It opens 4/19 and runs through May 25th!
I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to assist the incomparable Moises Kaufman (Laramie Project and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde) on his newest project, The Tallest Tree in the Forest at the Mark Taper Forum!The Tallest Tree in the Forest chronicles Paul Robeson’s remarkable life in an extraordinary theatrical biography. Embodying not only Robeson but also dozens of international personalities who crossed Robeson’s path. Written and performed by Obie award winner Daniel Beaty.
It opens 4/19 and runs through May 25th!
Jeff is thrilled to have been chosen to direct the last show of the Road's 23rd season, FLOWER DUET! This is the West Coast Premiere of Maura Campbell's tense and hysterical new play!
“A careless act of infidelity sends the lives of two couples spiraling out of control. FLOWER DUET is a ferocious new comedy that spans 20 years of love, friendship, betrayal and heartbreak in the lives of two passionate singers whose relationships prove to be just as dramatic as the music they sing.”
Out of 121 productions at the 2013 United Solo theatre festival Solemn Mockeries won the award for Best Perod Piece!
Performed by David Melville: The true story of William-Henry Ireland, despised by his teachers, detested by his stepmother, and ignored by his father—until he forges “Shakespearean” documents that fool the literati of London. And when his forged play VORTIGERN plays at the greatest theatre with the finest actors of the day, what could possibly go wrong? “Brutally funny, brutally sad”—L.A. Weekly.
"The bold and artful collaboration between the museum and Chalk Rep brings an unrestrained creativity in the stories that are heartfelt, clever, and biting. In the end, the space, topics, and performances compel us to see and feel the museum in a deeper, more reverent way."
- EDITOR'S PICK - Kenneth Hughes, Flavorpill
“Under the Glass, written by Zakiyyah Alexander and directed by Jeffrey Wienckowski. Pitch black except for the illuminated glass cases of colorful stones and crystalline gems, this performance is certain to be an audience favorite." Jenny Platt; Life in La
"Wonderfully directed by Jeff Wienckowski who uses the entire Gem and Mineral Hall to grand effect. " Joe Straw #9
"The most successful is Under the Glass." Kurt Gardner; Blogcritics
“What’s next?” Where do you go when you don’t know what you want from your career? From your relationships? From life? #Hashtag is a new comedy directed by Jeffrey Wienckowski and devised by The Mechanical Heart, a group of UCSD Alumni. It explores the other kind of LA gridlock: the daily struggle to remain engaged in the present moment in a culture built on social media and status anxiety.
As the audience entered the Elephant Space, they were encouraged to keep their phones ON, take photos and video (which they can upload to Instagram and Youtube) and live-tweet the characters onstage. With #Hashtag, The Mechanical Heart is making social media an essential part of the theatrical experience.
“#Hashtag is a must see at the Hollywood Fringe… Definitely worth the hour spent in the theatre. And don’t forget to hashtag it!”- Gia on the Move
Chalk Rep's Founding Mothers
This Fall I was lucky enough to direct a couple of pieces for Chalk Rep's Flash Festival. For those of you who don't know Chalk Rep, it is an outstanding company founded by five super talented women from UCSD's MFA program. Their sole focus is creating theatre in unconventional, site-specific spaces. Their way of working is incredibly refreshing. Working in the Theatre is always unpredictable, but removing the "stage" (which serves as a barrier between performer and audience) adds the extra level of theatricality that is so vital to the work we create.
The Flash Festival took place at the La Brea Tar Pit's Page Museum. The first play I directed was Joe Luis Cedillo's "The Party". Here I worked with a tremendously talented cast of Chalk Rep regulars and UCSD Alum; Tony Amendola, Minerva Garcia, Cate Scott Campbell, Sara Garcia, Spencer Devlin Howard, Ezequiel Guerra, Channing Sargent. The piece is about a fundraiser gone awry as an Occupy protest quarantines the party into a small section of the Page Museum.
I had the idea of having the cast and audience members intermingling as though they are all guests at the party and the drama unfolds in and around the audience. The main issue was getting the audience to not act like a typical "audience".
As the they came in, the actors were scattered throughout the space to encourage mingling, but the audience made a direct B-line to sit down on the carpeted steps. After each performance the actors and I brainstormed about what we could do to "direct" the audience into behaving the way we wanted. While they never fully complied, what we got was the added element of an extremely unpredictable audience experience that kept the actors' performances fresh and alive.
Another exciting aspect of "The Party" was the pre-show hi-jinks Cedillo and I planned. Sargent was stationed in front of the museum "protesting" the 1% and LAPD Violence. It was very fun watching her interact with pedestrians and listening to Festival patrons mocking her as they came to purchase their tickets; "What does she expect to accomplish on her own?" or "I guess the rest of the protest didn't show up." Cedillo (who also played the museum Guard) got into some altercations, asking her to leave the property. Once he went back inside, and actual museum guard tried to get Channing to leave. She shouted at him about public space, then discreetly whispered, "I'm in the show..." when passers by were out of earshot. This is the type of exhilarating and theatrical experience that is made possible through the Chalk Rep model.
The scientific, sterile environment, florescent back-lighting and even ambient sound of the exhibit brought a verisimilitude to "Hatchlings" that would not be present if a designer had to try and recreate what the writer had in mind. This is the essence of Site Specific work and precisely what made my experience working with Chalk Rep all the more thrilling!
Chalk Repertory Theatre is an exciting company that produces original and provocative work . I would advise you keep them on your radar as they offer the Los Angeles Theatre scene a much needed breath of fresh air!
