A couple of years back Amber Smith performed in a show that she’s now directing a production of. It’s a comedy. A farce. And it happens to be the single most-produced French play in the entire world. Smith to a few moments to answer a few questions about the show for The Small Stage.
A couple of years back you were in a production of BOEING BOEING with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Now you're directing a production of it for Racine Theatre Guild. What are your feelings on a farce that you've lived with in a couple of different ways from a couple of different angles?
I really hold this show near and dear to my heart, which I think is interesting for a woman to say given the subject matter we're working with in this script! I had such an amazing experience working with Michael Cotey and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, but it's so different to experience the show with a completely different group of cast members. I've approached the material in a similar way as when we worked on it at MCT - allowing the actors to play and have us collaboratively come to what we put together as an end product. My opinion is that it's the most fun way to approach this show and make it different with every cast you might see do it. This group has brought such a different perspective to the material, so that's been really fun to see.
Like DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER, Marc Camoletti's BOEING BOEING can be a bit of a challenge to live with whether directing or acting in a production. It's fun, breezy comedy, but it's easy to fall into sort of a love-hate relationship with a farce. Bits of the story or the dialogue might be a bit frustrating to have to work with. Is there anything about Camoletti's work that you find irritating?
Farces are VERY easy to develop a love-hate relationship with, regardless of the playwright, in my opinion. I don't know that anything about Camoletti's work specifically irritates me, but I do think that farces at times are pretty predictable, which isn't my favorite thing when it comes to theatre in general.
One of the things I love about your work as an actor is the delicious precision. Your movements motions, emotions and dialogue have such a crisp clarity onstage. When you were Gabriella in the Milwaukee Chamber production back in 2016 it felt like every single hand motion had a very definite rhythm and meaning to it. That kind of precision can be beautiful from a director's chair (particularly with the timing and precision required in a farce.) You might feel less control not actually being onstage, though. What's it like directing a show that you've recently acted in?
SO CHALLENGING! I truly didn't prepare myself for how tricky it would be! There are so many things I loved about the MCT production that I would love to just bring to this show - but what fun is that? It was tempting to want the actors to approach their characters in similar ways as we did at MCT, but I also wanted this to be different and really reflect the choices of the cast in this production. And this cast is fabulous!
But as far as the precision, I've said to the group multiple times in rehearsal, "this is truly choreography we're doing here". I think I drive them nuts by saying that repeatedly! But for farces, that precision and comedic timing is so necessary - jokes won't land, the pace will drag, and you'll lose the entire audience.
As an actor, do you feel like more of an "actor's director"? Here you're also working with sound/set/lighting/props/wardrobe etc. in greater depth than an actor often has. For the right person, this is a lot of fun. Are you diving deeply into those ends of the production or are you giving tech its space to work its magic while you do yours with the actors?
It truly depends on the company I'm working with. I love learning about all of the different aspects of the process - being on the Board of All In Productions has taught me so much from the production perspective. It really helps you become a better actor when you know and understand more about all that goes into staging a show. But I also think I bring good perspective to those other team members about what the actors need and what can help all of us be successful in pulling off a great show, since I am an actor as well.
The memory of the Chamber show is probably still quite fresh for you. Do you find that at all distracting as you work on this production? How much do you feel like you're working on this show in the shadow of your memory of the one in which you appeared?
Kind of similar to what I said above. It's definitely tricky when I loved that production so much - I want to steal moments from that to insert into this one, but I've tried to purposely make different choices that still make sense in the context of the show. But there are definitely some classic moments that I think all BOEING directors stick into this show that I just HAD to keep in because they're just too dang good! But like I said, we really played together as a group to make this come together for this specific production - lots of the ideas have also come from the actors, which automatically makes it more RTG.
The opening of the show is only a few days away. It IS the most-produced French play in the world. You KNOW there's going to be another opportunity to work with BOEING BOEING again. Would you consider getting involved in another production?
I wouldn't even think twice. Absolutely. Whatever anyone else says, I love this show and think it's hilarious. With all of the heavy stuff out there lately, everyone needs a show like this to just laugh. And the girls win in the end in this one, which of course is just icing on the top of the cake! :)
Racine Theatre Guild’s production of Boeing Boeing runs Sep. 15 - Oct. 1 at the RTG on 2519 Northwestern Ave. in Racine. For more information, visit Racine Theatre Guild online.