Saturday, February 25, 2017

puppets jaipur

welcome to tfp, the theatrefolk podcast. iam lindsay price, resident playwright for theatrefolk. hello, i hope you're well. thanksfor listening. today, we have an interview i recorded withteacher annie loffredo last month. i connected with annie after getting some gorgeous andso theatrical pictures from her production of my play, power play. so, i got in touchand we're going to talk about her vision for the play, her advice for creating a specificproduction vision, and then executing that vision. awesome stuff, let's get to it. lindsay: hello everybody! i am so thrilledto be talking to teacher annie loffredo today. hello!

annie: hi! lindsay: awesome. and so, the first thingi want you to do is set up. so, where are you in the world? annie: okay. i am in miami, florida. lindsay: miami, florida. is it nice in miami,florida, right now? annie: today, i actually posted it on my facebookand instagram that it felt like a summer day with 86 degrees but it felt like it was 93. lindsay: oh. annie: so, i was outside and it feels likethe summer here. i can't even believe it's

december. lindsay: aww. i can because it's snowing likea thing that snows a lot up here. annie: yes, i saw your instagram post todaywith your running shoes with snow on and i'm like, "wow! how does she run in that weather?" lindsay: we're canadians. we're built forit. annie: i know, i know. lindsay: what are you going to do? and, you're a drama teacher, yes? annie: yes, i am.

lindsay: how long have you been a teacher? annie: i have been a teacher in dade countypublic school for four years but i've been teaching drama probably since i was fifteenbecause my mother was also a drama teacher so she was at the middle school level, sowhen i was in high school, she would be like, "oh, come teach my kids, come teach my kids,"and i just did it, like, on the side from that point on and eventually i just fell intobeing a drama teacher in the school system. lindsay: what did you think about teachingdrama when you were yourself a teenager? annie: i never wanted... i mean, i alwaysloved drama. so, when i say i never wanted to be a teacher, it's just that i never wantedto deal with all the things that teachers

have to deal with. but i always loved theidea of teaching drama. and now, i think it's the best career i could ever have gone intobecause, even though there is all of that paperwork and all the things that teachershave to do, i find it to be an absolute blessing that i get paid to be an artist because thereare so many artists out there that are starving and being able to make a living because theywant to do what they're passionate about, and i make a decent living and all i do iscreate art, and i'm very grateful for that. lindsay: i think that's really awesome thatyou think of teaching as being an artist. annie: well, it is. i mean, every time i goto put on a show, i get to do what so many artists always want to do -- get paid to puton a show. and, not only that, i get to inspire

students to do the same thing because i knowwhen i was in high school, the only thing that kept me going to the school was drama,and to give that to kids every day, i just feel grateful that i have that option to dothat, that i am able to do that because it meant so much to me when i was a kid. lindsay: so, when was that moment when theswitch sort of flicked for you when you went from "i'm never going to teach" to "okay,here, i'm going to dive in"? annie: when i moved... i went to school innew jersey, i grew up down here in miami, and i moved up to new jersey with an ex ofmine and i was reading the paper one day up there -- this is so superficial what i'm aboutto say to you -- but i read that teachers

in new jersey made $75,000 to $125,000 a yearafter they've been teaching for twenty years and i'm like, "wow!" that made me want tobe a teacher so that's how i fell into teaching. that's really how i fell into teaching. allthe women in my family are teachers and that's what made me be a teacher then i moved backdown to miami and teachers in miami don't make that much. lindsay: no. so, nothing about your mom inspiringyou or anything. it was like, "oh, i would like to make some money." annie: yeah. lindsay: why not?

