Q & A with Drew McCabe


With rehearsals well underway with the American Repertory Theater of WNY’s second production of the 2014-15 season, director Drew McCabe takes time from THE CRUCIBLE to answer some questions about the production, Arthur Miller and anything that comes to his mind.

1.) How did you get into directing? What were your influences?
Originally back in college I didn't want to do theater. I thought I wanted to do film where I thought I could make really niche stuff, like what I was personally enjoying at the time, things by directors like Wes Anderson and Takashi Miike. However I took a theater class at UB with Greg Natale and he made me fall in love with the artform. Two years into the program he let me be his A.D. on GOOD (a co-production between ICTC and Jewish Rep) and once I knew from there I liked directing theater, I started directing student productions, then once graduated producing my own productions at first to show I could stand on my own as a professional director, and then ultimately being hired by other companies. When it comes to the stage I don't have any particualr influences being every piece is different, however frequently my directorial signatures give nods to animated films and TV, comic books and the explotation films of the 1970s, but as said, when those things fit, you won't see any Grape Ape references in CRUCIBLE.

2.) You have been tapped by ART/WNY to direct this timeless classic but prior to this opportunity you've been directing original works(DEAD ENGLISH, TWZ REDUX; Mechanics and the Artie Award winning RED CLAY). Are you embracing this opportunity?
Drew Matt

Certainly I'm embracing, it's a great piece. ART artisitc director Matthew LaChiusa (pic with Drew) knows my knack for working with new plays and my passion to work on projects with super natural elements, hence projects such as TWZ REDUX or DEAD ENGLISH were no brainers to have me guide, so although I have done classic established pieces elsewhere, such as gay theater classic BENT at BUA or greek theater classic ELECTRA at ALT, an American classic like CRUCIBLE just never presented itself until now. Currently we have the perfect storm so to speak to tackle this project and for me to have a change of pace from the material I've previously worked on over the years at ART, so its very "Thunderbirds go!" right now.
3.) Arthur Miller wrote THE CRUCIBLE in 1953. How does a modern audience relate to both context of the piece? Are you planning to approach this classic in a different manner?
Originally the piece grew out of America's own witch hunt to fight the red menace in the 50s during McCarthyism, however interest was regenerated in the early-otts after 9-11 during the great terrorist hunt, which still continues until this day, although on much quieter scale. My team and I are still approaching the material set in the time period written, however to pace it better for modern audiences, whose attention spans have vastly changed over 60 years.

4.) The names John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams, Reverend Hale reverberate throughout theater history. What are your thoughts on having the opportunity to direct actors in these amazing roles? Do you also feel a reverence towards the history of both the real and the fictitious representation of them?
 Those names do send their ripples across the water and it's exciting to work with not just any actors but good, solid actors on those parts. I wouldn't say I have as much reverence as there is just nothing to reinvent in this case. When I did DEAD ENGLISH it was a new musical and we had long talks on how to reinvent Dracula for a modern audience, given he is such a well know literary and film character. Here in CRUCIBLE, Miller has written these characters so well there's nothing to change. In fact, you could really place these characters against any historical back drop and the struggles they go through would still ring true, they are universal in a sense.

5.) Who's involved in the production? Thoughts on the actors?
The production crew and actors bascially make up the size of an army of a small country, so there is way too many to list everyone off. I will say though for my actors playing the big famous parts in the piece we have Thomas LaChiusa playing Proctor, Lisa Vitrano playing Elizabeth, Sara Marioles-Mitch playing Abigail, Steven Brachmann playing Hale, Jenny Marie McCabe playing Mary and Christopher Standart playing Danforth. Them and the other 12 actors in the piece are a finely tuned, ninja-like task force that quickly and passionatley devours the wonderful work Miller has created, diving into head on and with great results, really I couldn't be happier with group we have casted together.

6.) Why would audiences want to come to this production?
Even in theater there are certain, what I would describe as, popcorn pieces, the equivalent of going to see a matinee at the cinema. Those are great, those have their place, hell, I direct those from time to time myself. Given though the current climate North American media consumption is in though, if you are competing with Netflix, cable, videogames, movie theaters, etc;, if you are choosing to go to the theater sometimes you want something more than popcorn, and this play is that more. Even all these years later, Miller, whom I would call the American Shakespeare, has created a moving, thought provoking piece that is still done over and over for a damn good reason, and I want you to come see, feel and experince that reason with us.
7.) Any last thoughts on THE CRUCIBLE or the production?
Just come out and live it with us.
8.) What's next for you?
Next I'll making a genre-180 degree turn and will be tackling the camp-comedy SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, based off the cult classic film, at the newly formed BCTC in Hamburg. Then later this season I'll be directing THE ELEPHANT MAN, which will fuse both stage and screen play verisons for Jugend. On the horizon after that I may have more up our sleeve with ART, but a showman never gives away all the surprises, now do we?