Category: Travis Preston

Travis Preston Shares Less Known Tips for First Time Stage Directors

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According to a recent survey, stage directors have one of the most stressful positions within the arts industry. The combination of working long hours, organizing a team of potentially more than 100 crew and cast members, and bringing to life an artistic vision is no easy task. For many new theater directors, this position can be both a dream come true and an emotionally taxing experience. As Dean of CalArts School of Theater and Head of the Directing department, Travis Preston recognizes the unique struggles amateur directors face every day and is uniquely qualified to share his experience. Below, Travis Preston will attempt to lessen some of the pressures of directing by sharing his tips for first-time stage directors.

Make Sure to Rehearse Important Scenes Before the End of the Day

All directors recognize the importance of effective rehearsal. During rehearsal, how actors perform in one scene will often influence how the tone of the next, with the final stage result being a cultivation of each of these rehearsals. For this reason, it is perfectly understandable that new directors would want to save the most important scene for the end of rehearsal, as practicing the scenes leading up to this climax influence how actors respond to the script. However, this can be a costly mistake as actors will often use the notes given to them throughout rehearsal within the climax scene. It is vital for actors to give an unadulterated performance for important scenes and remain uninfluenced by previous notes.

Be Sure to Be Highly Involved in Casting

There is a popular theater saying that 90 percent of directing is casting. This saying holds a certain amount of truth, as having talented actors with the right chemistry can make or break a stage performance. In order to successfully cast your production, new directors must ask themselves what kind of audition will most effectively cast the best actors for each role? While some shows may have a more successful casting if actors perform monologues, others may do better if auditioning actors read directly from the script. Finally, it is important that new directors remember that talent does not always equal reliability. Although an actor may appear perfect for a role if they do not show dedication to the production, they should be immediately replaced by a more reliable actor.

Take Notes on Everything

As a director, it is your job to observe every detail of your stage production. Any small mistake, inconsistency, or problem with rehearsal should be written down and later communicated to actors or crew. While this is a significant job for any sole person, staying organized and keeping diligent notes will help directors recall every note during rehearsal and ensure that the appropriate changes are made.

Travis Preston Discusses CalArts Center of New Performance Updates

Travis Preston

As the artistic director of Cal Arts Center for New Performance, Travis Preston acknowledges the artistic, social, financial, and personal impact that the pandemic is currently having on the theatre industry and its community. In an effort to help members of the theatre community, Travis Preston shares a few CNP updates as well as resources that can be utilized by those currently in need.

New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) has one of the most comprehensive lists of emergency funding available for members of theatre and musical communities. The pages are updated almost every day and include financial resources, health resources, housing resources, legal resources, and other grants that can be utilized to help those that are currently in need of assistance. The resources cover several states and disciplines within the theatre and music community, and artists are encouraged to periodically check the database to apply for grants and benefits that pertain to their specific situation. I individuals that find themselves able to donate are encouraged to show their support to NYFA and all that they are doing to empower the community at this time by contributing any dollar amount for emergency funding.

CNP’s performance of rasgos asiáticos has unfortunately been postponed, but CNP is still committed to all the artists involved in putting together the presentation. To this point, CNP has paid all the artists’ full fees for the project and has worked tirelessly to complete, document and save their work. We are currently looking at creative ways that the project can be presented at a later date and will update the community with more information as soon as it becomes available. CNP is currently doing everything in their power to mitigate the impact of the pause on performances and encourages colleagues and fellow institutions to find ways to assist if possible.

While it is unquestionably a tough time for many of us, CNP is constantly encouraged by the tremendous outpouring of online art-sharing that is happening throughout the world. The CNP team and Travis Preston have found themselves revisiting TEDxCalArts: Performance, Body and Presence for the rich perspectives and ideas shared by some of the greatest artists in the space. Artists have always been heralded for their ability to guide us through uncertain territories via their unique and invigorating performances and visions, and perspectives of some of our most talented voices may be just what those seeking inspiration need during this time to power through. Featured speakers and performers include Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The Yes Men, Nora Chipaumire, Sardono W. Kusumo, Douglas Kearney, Mirjana Jokovic, Chris Kallmyer, Ajay Kapur and more. Travis Preston and CNP also realize that the current situation gives us all the unique opportunity to use technology to connect with each other to deepen our professional practice, our community, and our humanity.