annie: but now that i'm here and i'm doingit, i'm completely satisfied with it. like, these past three weeks have been a completehell for me because not only do i do thespians but i do junior thespians because i'm at aschool that's six through twelve. so, it's been ies for the junior thespian. well, first,it started with one-acts for the thespians, then ies for the junior thespians, and thefirst weekend of one-acts for the thespians, second week of, i'm sorry, first week of iesfor the thespians and second week of ies for the thespians, and we just finished yesterdaywith one-acts for the junior thespians. so, it's been that every single weekend so i'vebeen working six days, probably in-between fifteen to twenty-hour days. and, you know,i was just thinking today, i'm like, "oh,

i haven't seen my friends and i'm trying togive them this excuse that i'm working so hard, please excuse me," but at the same timethey don't understand that because they don't do that, and i don't need to be making excusesfor what i do because i love it and it's my choice to do this and i'm passionate aboutit. so, i love my job. lindsay: i think that's one of the biggestmisconceptions about drama teachers. it's like, "oh, they only teach drama," and it'slike, "do you know how many hours?" it's the hours that drama teachers put in. lindsay: it's just amazing. okay. so, you've just spent all this timedoing ies. so, what would you say is the -- and,

for those who don't know, ies are individualevents, they're competitions in monologue and duets and singing. so, do you coach them,too? annie: yeah, i'm very hands-on because i havea very small school and i'm building my drama program from the bottom up. so, unfortunately,i don't have the kids yet that are so independent. like, i know when i was in high school, mydrama teacher had to do nothing -- i picked my own pieces, i cut my own pieces, i directedmy own pieces, i directed other students' pieces -- i was very independent and maybethat's why i am a drama teacher. but, my kids, they're very dependent on me and that mightbe my own fault partially too. so, yes, i literally, after school, i am sitting therewith them from 2:45 when we get out until

6:00, 7:00, and 8:00 at night, helping themout with their pieces. lindsay: so, what do you find is the mostcommon coaching thing you have to say to your students? what's the most common thing thatcomes up when they're preparing? annie: "memorize your line." yeah, well, one of my students -- i thinkthis is a great example -- i have this one student who's a brilliant actor. he's really...he just has great timing, he has a great voice, he has a great physique and presence on stage,and he's doing this one monologue from freak, john leguizamo, and he was sitting there doingit. i'm like, "you don't know your lines because every other word out of your mouth is 'and'and 'um,'" and then i sat there literally

with him for an hour and a half going throughthe script with him, and every time he would mess up, i'm like, "no, that's not the line."and we got it on point and it really helped. the timing, like, it's so important to knowexactly what the playwright writes. lindsay: i tend to think so! annie: i would hope you would feel that way.i think, you know, the one thing... i think the best way to describe this is, when i wasyounger, when i was a high schooler, i would always listen to music and i'd be like, "oh,i want to sing that, i want to sing that," but we had to lower it to fit my voice, andjust a few years -- i think it was les mis when it came out in the theatre last year-- and they had, who was it? hugh jackman

playing... lindsay: jean valjean. annie: yes! and the song did nothing. he sang,oh, what song was it? bring him home. he sang that and it absolutely nothing for me, andi realized, when somebody writes something, there's emotional reason that they're writingit, and there's an emotional reason why he's hitting those high notes, and there's an emotionalreason a playwright writes the exact words that they are writing, and you have to honorthat and you have to find the truth within the words or the notes that are being written.and if you think that you can improv with them then you're not getting across that message.

so, i was sitting there with him, we workedon it, and, you know, he did extremely well in competition. he got straight superiors,almost all fives down the lines and that's the best you can get. and it really made thatmuch of a difference just knowing the lines because, when you have these talented kids,they're going to get the emotions across, they're going to find a connection physicallyand emotionally, but if they don't know the exact words, that takes away so much -- itreally does. lindsay: well, that's an awesome little seguebecause the one thing that i really wanted to talk to you about is that you recentlydid a production of my play, power play, which is a dramatic piece when it's all about highschool violence and the whole notion of violence

as a thing of power and, also, the stereotypeof those who commit violence in high school. and you had a very specific and a very vision-orientatedtake which i love. so, can you just tell me why you decided to go in this specific directionwith this piece? let's start with that. annie: well, the one thing that, first off,i read power play and then the whole way it was written, it had so much possibilitiesin my mind. i've always been a huge fan of, like, movies like that were created... myfavorite director in the entire world is julie taymor and she's a very visual director andthere's so much possibility, like, the way she did titus -- i don't know if you eversaw that film. lindsay: no, but i've seen the visuals. like,the visuals, the pictures that they always

