Joseph Ritsch is currently the Co-Producing Artistic Director at Rep Stage. You would think that would be enough of a job to keep him busy but Joseph is also the director for Rep Stage’s season opener Venus in Fur. Joseph is a principal ensemble member with Jane Comfort and Company, and has performed at The Joyce Theatre in New York City and toured the U.S. on several national tours as well as a tour to Paris, France. He received critical acclaim for his work with Jane Comfort and Company in both the Village Voice and the New York Times for his multiple roles in S/He and for the title role of Macbeth in Cliff Notes Macbeth. In 2010 he co-founded Iron Crow Theatre Company with Steven Satta-Fleming and has been acting associate artistic director. With Iron Crow, Joseph has portrayed Amanda Wingvalley in For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls, Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Richard in A Soldier Dreams. Mr. Ritsch’s play about the Jeffrey Dahmer murders, Apartment 213, was part of the Iron Crow 2010-2011 season. The project was developed at the prestigious WordBRIDGE Playwrights Lab and had its New York City debut as a part of the Modicums Theatre Festival of New Work. A revised version of Apartment 213 opened Iron Crow’s 2013-2014 Season. As a director his work with Iron Crow includes the critically acclaimed production of Love and Human Remains, Bad Panda, I Want To Be A Gay Icon, and the staged reading of 8. He has also served as director, associate director, and choreographer in productions for Everyman Theatre, Centerstage, and Towson University. Joseph and his producing partner Suzanne Beal are looking to take Rep Stage to the next level. Check out their current production of Venus and Fur and then see for all the other good things Joseph has in store for you this season.
What other theatres did you work at before coming to Rep Stage?
In the Baltimore/DC area, I have worked at Everyman, Center Stage and I am a founding member of Iron Crow Theatre where I was the Associate Artistic Director until taking the Rep Stage position.
How do you best describe this year’s season of shows at Rep Stage and also how do you go about choosing your season?
My Co-Producing Artistic Director Suzanne Beal and I chose the theme of “Transitions and Transformations.” We thought this a perfect theme as the theatre was undergoing a change in artistic leadership. All four of this season’s plays deal with the themes of transitions and transformation, whether it is of body, mind or soul. We chose the season based on the theme, of course many other things go into choosing a season, such as gaining production rights, balancing a diversified group of plays, and casting challenges to name a few.
Can you please tell us a little bit about Venus in Fur?
When I first read Venus in Fur I couldn’t put it down. I was instantaneously drawn into David Ives’ smart, funny, sexy, and dangerous play. But what I was most interested in as a director was the challenge for an audience to be imaginative, thus giving them a wonderful opportunity of weaving their own tale. Ives’ brilliantly creates a magical world within the little run-down rehearsal room of the play’s setting that is constantly shifting, keeping its viewers on their toes. Nothing is more exciting to me in the theatre than work that asks questions and allows an audience to draw conclusions of their own without being told how to think or feel. Is Vanda really Venus? Are we watching reality or a dream? What happens to Vanda and Thomas when the final thunderclap leaves us all in darkness? I’ll let the audiences decided for themselves.
What is the most challenging part of producing a season of shows on a college campus?
From marketing and branding perspective the challenge is having the public realize we are a professional equity regional theatre and not an education theatre department.
Where would you like to see Rep Stage artistically in five years?
I would Rep Stage to be known for producing new work, regional premieres and supporting the Baltimore/DC community of artists. I would also like to be co-producing with other theatres in our community.