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[Stage] Kiss & Tell with Bart DeLorenzo

Chances are, if you are a theatre enthusiast living in Los Angeles, you’ve seen a play directed by Bart De Lorenzo. A Geffen alum, Bart directed Joan River’s: A Work in Progress by A Life in Progress and Shipwrecked! An Entertainment by Donald Margulies in 2008. Then, in 2011, he directed Margulies’ Coney Island Christmas. Now, he is at the helm of Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl. Right before tech week started, I had the distinct honor of chatting with him. We got straight to the heart of the “new” Wild West, kissing onstage and what it is to be an artist in LA.

Why Stage Kiss? I saw the play in New York at The New Group and it was one of those rare experiences where you don’t want the play to end. I enjoyed the world, the mindscape. Sarah was there and she said “Why don’t you do this in LA?” I pitched the play to the Geffen and here we are.

bart & Donald
Donald Margulies (left) and Bart DeLorenzo working on Coney Island Christmas in 2011.

In your opinion, how does LA measure up as a theatrical town? Between theatre, TV and film it seems everyone in LA is in motion. There are so many artistic opportunities and so many places to express oneself. The people who can move freely between those mediums are able to stay in the moment and I think that’s why there seems to be a big explosion of artists in LA right now. I think It’s directly related to this Golden Age of Television that we’re experiencing. It’s truly, the Wild West out there. The days of big corporations deciding what people want is coming to an end and TV is going after those truly imaginative people with unique voices — those who write for the theatre. They bring in theatre people to reimagine TV and it’s working. Playwrights are out here, working. And that benefits us because they still write plays.

Michael Daniel Cassady and Gregory Itzin in 2008’s Shipwrecked! (Photo: Michael Lamont)

frank dracula
Frank Langella (far right) is pictured here in Dracula, circa 1980. Just imagine: young Bart DeLorenzo in the last row of the balcony.

What about you? Want to make the jump to TV or Film?I grew up in Massachusetts, watching the 4 o’clock Movie. I learned about directing from Alfred Hitchcock — ironically, so much of Stage Kiss is done in that 1930s style of Clark Gable or Cary Grant. But, honestly, it’s taken me so long to perfect what I’m doing as a theatre director. You are always trying something new and every project is an adventure in history or cultural growth. One of the reasons I love the theatre is that I am able to go on many adventures a year whereas, a film could take 3 years to make. That said, I would love to hone new skills and learn the intricacies of creating film or television.

How did you find theatre? I learned to love the theatre by doing it. As a kid, I acted but when I got older I started designing sets. The first professional production I ever saw was Dracula, starring Frank Langella, at the Wilbur Theater in Boston. I sat in the last row of the balcony. After that, it was the tour of Bob Fosse’s Chicago. I would love to see that again! Living in Massachusetts, I was a bit of an exotic creature. I thought I was in a movie. I knew I had to leave and that I was made for other things. My absolute favorite thing is working on a play. I love rehearsing. I love figuring a play out. Tomorrow, we start tech and I can’t wait.

Do you remember the first on stage kiss you ever directed? What a great question! Yes, I remember it was a creepy incestuous kiss in Orestes between Electra and Orestes. I remember walking back to the dorms with the actress playing Electra and her being surprised that the actor playing Orestes was such a good kisser. But I also remember my first on stage kiss as an actor. I was playing the son of an overseer in the play The First Breeze of Summer by Leslie Lee and there was a flashback scene where I was having an affair with one of the serving girls. I had to do the scene shirtless, which terrified me far more than the kiss. But as I recall — we WENT for it.

You’ve worked on other plays by Sarah Ruhl. Which ones? Two years ago, I did Passion Play with the Evidence Room at the Odyssey Theatre. In 2008, I directed Dead Man’s Cell Phone at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.

Passion Play Evidence Room
Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play with the Evidence Room at the Odyssey, directed by Bart DeLorenzo in 2014. (Photo: Enci)

What’s next? In May, I’m directing Wink by Jen Silverman for the Pacific Playwrights festival at South Coast Repertory. And in the Fall, I’m directing M. Butterfly at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Anything on the Bucket List? I love [playwrights] Will Eno and Annie Baker. I’d love to do any of Euripides plays or Chekov’s Three Sisters.

Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Bart DeLorenzo is onstage now. It stars Tim Bagley, Melody Butiu, Stephen Caffrey, Barry Del Sherman, Glenne Headly, Emily James & Matthew Scott Montgomery.

Click here for tickets: http://www.geffenplayhouse.org/stage-kiss

For more information about Bart De Lorenzo, visit his website: http://www.bartdelorenzo.com/

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