show from that movie are just incredibly striking. annie: yes, and i saw those possibilitiesin power play, and that's the first thing that drew me to it, and i don't like thingsthat kind of beat you over the head with a message that kind of play with ideas and takeyou out of and bring you into it, and i saw that in power play where you had these seriousdramatic themes but then it took you completely out of it with all of this stuff, with thealmost cartoon-y stuff in it, you know? and i love that about it and i saw endless possibilitieswith it, but the one thing that i loved about that play -- at least the way i took it -- isit wasn't necessarily about power, it more about how do you deal when you realize howpowerless you are in situations, and that

was my whole take throughout the entire the beginning of the play, what i did is i had a student come out dancing and he waslike power and the whole concept of the play was the actors within that show were completelypowerless -- they were puppets. lindsay: yeah, they sort of, particularlyat the beginning, the girls, they sort of came out like marionettes. annie: right, right, and that's the entireconcept we went through with the play. like, when somebody was going into the monologues,the rest of the actors were just hanging there like they puppets not being used. and then,again, at the end of the show, they went back to that to show that, even when you get outof high school, you're still pretty powerless

-- we're still all in this fight to achievepower, to get some sense that we have power over our lives and situation. so, that's theway i approached that play. lindsay: so, the one thing i want to hit onis how you took a concept for the show, you read the show, you had your own impressionof it, again, not changing anything but just going, "this is how i'm interpreting the play,"and that you came up with a visual -- a visual vision -- a vision for the play and that everythingthat happened with the actors and with the action all fed back into this vision. andthe thing that i find frustrating sometimes, particularly at the high school level, sometimesit can just be lines and blocking, lines and blocking, lines and blocking, and that they'renot taking it to that artistic level, and

i think that's so important, yeah? annie: yeah, oh, yeah. i mean, well, why dosomething if you're not going to try to evolve it? try to get something new out of it. that'sthe one thing i believe art is. i don't believe in original ideas. i just believe in combiningdifferent ideas and finding something new and i don't want to do anything and i thinkmost successful directors -- whether it's a high school or trying to direct their ownscene, or a college student, or a high school director, or even, you know, when you go higherup, any artist, you know -- if you're just going to throw out something that's alreadybeen done, you're not going to be successful in what you're doing. it's about finding differentinspirations and combining them and making

something new of it. so, i don't know. lindsay: yeah. so, you combine this vision,did you do anything like storyboard it or do pinterest or...? ah, my words are failingme! did it stay in your head? how did you make it tangible for yourself? or did you? annie: yeah. well, my biggest thing that ifind that helps me directing is listening to music. music was so important throughoutthis show. like, it started with music and what i would do, literally, is every day drivinghome, i would listen to music and, if i found a song that struck me, i would listen to itover and over again and play it out in my head. i had one of my mom's former students,he is great and there's some vocal sections

that i just wanted to bring out in this, you know, when they're overlapping each other and they're saying the whole thing aboutpower and the whole "all i want is" and all that -- i wanted to make it very vocal. so,i asked him to come in and help me. and, you know, he also worked with the kids and hecame up to me one day and he goes, "you know, this show really reminds me of requiem fora dream," and i go, "my god, that's like one of my favorite movies of all time!" so, theni watched that movie again and that brought in ideas -- we brought in music from requiemfor a dream -- and it really ticked in and i think that one moment where he said thatto me changed the entire show for me. i'm like, "i am going to make this, like, completelyout there and visually striking and just say

they're either going to love it or hate it."so, it's mostly music for me. that's my thought process. that's how i think. lindsay: and, also, it seems being open to,like, collaborators. like, you know, letting somebody say something to you and going, "oh,my god, that's a great idea. let's run with that." and, also, you know, not being afraidof people liking it or hating it too. i mean, i think that's the only time when you knowyou're doing something right is when you get those reactions i think. lindsay: okay. so, how did you convey yourvision to your student actors? annie: we read it and i explained it to themand they fell in love with the play right