Visit their website: www.chalkrep.com
Like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/chalkrep
Oana Leahu and Valentina Pakou in a scene I directed from "Romeo and Juliet".
So I promised to share more about the amazing opportunity I had to study directing in Italy. I was one of four directors who were invited (along with five actors and two dancers) to spend 10 hour days in intense physical and psychological training of Sergei Ostrenko's method; training for directors and actors based on Vsevolod Meyerhold's famous Biomechanics technique.
The tremendously talented group that I really hope I have the opportunity to work with again!
The workshop was phenomenal, but the best part was the truly talented group of people Mr. Ostrenko assembled together. Directors Marcus Roche (UK), Oana Leahu (Romania) and Selvananthan (Selva) Ganesan (Singapore); Actors Audrey Jenkinson (UK), Valentina Pakou (Greece-UK), Lauren Karl (USA-UK), Pablo Lechuga (Spain), Serena Brabazon (Ireland) and dancers Heidi Seppälä (Finland-UK) and Silvia Donadu (Italy).
Exciting news! I am going to Italy next month to participate in an International Director Training program!!!
A little background on how this all happened:
Three weeks ago I received an email from Gabor Tompa, my former professor and mentor, telling me about IUGTE's (International University- "Global Theatre Experience") Shakespeare Performance Project, an international competition for professional directors . It offers the opportunity to study under the guidance of Sergei Ostrenko and culminates in the possibility of directing a Shakespeare production in Russia.
Early the next morning I woke up and wrote the prerequisite letter of intent, a directorial concept for a production of Romeo and Juliet and sent them along my CV, press packet and video clips.
Two days ago, I received an email telling me that I was chosen to be part of the Project and inviting me to take part in an intensive practical training program in Italy on May 21 - 25 at the Armata Brancaleone - International Theatre Academy in Massa, Italy. Being little more than a month away, I spent yesterday morning booking my flight and accommodations.
I am extremely excited about this project and will share more details about my time in Italy upon my return!
I wanted the first review I wrote for this blog to be about an amazing production I recently saw that is running indefinitely. Unfortunately, most of you who read this will never get a chance to see it. That is precisely why I feel it is so important to write about.
No exaggeration or hyperbole; the company at the Hungarian Theatre is filled with some of the best actors I have ever seen in my life. There is an incredible dichotomy in all of their work. They manage to be absolutely authentic while retaining an almost mechanical precision and theatricality of the highest order. Their repertory system is quite different from our own. Instead of running 2 or 3 shows continuously for a few months, they have over ten shows in rotation; each one being played once or twice a month. Some of these shows have been running for years with no sign of stopping. In the ten days I was there, I was astonished to see several actors performing in 5 or 6 shows over the course of the week. All this while rehearsing Hedda Gabler in the morning. It is a work ethic I cannot even begin to wrap my head around, and can only view with the highest form of admiration.
Howard (Gábor Viola) shows Willy home movies
As an American, working abroad in a foreign language, Tom Dugdale has done something quite stunning in creating a production that is both quintessentially American and totally universal. He manages this by putting his whole heart and soul on stage. Whether it's the songs he composes for the actors or the childhood memories he recreates, Dugdale's psyche is all over the stage. This is nowhere more evident than in the scene where Willy goes into his boss' office. Howard (his boss) shares a fascinating new object; a reel-to-reel tape deck with a recording of his son's voice. Here, Dugdale replaces the tape-deck with a home-video camera; a symbol of his own childhood. Instant nostalgia for every one (like myself) who grew-up with their father's camera constantly pointed at them! But the thing that makes this so much more than simple plot-device is the intimate nature in which it is used. When Howard presses play, Willy (along with the audience) watches childhood home movies of Dugdale singing and playing in the bathtub. It is truly one of the most poignantly simple moments of an artist baring himself on stage (literally and emotionally) .
Willy urges the Woman (Csilla Albert) to leave when Biff arrives
I cannot say enough about artistic rigor and craftsmanship of this stellar cast (lead by the immensely powerful András Hatházi), but the real star is the lean and muscular adaptation (by Dugdale and dramaturg Eszter Biro). As I watched, the major thing I noticed was how briskly the action kept moving forward, never allowing the actors the time to wallow in their own misery. By the time we reached the climactic scene (where Biff walks in on Willy's adulterous encounter), I realized we had yet to take an intermission. I looked down at my watch and realized it had only been an hour-forty five and we were almost done. It was not until that moment that I realized exactly how much of the text must have been cut. I have to say, the cuts (as well as the rearranging of some flashbacks) made the plot sing in a way that I have never seen. The sad thing is, even though it works so much better, an American production could never take so many liberties with our "sacred text" without getting crucified by the purists. I would argue, that this production is more sacred than any you are likely to see on our shores, because in Cluj, the Salesman is alive.
Welcome to the Jeff Directs Blog!
Let's get one thing straight. I want this blog to be more than just a news feed. Of course, the main feature of this blog will be to give news updates on career and information about upcoming projects, but I also want to use this blog as a place to write about what goes on behind the rehearsal room doors. Kind of an inside-baseball look at all aspect of the theatrical process.
Jeff with script and Diet Coke.
I would also like to use this as a space to practice my theatrical criticism. Here you will find reviews of Plays, Books, Films and more.
So please, stay tuned to The Jeff Directs Blog!
*Alright, I know you don't "tune" a computer, but you get the idea
The Jeff Directs Blog
A place for News, Reviews and an inside look at the theatrical process.