Susan Aversa-Orrego directs Jean Giraudoux’s “The Madwoman of Chaillot” which opens Friday, June 26, 2015 at the Randall Theatre. The play, which was written during the Nazi occupation of Paris in World War II, mirrors our current economic and environmental state of affairs. During the play, corporations that are attempting to drill an oil well in the middle of Paris clash with the local Bohemian community. Aversa and I visited at the Wild Goose in Ashland.
SA: The setting of the show, as it’s written by Giraudoux, says: “The time is the spring of next year.” We set the play in 2015. It works very well. By making it 2015 it really speaks to the audience now. Now it’s not just a period piece. You can see that undercurrent of evil. It’s just so relevant to what is happening now. We’re staging it in our time period because there’s such intensity about the fracking that’s going on now, and how it’s causing earthquakes.
There’s a line in the show, “What would you rather see in your backyard, an almond tree or an oil well?” There is a very callous attitude toward taking care of the world and life in general. There is that Wall Street greed. And they don’t care.
EH: What is so intriguing about The Madwoman, Countess Aurelia?
SA: She feels deeply about the joy and the beauty of being alive. I think, no matter how jaded we get sometimes, don’t we really always want to have those moments where we can feel that we’re children again, throwing our heads back, laughing at the world, and touching things are beautiful and appreciating them? That’s what she does. She talks about why it’s important to live every minute, and how incredible the world is, and what a gift it is. She has that incredible almost childlike joy at how terrific the world is. That’s why she takes so deeply and personally the fact that people are trying to destroy everything. She is energized to take action.
EH: Is there an acting theory that you apply to directing?
SA: Mostly just keeping it real and honest and not just pulling tricks out of a bag. Each of us has individual ticks and traits. To me, the physicality of the character is an integral part of creating a character.
How do they walk? How do they sit? How do they move? What do they do with their hands? How differently we all eat; how differently we all hold a fork or we pick up a glass. It’s making all of those little decisions which give so much depth to a character, to get an actor to create a complete universe and a complete life for that character. They color it.
Words are important to me. I keep telling the actors that there are colors in words. It’s how you emphasize a specific word in a sentence that tells you what your intentions are.
EH: What is it about the medium of theater that keeps us so involved?
SA: I think it gives you a freedom that very few other things can give you. You can create, you can inspire; you can be somebody that you’re not. As a director, you can actually help others find components of a character to flesh it out and make it more real. It’s so exciting. It’s like having a child over and over again. Every time you do a new show, there’s a whole new process to it. It’s that feeling of creating something that’s unique and special.