Friday, July 8, 2011

Checking in with Chris Alexander

I stopped by the rehearsal studio yesterday and grabbed Porgy and Bess stage director Chris Alexander to get his impressions of the first week of rehearsal.

Chris, how’s it going so far?
It’s fantastic. We have a young, engaged, and very involved ensemble; they’re raring to go, and I’m so gratified that they’re eager to do the staging that I want. With Cynthia Savage, who’s working on our costumes, we’ve gone for the idea of giving everyone who lives in Catfish Row a profession and an identity, and they were eager to go for it, for example, “Oh, I’m a fisherman, I’m a blind man, I’m a fool." And as for our principals--well, it’s thrilling to hear their voices.

Any surprises this week?
I was amazed by how well the people in our ensemble move. We did a work-out with our choreographer, Kabby Mitchell III, and got everybody dancing, and it was terrific. Porgy and Bess is an opera, not a musical, but still it needs that element, and in this ensemble so many people have the skills. Kabby did a lovely job with it.

Anything in particular that we should be watching for?
It’s very funny. The story is intensely dramatic, but what I’m going for is the old Shakespearean mingle-mangle thing where you mix comedy and tragedy: these moments of brutality that then go right the next moment into something hilarious. There’s a thrilling scene, it’s extremely funny, between Maria and Sportin’ Life, where she chases him around with this huge knife and gives him hell. That’s a highlight of the evening, and then right after that comes Porgy’s “Buzzard Song”--a comic scene followed immediately by a dramatic scene, where we see the superstition of the community.

Photo by Alan Alabastro

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