun too. I love helping a story find its shape. I've also had the opportunity to interview people for theater articles on occasion. I'm from the Midwest and we ask a lot of personal questions to be friendly, but when I first moved to Boston, I made people uncomfortable with all my questions. Interviewing is a natural outlet for my curiousity about people and its so rare that one gets to just sit down and have a conversation with a stranger, I feel like it's such a priviledge.

5) What do you think of Madam C J Walker.
I'm sure I'll have more complex opinions about her as I get more into research, but for now, I'm really impressed by all that she accomplished. Not only did she break race and gender barriers, she did it with an utterly feminine product: hair cream. I feel like she flies in the face of all the advise/complaints that women have to be more like men to be successful.

No comments:

Post a Comment