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Spotlight on Katherine M. Carter, Director of The Secret Theatre’s Upcoming A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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The Queens Players, who work out of the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, are back with yet another classical work for the stage. This time it's William Shakespeare’s much loved comedy/fantasy A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opens on December 3rd. 

From the press release: Follow four young lovers into a colorful and mysterious forest where fairies Titania and Oberon rule, where a band of “rude mechanicals”, led by the hilarious Bottom, rehearse a play and where love is put to the test by the mischievous Puck.  In the end, will the lovers end up with their correct mate? Will the mechanicals make it to their performance before the Duke? Is Titania doomed to love an ass?

You may be thinking to yourself, "Another production of Midsummer"? I certainly thought that at first. But something about director Katherine M. Carter's production is drawing me in.

Perhaps it's Carter herself, her enthusiasm and passion for her work. 

A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, where she earned a BFA in Acting and a BA in Directing, her enthusiasm and passion for the work have kept Carter extremely busy. She has directed and assistant directed productions with both the Hangar Theatre and the American Globe Theatre and has even served as a directing intern on the Tony award winning Billy Elliott: The Musical.

Actor Timothy J. Cox, who plays Peter Quince in the upcoming production of Midsummer, has said, "Katherine is just one of those bright, shining talents. I look at her and I know that she's going to work forever."

Although very busy bringing Midsummer to life, Ms. Carter was gracious enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions for Blogcritics.

Could you please give us a bit of background about yourself? How did you get involved in the theatre? Have you always wanted to direct? 

I'm a Midwestern girl, born and raised in Michigan.  I am the oldest of three siblings with two younger brothers.  I started in theater in the 6th grade when my crush wanted to do theater and I wanted to hang out with him. From then onwards, I acted in everything.  From 9th to 12th grade, I performed in over 60 productions.  My senior year of high school, I directed my first production, a stage version of Clue.

After that I was aware that directing was a path I could take.  During college I earned my BFA in Acting and a BA in Directing, and I would say that junior year was when the transformation took full effect. Between junior and senior year, I was a member of the Hangar Lab Company, saw that directing was really where I wanted to be and from then on it was a done deal.

The short answer to that question is: No, I didn't always want to direct, but sometimes you have to be honest enough to say "I'm a good actress and singer, but I am a much better storyteller from the outside."  On top of that I have too many control issues to be an actor (laughs).

How did you become aware of The Secret Theatre and why did you want to become involved as a director with the company? 

A lovely actress, Elspeth Turner, was in their production of Macbeth last spring. We were working on a production of The Odd Couple together at the time and she invited me to see her work.  After Macbeth, I met Richard Mazda, the Artistic Director of The Queens Players, and we exchanged information.

I wanted to direct at this particular theater because there was so much potential with the space and the actors, I wanted to tap into it and see what I could do. As directors we are always looking for places where our skills could be of use, and since I had just come off of directing Twelfth Night, I knew my Shakespeare experience would fit right in with the company.  Richard and I talked, he invited me to direct Midsummer, and that was that.

With so many productions of Shakespeare, especially A Midsummer Nights' Dream, going up every year, what made you want to direct this show, in the winter of all times? 

Ah, the age old "why Midsummer" question. Very good.  To tackle the Midsummer in winter question for me is simple – why should I let a shows' title dictate when it gets performed?  Would you only do The Winter's Tale in winter? Or Summer and Smoke in the Summer?  The seasons are ever changing and what is lovely about theater is that you enter a world away from the outside and are transported somewhere new.  It's not what's happening outside that matters, but the story that is being told inside which counts.

For the show itself, I have always loved Midsummer.  This production is a personal thank you to past theatre teachers who made me read the play over and over and perform in it. So many of us storytellers take this show on every year, but for me, it is about finding something new and interesting with a tried and true text.  It is also a director "must do," as I say. Almost every director has done their version of Midsummer at least once, if not more, and this is my first go at it.  

What is it about this play that speaks to you? What do you hope an audience will take away from your approach to the production? 

The story speaks to me as a director. I love the variations of emotions, the levels of being in love, and the pure, almost farce-like comedy. As a director, when you see a good story, you want to tell it in your own voice.   Midsummer has always been that way for me.  I want the audience to laugh out loud and have a jolly good evening of theater.

For each audience member who sits in that theatre, the experience will be different: some will laugh at the mechanicals, some will feel for Helena, and others will dislike Puck for meddling.  It's all subjective. For me, it's about communicating the story.  If the audience leaves understanding the story, hopefully on a new level, and has fun, then I'm happy.

I was delighted to read that you have worked with a Shakespeare giant, John Basil at the American Globe Theatre in Manhattan. How did you become involved with the company? Have your collaborations with him and the Globe helped shape you as a director? If so, how? 

John Basil has had a huge impact on me as an artist.  He is a wonderful mentor and friend. Both he and his lovely and talented wife Liz are friends and supporters of my work.

John took over the fourth year of the BFA acting program my senior year of college.  We got to know each other in class, and about a month in, I asked him if I could work on his next show at the American Globe.  Well, that happened to be Henry V and I was one of the two associate directors working on it.  John was a great teacher both in class and in rehearsals.

After Henry V, there was a director opening in the Globe's 10-Minute Play Competition. John offered me a spot and the piece was well received.  To say the least, John and I spent a lot of time in the same rehearsal room.  My directing style is under the direct influence of John.  He gave me a great set of tools to attack any text, and a renewed love of Shakespeare.  I look forward to working with AGT on many more productions. 

What's next for you?

More directing. I have a few things in the works.  Coming up at the end of January, I will be directing a reading of a new play, The Rose Gardener by Sarah Ashley Bischoff at The Tank.  I've been keeping the spring open for some new plays and musicals. This fall and winter have been a complete blur, since September I have worked on almost ten shows, so the spring is more of a blank canvas at this time.  You can always check out my website my website for the latest and greatest.

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens on December 3rd and runs until January 3rd.  For information on the production, please visit The Secret Theatre's website



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About Hannah Marie Ellison