Bob Herried is directing the romantic comedy “The Owl and the Pussycat,” opening March 7 at the Randall Theatre in Medford. I first saw Herried as Marco the Magnificent in “Carnival” at the Camelot Theatre in 2004. Herried is a University of Oregon graduate in theater and business. Born and raised in the Rogue Valley, Herried has been performing and directing for 40 years. We met in his office at Addictions Recovery Center in Medford, where he is a drug and alcohol counselor.
EH: When you cast a play, what do you look for in your actors, and how do you relate to them?
BH: It’s the ability to take direction, the ability to change. A lot of times an actor will come in and read a line, and a week later, read it the same way. Rehearsal is the time to explore, to try different intentions, to play with the language and the character instead of trusting the first instinct: an actor who can adapt and move around with the ability to find the nuances. “The Owl and the Pussycat” is a show that has more nuances than anything that I have seen in a long time because the relationship between these two people is unique. These two are as opposite as can be.
There are a lot of similarities between being a counselor and being a theater director in the way you have to treat and try to motivate people. If I think something is better for the show, and the actor thinks something different, I can either say you’re going to do it my way, which doesn’t promote a creative environment, or I can find a way to phrase that in such a way that allows that actor to think that either they came up with the idea, or that they’ll try the idea without any reservation. And then they say, “Oh, I see what you mean now.”
EH: Why are some of us addicted to theater?
BH: Anytime that we do something that we enjoy, we are releasing dopamine endorphins in our brains and we get a sense of success and sense of pride out of that. A lot of people thrive on that. And you can do theater all of the time. It’s the idea of producing art. And when you look at what the art is trying to do, which is the catharsis of emotions, the purging of emotions, there’s a healing process in it, if you are willing to let yourself experience it. That’s not true for every show.
Even in a light comedy such as “The Owl and the Pussycat,” there are polar attitudes. They are moving from one direction to another direction, where that healing happens. We can see it in ourselves. And whether we call that transference or counter-transference, we recognize ourselves in the emotions of these characters. That is what theater is about. It’s not what they’re doing, but the emotions of what they experience and how they work through it. The emotions are set free, you are able to let go and identify with them. We become actively involved in the production as opposed to being a spectator. Why are we here if we haven’t got those human connections? I believe that everything comes from the heart.