away. they got all excited about the play.they got it because they know that i'm the type of person that doesn't like overdramaticpieces so they knew why i liked it right away, that i like something that's going to makepeople laugh but convey a message and we just went over and over it again, we talked aboutthe power structure of the way things were set up here in the united states. i probablysaid stuff that i shouldn't say as a teacher talking about, like, how the banks are allin control, blah blah blah, a whole bunch of conspiracy theories, but they always thinki'm crazy so it's okay. lindsay: just live with it, right? annie: yeah. i'm like, "this is just my thought.some people believe this, i'm not saying it's

the way things are but, you know..." lindsay: well, it's an example of what you'resaying for the show, that's what it's for, it's a support. annie: and even, like, you see that conceptwhen you have the guy coming out dancing in the beginning and in the end, and he's allin a suit with a tie and the rest of the kids aren't dressed like that, so it shows somekind of power structure and, for some people, that is the power structure, that is whatcontrols us here in the united states, capitalism. so, you know, it's all about money. so, iexplained that to them and a lot of them have seen, i have shown bits and pieces of titusto them. i have shown -- no, i haven't shown

them requiem for a dream, i lie -- but i showthem bits and pieces of titus, some of the very visually striking moments of it so thatthey understood what i was going for. lindsay: how did you develop your conceptfor the makeup and the costumes? because i really loved it, they're so unique, and fitsyour vision really nicely, i think. annie: well, i just was driving home a lotat, like, 7:00, 8:00 at night and watching the sunset and i thought the most beautifulthing was the purples and pinks and dull colors fading behind the sun, and that's where thecolor scheme came from. i just love the faded, like, it was almost beautiful and hauntingat the same time, and that's kind of what i wanted for the design. and then, the skirtsthat you saw all the girls wearing is their

skirts that i just started making myself andi'm like, "oh, they look cool so i'm going to put them in there and it also works withthe whole puppet thing." so, yeah, it's really nothing special. lindsay: no. annie: because i wanted it puppets, i wanted it to be kindof dull. you know, i didn't want to go with, like, blacks and dark colors. i wanted colorsbut i wanted it to be dull and that's just really what it came to, because whenever youwatch these darker movies, it's almost a sense of the color faded, you know, so the color,it takes, like, kind of a black and white concept but it just puts a little pop to itwhen there's the colors, and that's really

what i was going for. the two strongest movies for me in creatingit was requiem for a dream and titus and the darkness in those movies. but the way thatit plays, it brings out the emotional -- not the emotional, the mental process of the emotionsthat these people are feeling and that's what i wanted to bring out in the show. so, that'swhy those colors came through. lindsay: yeah, no, that's awesome. so, whatwas the audience response? annie: that's a hard one for me because iwas sitting there in competition and i was sitting there as a really critical directorand i was commenting, my mom was sitting right next to me, i'm like, "they just screwed up!they just screwed up! they just screwed up!"

that's all that was going through my headand then, at the end, they got a standing ovation and i'm like, "oh, these are justthespians being nice," and i ran out. lindsay: oh! annie: so, i didn't take any of that in. and,you know, when they called our name at the end and we got a superior, i started cryingas did the rest of my cast because we're a four-year-old program, we've only been doingcompetitions, this is our third year doing the one-act competition. in the past two years,we got goods. so, when they passed our name for excellent, we're all thinking, "oh, crap,we got a good again, great." and so, it was a complete shock for us and, you know, theaudience love that the kids keep on getting

compliments up to this day. we went to mymom's school just recently and we performed it and we did the whole theatre of the oppressedthing afterwards where we invited the audience to come up and solve the problem of the play,and my mom had a show that night and she kept on getting compliments the next day aboutthe show, and she would say at the end of the compliment, she would realize they weretalking about my show, not hers. lindsay: oh, no! annie: so, you know, the audience responsehas been great. i just wish that i was able to stop thinking as a director and actuallywas able to take it in at the competition because i just was so lost in being a directorthat i didn't get to appreciate that. i just

