Everyone, you are in for a real treat! If you read my Women Stage Managers of DC blog series, then you know that my love, respect, and admiration for stage managers is boundless. And I would like to state, for the record, that this production of Intelligence would not have been the success it was without our brilliant stage management team led by Trevor A. Riley. His kindness, thoughtfulness, humor, clear thinking, and patience kept us in line, on time, and in the very best of spirits. And with all he had to do running and closing the show and preparing for a very busy week ahead, he took the time to take part in this interview series. Please enjoy!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
TREVOR RILEY: I was in middle school, maybe 6th grade, and I saw the school’s production of Guys and Dolls. It looked like a lot of fun so I auditioned the next year and was cast in Titanic The Musical (Our teacher was very ambitious!) I was hooked. It wasn’t until high school when my Theatre teacher encouraged me to try stage management that I found my calling. And the rest is history. I went to college for stage management and here we are today!
JL: Commissioned as part of Arena Stage’s Power Play initiative, INTELLIGENCE was the only new play in the 2016-2017 Season. Can you share a bit about your experience working on the production?
TAR: Intelligence was fun and challenging since it was a new work. Unlike working on more familiar shows, there are no defined parameters in new works. Familiar works focus on presenting the work in new and exciting ways. or Intelligence, we are growing and developing those parameters as everyone in the room contributes to making the best possible show. As the stage manager, my assistant, Elle, and I are tasked with keeping the designers up-to-date on the rehearsal process. Cutting or changing two lines of dialogue could eliminate a costume change, or add new props. For this production, the biggest challenges were the movable walls and ensuring Valerie has everything she needed on stage since she never left it.
JL: Set in 2003, INTELLIGENCE is a historical fiction that examines the lies that led to the war in Iraq, the impact of the war on the Iraqi people, and what happened when the Bush Administration retaliated against two U.S. citizens when the truth of those lies were revealed. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences?
TAR: It rings true with the current Trump Administration. The advent of alternative facts, the firing of AGA Sally Yates over the unconstitutional travel ban and unilateral military action remind us of early post 9/11 years. It was fascinating to see how the play continued to resonate in the weeks following our opening. The audience would react differently to certain lines based on the day’s headlines. As much as we want to think those days of the Bush Administration are behind us, we have a new administration that’s on a similar or worst track.
JL: What excited you about being a part of this production?
TAR: My favorite part of the production process is the rehearsals. I enjoy watching the actors grow and discover new approaches and nuances of their characters. This is especially true for new works like Intelligence where everyone in the room is contributing to its growth. It was inspiring to watch our playwright, Jackie, find new insights into Valerie’s story. She would be inspired by a thought or idea from an actor or the director, and she’d come back from lunch with a new scene. It’s great to watch a play grow and develop.
JL: What's next for you as a stage manager? Where can we follow your work?
TAR: Multiple shows! I’m already in rehearsals for The Jungle Book at Imagination Stage (Nora Achrati, who played Leyla Nezari, is in it as Kaa) and then off to the Olney Theatre Center for their production of My Fair Lady.
TREVOR A. RILEY (Stage Manager) returns to Arena Stage after having worked on Carousel, Destiny of Desire and Our War. Other D.C.-area credits include Jack and Phil, Slayers of Giants-INC, A Year with Frog and Toad and Sinbad: The Untold Tale (Imagination Stage); The Diary of Anne Frank, Bakersfield Mist, Godspell and A Christmas Carol (Olney Theatre Center); and Just The Two of Each of Us, Appropriate, Detroit and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Woolly Mammoth).
Intelligence Cast Actor Interviews
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!