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Blog Less Traveled: An interview with Derek Campbell

Scene from ICTC's production of The Dead.

blog by Scott Behrend  • 

This week, I spoke with award-winning director Derek Campbell about two upcoming directing projects - his revival of his 2010 production of James Joyce’s The Dead at the Irish Classical Theatre Company and the world premiere production of Darryl Schneider’s newest play, Clean Break, at Road Less Traveled Productions.

Some fast facts about Derek:

- Derek is an Associate Director at the Irish Classical Theatre Company (ICTC).

- He has extensive acting and directing credits regionally (outside of Buffalo) and has also directed many productions at ICTC, Shakespeare in Delaware Park, and RLTP.

- Derek has held academic appointments at Middlesex University, London, England, the University at Buffalo, MIT, Bennington College and as an adjunct faculty member at Niagara University.

- His work can currently be seen in ICTC’s The Turn Of The Screw.

Scott Behrend: What inspired ICTC to revive The Dead?

Derek Campbell: To put the matter as simply as possible, (the 2010 ICTC production) was an unexpected box office bonanza. It had been under active consideration for years but we wondered whether it would have broad audience appeal. How do you market a Christmas musical with a title like “The Dead?” 

As it turned out, the production got terrific reviews and that—coupled with strong word of mouth—had box office phones ringing off the hook. In the final week we were turning people away and there were numerous requests to bring it back. 

SB: Talk about some of the unique challenges or opportunities involved in directing a revival of a previous production.

DC: There are three forces pulling in different directions here. First, the desire to preserve the shape, spirit and soul of last year’s production. Then, the need to integrate five new cast members and give each of them an opportunity to make a contribution to the ensemble. Finally, the problem of pulling it all together in two and a half weeks. It is that last challenge that keeps me awake at night.

SB: How would you encourage a patron who saw The Dead last year to return and check out this new production? What might be different or worthwhile for them to revisit?
DC: Part of the appeal of holiday entertainment is that it fulfills certain fixed expectations. It is an event that is seasonally appropriate, reassuring, familiar, one that fully embodies and celebrates the spirit of the season. I’m confident our audience will be drawn back by the warm feelings and strong emotions generated by last year’s production. However, for those looking for something extra, we have five cast changes from last year and these actors will inevitably bring something new to the table.

The Dead

SB: Clean Break reunites you with actor John Fredo, your leading man from 2010 Artie Award Outstanding Production of a Play winner The Goat; Or, Who Is Sylvia? What’s your working relationship like with John, and what special tools does he bring to your collaborative process?

DC: I’ve got to say, I’m delighted to be working with John again. Whether on stage or in the rehearsal room, he is a consummate professional. He is, of course, a gifted and highly intelligent actor but beyond that he is also at ease with his talent, one of those rare actors who is comfortable in his own skin. It means he is open and receptive, generous to fellow actors, and a true partner in the collaborative process. I was drawn to this project by the power of Darryl’s script but getting a chance to work with John again is icing on the cake.

SB: Clean Break is a world premiere production of a brand new play by RLTP Resident Playwright Darryl Schneider. Are you able to share any insight into the special demands involved in shepherding a new play through its inaugural production?

DC: I am reminded of something John Osborne said about George Devine. Devine was artistic director of the English Stage Company, the home and crucible of England’s new wave of angry young playwrights in the mid-1950s. Speaking of Devine’s respect for the playwright, Osborne said, “I loved him because he felt an author’s private wound was more important than anyone else’s public satisfaction.” I would like to think that Devine’s keen sense of regard and concern for the playwright’s text would underpin my approach to working on Darryl’s script.

James Joyce’s The Dead will run Dec. 1 through Dec. 18 at the ICTC and will star Brian Riggs, Matt Witten, Cassie Gorniewicz, Chris Kelly, Doug Weyand, Ellen Horst, Sheila McCarthy, Wendy Hall, Pamela Rose Mangus, John Kaczorowski, Valerie Yawien and Emily Helenbrook. Tickets and info are available at (716) 853-ICTC or www.irishclassicaltheatre.com .
Darryl Schneider’s Clean Break will premiere at the Road Less Traveled Theater on March 9 and will run through April 1. The production will star John Fredo and Andrea Andolina. Tickets and info are available through www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org or via Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

TAGGED: road less traveled productions, scott behrend, the dead, theater

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  1. Darryl Schneider November 14, 2011 @ 6:00pm

    Can’t wait to work with Derek & John.

    Darryl Schneider's avatar