Deirdre McAllister is presently directing Stephen Sondheim’s iconic musical “Company” presented by the Stillpointe Theatre, at the Wilkes School, 707 Park Avenue, Baltimore. “Company” will be playing through Sunday, February 2, 2019.
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Bio: Deirdre McAllister is a theatre artist, musician, and educator in Baltimore, Maryland. She currently teaches theatre classes at Towson University and Stevenson University. She has taught playwriting through Center Stage for their Young Playwrights Festival and worked as a drama specialist at Horizon Day Camp, a camp for children with cancer and their siblings, for the past two years. Recent directing: Exquisite Baltimore, The Oven Theatre Company; Small Breezes, Stevenson University; Sally McCoy (Staged reading) by Alice Stanley, The Strand Theatre Company; The Brides of Tortuga for the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. Recent performances: Elijah Wolf, Trial in the Woods by Stephanie Barber, The Mercury Theatre; Various roles, Follow No Strangers to the Fun Places, Acme Theatre Company; Canary Mary in F@#*ing A by Suzan Lori Parks at Iron Crow Theatre Company; Connie Albright, Red Death by Lisa D’Amour, Psychic Readings; Virginia Poe, The Mesmeric Revelations of Edgar Allen Poe, Submersive Productions. Deirdre received her MFA in theatre arts from Towson University and a BA in performance and arts administration from Suffolk University. Upcoming projects include directing Red Death by Lisa D’Amour at Stevenson University, and collaborating with Acme Theatre Company on an adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Wasteland.
I had to chance to ask McAllister some questions about the musical and her directorial choices.
1. Why did you decide to direct “Company?”
I love Stephen Sondheim. So, when I was asked if I would be interested, I immediately said yes. It was one that I wasn’t too familiar with, and I’ve never seen it. Once I read the script, I understood why it’s so iconic. I connected with the concept of the show and knew we could pull together a killer cast and band.
2. I noticed in your cast that the gender of a couple of roles have been changed. How do you think that changes the story or does it?
I don’t think it changes the story as much as it represents relationships now in 2019. I was open to finding the best person for each role regardless of gender, but I knew I didn’t want to have solely straight relationships. So, we have a Harriette instead of Harry and a Jo instead of Joanne. “Sorry Grateful” in Alyssa’s [Wellman-Houde] soprano voice is stunning, and Timoth [David Copney] was born to sing “Ladies who Lunch!”
3. The theme of “Company” is that we all need to have someone to share our lives. In the song, “The Little Things You Do Together,” the characters share, musically, those small every day experiences with their mates that brings creates bonds for bad or good. Do you have a significant other or close friend with whom you share little things? Can you site one of them?
My husband, Kevin, and I are both artists and lead very busy lives. Honestly, coming home at the end of the day and just relaxing with our two dogs is my ideal evening! When we do have breaks, we like to go camping or go on little trips, and we also enjoy cooking meals together. We honeymooned this summer in Italy and took a pasta making class. Now we like to challenge ourselves with difficult dishes!
4. What song or scene is your favorite? Hardest to block?
Jenny and David’s scene where they smoke pot has me stitches every time. I really can’t pick a favorite song but “Being Alive” makes me cry it’s so beautiful. “Side by Side” was the most difficult to block for sure. This is the first musical I’ve choreographed. So, it was definitely a challenge trying to articulate what I wanted, but the cast was so open, patient and helpful during the whole process. The results are a really fun and engaging song with just the right level of campiness. Plus, there’s a kick line! It’s definitely a crowd pleaser.
5. Are there any other unique creative decisions that you made as director that will make this production memorable for those who have never seen it before and for those who have seen it one or more times?
We wanted to realize the show in 2019 while honoring the original text. I think the themes are still relevant, the pressure and anxiety of how relationships form and change, possibly more so in the age of social media. Thus, the actors have phones, we have projections of text conversations to Bobby, wedding Pinterest pages, and Tinder profiles. This was interesting to me because it added a layer to each character, as we all have our self that we present online as well as our self that our friends and partners know. The way we meet people is so different now for better or worse which definitely adds to Bobby’s understanding of marriage and friendships as he attempts to navigate the line between maintaining his identity and individuality while also finding someone who is, as he sings, “as frightened as you of being alive.” His friends have found people with whom they can be vulnerable, and Bobby realizes and accepts the potential for a deep connection in order to experience all the beautiful pain and joy of life. Something, that is in my opinion, is way harder to do in 2019, because it’s so easy to hide behind the perfect self we can present online.