For the spring season's kick-off show, Bertolt Brecht's epic "The Good Woman of Setzuan," students are receiving guidance from guest director and versatile stage talent Kim Weild. They also have the unique opportunity to work with a music ensemble, Houston's Two-Star Symphony, which is composing and performing the play's original score and writing new songs.
The New York-based Weild has taken up a temporary Houston residence to oversee this production, which will run Feb. 15 - 24 in UH's Wortham Theatre. Having worked as a director, actor, choreographer and singer, her diverse experience is helping her cast and crew approach their craft in new ways.
"Exposure to artists from an outside environment, who have different ways of working, is incredibly important and in my view, necessary for both student performers and those working behind the scenes," Weild said. "To be placed into a situation that shakes one up or, rather, wakes one up, is necessary...not only for students but for everyone involved...even the director."
Weild is a member of New York's Women's Project Directors' Lab, which unites rising directing talents and hones their creative strengths through collaborative projects. She also is the artistic director for Burning Wheel, an artistic venture dedicated to the creation of new work, reimagined classics and training of theater artists. She is the associate director on the current Broadway production of Mark Twain's "Is He Dead?" Last year, she directed the New York premiere of Charles Mee's "Fetes de la Nuit" at New York's Theatre at Riverside Church and Andrea Lepcio's "A Peddler's Tale" as part of the Women's Project's "Word of Mouth Festival."
"Working with a national guest director of Kim Weild's caliber is very important for our student actors, stage managers, designers and technicians," said Steven Wallace, director of the UH School of Theatre. "It teaches them to learn to work with a director who is not their teacher and is totally unfamiliar with their previous work. This is the same way they will experience it in the industry. It also provides us as educators the opportunity to get feedback about the level and quality of the training that a national director sees in our students. It is easy to lose that objectivity when one works with students on a daily basis."
Weild is among several other guest professionals, who are bringing their talents to the School of Theatre & Dance. This spring, Houston's avant-garde theater mastermind Jason Nodler will launch his new company Catastrophic Theatre through a co-production with the UH School of Theatre & Dance. Also, Tony Award-winning actress Phyllis Frelich ("Children of a Lesser God") and her husband, scenic designer Bob Steinberg, will visit UH for a few days this semester to work with students.
Frelich will reunite with the Tony Award-winning playwright behind "Children of a Lesser God," Mark Medoff, who recently joined UH's theater faculty.
These planned collaborations come at the heels of the recent announcement that the UH School of Theatre & Dance has joined forces with Houston's Alley Theatre to provide graduate students with a rare and unique opportunity to work with stage veterans on professional productions.
"Part of my objective is also to keep challenging our faculty and staff to teach and produce on the highest level," Wallace said. "Inviting local and national stage and screen professionals into our program forces us to continually evaluate our training program."
The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor's and master's degrees in theatre and teacher certifications in dance. Its graduate program consists of a master of arts in theatre and masters of fine arts in theatre with specializations in acting, directing and design. Each fall and spring, the school produces four plays performed in the Wortham Theatre, two dance concerts, the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Workshop, student productions, the New Play Festival, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival. Among the notable star faculty who lent their energies to the school are Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. Current faculty includes Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow, Houston Shakespeare Festival founder Sidney Berger and Medoff.
For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit http://www.hfac.uh.edu/theatre/default.html.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.