really hope my students were able to reallyappreciate it and take in that moment because that's the kind of moment that's going tochange their life forever. lindsay: oh, absolutely. well, you know, theexperience is something that would change their life. you know, they're not doing, youknow, they're doing something unique, and then, getting a response for it, and then,it sounds like you guys have, you know, taken a really important step forward. annie: right. lindsay: so, what's it like having such ayoung program? like, is it frustrating? is it exciting? do you feel alone? like, what'sit like? there's a lot of teachers out there

who are in your same boat. so, what's it like? annie: well, the great thing about miami andthis might only be because i grew up in this program -- you know, my mom's a drama teacheralso so, you know, i started drama very young and then i went to a magnet school when iwas in high school and all of the drama teachers in dade county know me -- they either knowme because they were my teachers or they know me because just the connections we make because,in dade county, we're all pretty close and we all know each other and we have a reallybig program, too. so, i don't really feel alone. you know, i'm probably blessed in thatsense and then i have a very supportive administration also and i'm very grateful for that becausei know a lot of arts teachers, you know, struggle

to get any support from their administration loves me, they'd do anything to support me so i don't feel alone. thereare definitely struggles in trying to get things started. you know, teaching the studentstheatre discipline and letting them know, you know, it's not just getting up on stageand trying to create a culture within the school to have that discipline. it was reallyhard at first but now i feel like i'm finally getting somewhere. i love building my ownprogram. i'm, fortunately or unfortunately, a very independent person and i feel thatbuilding my own program allows me that independence to structure something the way i feel it shouldbe structured. so, it's a little bit of ego there, i guess.

lindsay: ah! you know what? why not? you know,because it means that things happen, right? lindsay: okay. so, pie in the sky, where wouldyou love to be with your program in ten years? annie: in ten years, i want a theatre. myschool, we don't even have a theatre. i want a theatre and i know that my administrationhas talked about making my school into a school for the arts. i would love to see that happenand i would love to have a program where my students experience all different forms oftheatre, all different forms of art, and understand that, you know, it's not just about studying...well, the one thing i love about theatre is it's not just about studying acting. theatreis one of those art forms where you need the art, where you need the music, where you needthe dance, where you get to combine and synthesize

all these different forms of art and producesomething new. and i just really want them to experience that and, yeah, that's be adrama teacher or the only other thing i'd ever want to do is drama therapy. lindsay: that sounds awesome. yeah, that soundsgreat. okay. well, i think that about wraps it up. i really appreciate that you took thetime to talk to me tonight and i just love, i just think that the most important thingthat any director can have is vision, and any time that we can sort of get that outthere and share it, like, okay, as we wrap up here, just put out there for any beginningdrama teachers who are just sort of getting into directing and not sure where to start,where do you start with building a vision

for a show? annie: i think the most important thing todo is to find things that inspire you. don't just read a play and try to go from's about listening to music and watching as much as you possibly can of films and otherplays and looking at art and just find in nature and even architecture. looking at alldifferent type of things and combining those ideas to create something new because, ifyou just have a narrow vision, it's going to take you nowhere. you have to look at have to look around you. you have to look at the smallest little bits of nature to thebiggest things you can possibly see and find a way to combine them and synthesize thoseideas.

lindsay: it's like finding examples from thesense, i guess, right? you know, textures and sounds and just visuals and... annie: yeah, that's the way to do it. lindsay: yeah, absolutely. awesome. thankyou so much, annie! now, go get some sleep and, hey, are you going to florida state thisyear? annie: yes, of course! lindsay: all right. well, i'm going to bethere, too. annie: nice, nice, nice! okay. so, i definitelywill come and say hi to you! lindsay: awesome. thank you so much, annie.

annie: you're very welcome. thank you. thank you, annie. my favorite part of thisinterview is how she equates teaching to being an artist and i know a ton of actors who thinkof teaching as the fallback plan. "oh, if i can't make it as an artist, i'll teach,"and annie doesn't think that way at all. i love how she loves inspiring students becauseshe was inspired by drama when she was in school. you know, i just think that's great.great, great, great talk. okay. it's time for what? theatrefolk news.okay. have you signed up for our email list? have you signed up for our email list? haveyou signed up for our email list? because you really, really should. okay. so, whatis it? it is a weekly missive from us with

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