Company member Casey Cunningham is the director for our next installment of WildClaw in the Wild, My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer, by Brian Watkins.  Casey has worked extensively with WildClaw as a performer; she recently received rave reviews for her work in our The Life of Death as well as in Facing Angela with The Ruckus Theatre. She has recently directed THE PRICE, a hybrid play/radio play by WC artistic associate Chris Hainsworth, for the late night spooky cabaret Strangers and Strangerers, produced at Hugen Hall in association with WildClaw; assistant directed for Anna Bahow on Scott T. Barsotti’s play BREWED, produced by the Ruckus and Tympanic Theatre companies; and directed Hainsworth’s radio play TWO FLAT, for a future episode of Blood Radio. We’ll be talking with Casey about what drew her to “Hammer,” how directing horror is different from other genres, and What Scares Her.

What attracted you to direct this script in particular for WIW? What frightens you most in this piece? What resonates most with you?

I think the relationship between the sisters is what initially drew me in.  I have a sister, a year younger than I am, and though we’re very close, we’re very different.  And I understand how family obligation and personal perceptions of the value of the other siblings’ contributions to the family can create a sense of division in the relationship and affects family dynamic.  What keeps me interested in the story is the notion that one critical decision can have a staggering affect on the outcome of not only that moment, but also your life.  The idea that you can get caught in the momentum of that decision, for better or worse, and find yourself drowning in the continued consequences of it is scary to me.

Blogger’s rendering. May be totally inappropriate.

What challenges does a reading present versus a full production? What is the biggest challenge for this particular piece?

In this piece, the staging is very, very simple, but also very specific.  3031 is actually a fantastic venue for it, as will be the gradual setting of the sun.  But the script also calls for some effects that we won’t have the capability to pull off in a reading setting, so I’m working now on figuring out that balance.

What was the most exciting discovery you and your actors made while rehearsing or table-working this piece? What is your favorite insight you hope to take away from this process, about directing as well as horror?

The more I learn about directing, the more I understand just how much of a collaborative process it is.  Every person who contributes to a production, no matter the scale or their role in it, helps to shape what an audience ultimately sees, or in our case, hears.  My favorite part is thinking I’ve got something really nailed down and then having that idea turned completely on its ear by a collaborator with an entirely different perspective.  The text, the actors, the designers all contribute to making directors look good. 

How is directing horror different from directing other genres of theatre, both good and bad?

I think the best horror is that that focuses on the people at the center of the stories.  I think you have to care about them before you can care about what happens to them or what they do.  Which is not unlike directing any other genre, however the extenuating circumstances no doubt will be.  So, in directing horror, part of the challenge may be to cut through the extraordinary elements of the story and get at the heart of the characters.  I can’t personally relate to monsters and ghosts and vampires, but I can relate to heartbreak and fear and anxiety. 

What do you like about horror in theatre versus other mediums?

I love to be surprised by horror onstage.  As someone who’s created and seen a lot of theater, and someone with a curious mind, I’m often pulled out of the action of a play because my brain tries to figure out how the tech elements are contributing to what I’m seeing.  With horror, I love the feeling of “I have no idea how they pulled that off.”  I think WildClaw is particularly good at that element of surprise. 

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen and/or had to do on stage?

The WildClaw productions I’ve been a part of as an actor have been exceptionally challenging and scary in different ways.  KILL ME (written by Barsotti, directed by artistic associate Jeff Christian) required extraordinary mental focus, precision, and heightened listening skills.  The text was relentless in structure and it was mighty easy to zone out for half a second and miss 14 cues, jump three pages, something that could derail the show for the entire cast.  That show was terrifying every night (and I loved it).

Join us this Sunday, August 4th, at 3031 for My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer, featuring Baize Buzan, Dennis Frymire, Sarah Gitenstein, and extra special musical guest Jessie Fisher.