"The Press Conference Rag" from Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville
My approach to theatrical directing is rooted in imagery. I lead with aesthetic. My first task is always defining the play’s world based on the source material. I have a background in design and use that to influence my work. I’m interested in the beautiful facade and what we see when lights shine beneath that veneer. That sense of broken illusion fascinates me. Given our current political division, my tendency as of late has been towards lifting the collective spirit of an audience. We know the atrocities of the human race; how can we highlight stories of triumph in opposition to those forces? How can the illusion of beauty show us light in dark times? My production of Chicago (Performed by students at Florida State University, October 201) is a dark satire of the American criminal justice system. Its 1926 and crime is entertainment, the press and officials are playing fast and loose with the facts, innocent verdicts can be bought and sold, and fame at whatever cost is the pinnacle of the American dream. In roaring twenties Chicago, there is no entertainment more uniquely American than Vaudeville. American Vaudeville was made up of 15,000 theaters and 25,000 struggling performers, this is the world of the play. The performance canvas is a sepia tone panoply of backstage life. We are at times onstage and at times in the wings. This duality is supported by the design: we see the scenic artifice and the decaying structure that supports it. We are exposing the dark deception of American life. Justice and morality is just an illusion. As Billy Flynn says in the play... “This trial... the whole world... it’s all show business.” The effect is dark and complicit and surreal and thoroughly entertaining.