A Look Back at One of The Most Popular Plays Travis Preston Directed: The Master Builder

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Back in 2010, Travis Preston brought The Master Builder to Almedia, London. Henrik Ibsen created The Master Builder in 1892. The autobiographical tale follows an aging architect who is afraid of the next generation. The architect, Halvard Solness, works in a small town in Norway. One day he has an unexpected guest in a beautiful young woman named Hilda Wangel. While Solness doesn’t recognize the woman, she explains that they had met a decade ago. At that time, she claims Solness made romantic advances towards her and promised her a kingdom all her own. While he denies this, he is convinced that she can assist him now with his household duties, so he brings her home.

While Wangel takes on the role of housekeeper, the audience learns that Solness is the manager of an architectural office with three employees, two of which are romantically linked. One aspires of being promoted but Solness remains reluctant. Solness and his wife have a rocky relationship and it’s revealed that the couple lost children years ago in a house fire. Solness finds that Wangel and him are kindred spirts as she supports his architectural works and projects.

The play culminates when Hilda convinces Solness to build a towering steeple, despite his crippling fear of heights. Despite his fears, Hilda encourages Solness to climb to the top of the new building. Inspired by her words, he reaches the top only to lose his footing and plummet to his death. On the ground is Hilda, who yells out, “My – my Master Builder!”

While the play has been around for more than a century, Travis Preston put his own spin on it. While the original play caused the viewer to speculate, Preston makes it clear that the viewer is watching Solness’s fantasy. The relationship between Solness and the other characters portray the emotions he has kept locked inside for years. Wagnel represents a beacon of hope, an agent of retribution and the embodiment of the tormented conscience of Solness since the death of his children. The romantic undertones between the two is utilized to reflect a marriage that has fallen apart because the couple is too broken by loss to be repaired.

Travis Preston received praise from critics and audiences alike for his stripped-down version of this thought provoking play. It served as an example of what great actors and great directors can accomplish when they put their own spin on classic source material.

Travis Preston Discusses Directing Prometheus Bound

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In 2013, Travis Preston directed Prometheus Bound at the Getty Villa, produced by CalArts Center for New Performance. This rendition of the Ancient Greek tragedy was met with great critical acclaim and remains a highlight in his career. In this article Travis Preston discuss some of his motivations for the play and how they influenced the process of imagining powerful set-pieces as well as some of the logistical steps required to fully realize the vision that he had for the play.

One of the most dynamic changes that Travis Preston made to Prometheus Bound for the CalArts adaptation was the inclusion of a visually stunning wheel to represent the mountain of the original play. Travis Preston first imagined the wheel – a 24 feet high, four ton, spinning mechanism – as the central feature of his adaptation because of his view that ancient works can still be crucial for invigorating and enhancing contemporary conversations. The wheel allowed the production to make other religious parallels (the Dharma of Buddhist teachings) as well as utilize 1920’s modernist aesthetics for the wheel’s design. Together with an all-star cast, including Emmy Award Winner Ron Cephas Jones as Prometheus, Travis Preston pushed the ancient work into a wholly contemporary theatrical context.

One of the logistical challenges that the play and the piece presented was the need for special training to instruct the women in the chorus how to rise to the wheel safely. The production was honored to have The Flying Boy from Las Vegas construct the harness and train everyone on how to ascend the wheel in the safest possible manner. Its always expected that a large-scale functional piece like the one in the play will involve sizeable work output to construct and install in the Getty, however, the challenges associated with this project were all worthwhile and invigorating. A lot of people were responsible for the realization of this project, and it is with special contributions from Preston’s talented crew and a special group of actors and actresses that the show was able to be such a success.