Sunday, June 16, 2013

Planet Connections Interview - Cat Parker of "Dragon"

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Cat Parker

Show: Dragon
Relationship to production: Producer/Director

Cat Parker is the Artistic  Director  of Articulate  Theatre Company. Favorite productions include Picasso at the Lapin Agile (NYIT Award Winner), Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Towards Zero, A Doll’s House, Twelfth Night (NYIT Award Winner), the New York premiere of Sister Cities, (NYIT Award Nominee), and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. She assisted Jerry Zaks on the Broadway debut of A Bronx Tale, featuring Chazz Palmenteri. She has recently embarked on a project to interview the directors of New York’s Indie theatre world. You can read about it on her blog, DirectorSpeak

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I dabbled in theatre in early school days, but I found my true connection to it while I was in the Air Force. I helped manage our area’s “Tops in Blue” competition - sort of a talent show for people in the military. Finding a role -director- that lets me use both my creative and my management skills was such a godsend. From there I continued that journey through academia, regional theatres and then the big move to NYC. I am very, very happy with how it’s turning out!

Who are your biggest influences?

Okay, gonna sound corny, but it is true - my parents have always been my biggest influence. They gave me the solidest of foundations, and then taught me how to stand with my toes on the edge of it, and lean out into the wind. Directorially, if that’s a word, my influences run a wide gamut: Jonathan Marks, Marshall Mason, Anne Bogart, Emma Rice, Dan Sullivan, Sam Mendes, just to name a few.
What is your show about?

Well, humm.... Dragon is about a young boy who befriends a wounded dragon, and the evolution of their relationship. Dragon is “really” about the search for identity, our place in the world, and how that changes. And what it’s REALLY “really” about is ‘what you give up to grow up.‘  And chronologically, it’s about 90 minutes.  :-)

What inspired you to direct/produce it?

In January of this year I met with 30 colleagues and we decided to start a theatre company - Articulate Theatre Company. We were going to proceed through the year calmly and sensibly to plan it out, step-by-step, but then Glory Kadigan reminded me about the PCTF and I remembered this play and thought it would be a perfect match-up. Dragon is a fantastical story, that requires the audience to share in the process with their imagination. And festivals, with their inherent limitations, bring in audiences that WANT to use their imaginations and become engaged with the story in that way. Dragon is a challenging piece, and ATC wants to do challenging work.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

Since ATC is a ensemble based company, I have a LOT of collaborators, who have all given pieces of their time, talents, money and apartments to support this project. My main collaborator on this production is my managing director, Brittney Venable. She keeps the “biz” going when I get insane from the “art.” Dragon’s playwright, Jenny Connell Davis, has been a huge part of this process - writing and re-writing, and re-re-writing! AND she bakes the banana bread we use in the play! We have 6 astonishing actors in the cast - the casting for this show was crazy because we just didn’t want to settle, but in the end, pushing forward really paid off. They are amazing. And by “they” I mean: Maeve Yore, Daniel Kublick, Joe Roseto, Katie Mack, Tony Ponella and James Leighton. And the talent doesn’t stop on that side of the stage. It does, in fact, start way before. The design team for this show is in-cred-i-ble. The set designer, George Allison, is from TV and film, and is a brilliant conceptualist. Dennis Parichy (lights) has lit 15 Broadway shows, was Circle Rep’s key designer, and brought most of Lanford Wilson’s work to ‘light.’ Kwan-Fai Lam has so many awards for sound design I couldn’t begin to name them. Karen Ledger’s costumes have created an ‘otherworldly’ feel on a very mundane worldly budget. And Bronwen Carson’s choreography will show the world just how graceful dragons can be!

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

Our charity is “Urgent Death Row Pets.” This organization advocates for changes in the NYC Animal care and control system. There are lots of wonderful rescue groups out there finding homes for these animals literally hours before they are to be killed, but they are suffocating under the never-ending stream of animals in the system. “Urgent” knows that the AC&C can -and should- do more to help the situation, but isn’t. As a New Yorker, you should know how your tax dollars, and donated dollars, are being abused, and “Urgent’s” mission is to share that info far and wide. There is so much in the world that needs to be made right, that I think it can seem too big, and too far away for one person to impact. But “Urgents” goal is something that is right here in our city, and individual actions can make great strides in changing, in making something “right.”

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

Next up for Articulate Theatre is a production based around our company’s talents. Written by, performed by, directed by, designed by, etc. We have two themes that we’re kicking around and will be deciding upon next month. By the end of the year, we will be planning our first official, fully produced play! It’s going to be a crazy year, but it will be so worthwhile. We can keep you updated if you stop by our website!

What was your best “theatre moment” - that one moment, either onstage or off, that was so sublime that it stayed with you?

In 2011, I saw Sam Mendes’ Cherry Orchard at BAM. It began with a dark stage, then a pinlight on a music box. The music was sweet, tender. And as the light grew brighter, and the sound turned slightly darker - I leaned forward in my seat, eager for the next moment. I knew right then that the story was in good hands and my faith in the magic of theatre was being carefully cultivated. At the end of the show, I walked home unable to speak for about 15 minutes.  That show, that production, it just... it made me a believer - again. I will never forget it.

If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?

I would create a energy reversing device that made any trash not properly disposed of, reverse it’s trajectory and stick to the person that tossed it away.

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