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Interview with Sean Daniels

Sean Daniels Associate Artistic Director of Actor's Theatre of Louisville

Ever since my undergraduate days, I’ve been a bit enamored of Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and their great dedication to new play development. I contacted Sean Daniels, Associate Artistic Director of ATL, because I knew that he has a personal tie to new play development as well.

Brooke M. Haney (BMH): Why Does Actor’s Theatre of Louisville (ATL) have such a commitment to new works, and what does that commitment look like?

Sean Daniels (SD): We support new works by producing new plays. It’s important because Theatre is supposed to be a conversation with the audience about what is going on right. It feels  a little antique and precious when you only produce theatre from the 50’s and 60’s. We’re a culture obsessed with what is new and happening, and these are the writers of out time. ATL chooses to nurture them.

ROCK AND ROLL: THE REUNINON TOUR @ Actor's Theatre of Louisville directed by Sean Daniels (co-creator)

BMH: Why do you think new works are so risky?

SD: Theatre frames it as risky, music frames it as essential. The risk level changes where you live as well. For example, in New York there is a hunger for new things. Of course it is not just marketing, but training the audience. Music has done that, through the decades.

BMH: What is the value of the actor apprentice program at ATL?

SD: It is part of our duty to train the next generation of artists and administrators. We can trade them expertise and experience for work. Also, it’s great to have 40 new young people running around the building; makes a great energy.

MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR @ Cal Shakes directed by Sean Daniels

BMH: What is the actor’s role in developing new works?

SD: In a workshop, you can use a smart actor who might not be perfect for the part. The goal is to find what is working and what is not working. Ii is important not to cover up the flaws. In Production, everything is product oriented. We do what we can do to get this show in the best place possible. Of course, this is just one way. There are lots of different models for doing it.

Sean Daniels is in his 4th year as the Associate Artistic Director of Actors Theater of Louisville He is the former Associate Artistic Director/Resident Director of the California Shakespeare Theater and before that spent a decade as the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Dad’s Garage Theater Company in Atlanta, Ga. He is also an Associate Artist of the Geva Theater Center in Rochester, NY. Has also directed for Cleveland Playhouse, Alliance Theater, Neo-Futurists, Crowded Fire and developed work with the O’Neill,
Playlabs, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Magic Theater, Kennedy Center, and others.

Directing highlights: Brink! (2009 Humana), Hedwig and The Angry Inch, Rock and Roll: The Reunion Tour (also co-creator), 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, All Hail Hurricane Gordo (2008 Humana), O Happy Day and Out Of The Trees (both world premieres by former Monty Python member Graham Chapman), and Cannibal! The Musical (world premiere by “South Park” creator Trey Parker). He was named twice named “Best Director” in Atlanta and the Bay Area. American Theater has named him ““One Of 7 People Reshaping And Revitalizing The American Musical” and “ One of the top fifteen up & coming artists in the U.S., whose work will be transforming America’s stages for decades to come.”

Interview conducted Summer 2009.