“Finding the World of this Play”: Anna Brenner

FEED continues it’s exploration of the Writer/Director Lab with brief interviews of this year’s participants. Up next is Anna Brenner, director of COCKFIGHT.

1) Briefly tell us about your directorial thinking on COCKFIGHT.
Peter [Gil-Sheridan, playwright] begins COCKFIGHT with this sensitive and slow ease into the world of the Bravo family’s backyard in West Tampa – where young Juanie wakes up on the concrete in the morning and begins to paint a giant egg.  But then Juanie’s drunk rowdy parents come home and the tone abruptly changes.  The expectations are always shifting in both large and subtle ways.  So, I’m just trying to understand these characters, and what they really want for their lives, and what they want from each other.  It’s a typical approach for me—to find the atmosphere and tempo of the piece, while having empathy in grasping the essence of characters.  I always want to blow the audience’s mind, in some artful way, and I just want to direct a full production of COCKFIGHT, because it’s all there.

2) What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining and how are the directors utilized during the process?
About midway through the year we were able to workshop the play with actors, and then I presented a section of the play to the group.  We created a little theater in the Soho Rep office; I brought my flood light and plugged it in on a dimmer, it was very poor theater.  Those few days of rehearsal were so helpful.  Peter and I had a lot of questions going into it that we were able to explore: Is there really a giant egg on stage? Who is this narrator?  How drunk are Juan and Boozy?  It was exciting for me to begin to find the world of this play in the room.

3) How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?
I just hope I get to direct a play by each of the lab writers someday soon. Seriously. But also – The lab has brought up a lot of good questions for me about the primacy of text in American theatre that I wasn’t really asking before.  I’m sensitive to protecting writers, and yet I really want to jump in and get to work and bring it to life.  I think the lab has helped me find patience.

4) Do you have any advice for emerging young freelance directors?
I believe it’s important to find the people you respect artistically and put yourself near them.  Keep investigating the big questions; know why you’re doing a project; don’t just throw your own style onto everything; have patience, integrity, bravery…  It’s been helpful for me to direct as much as I can, to always practice and improve.

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