JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
KATHLEEN ALVANIA: I remember seeing Man of La Mancha as a tween and being amazed by this power the actors had of making hundreds of people feel all at once. I vaguely dreamed of becoming a performer, but didn't do anything about it for almost 10 years. The show that actually inspired me to take my first acting class was Mamma Mia! (oops, there goes my street cred). Everyone on stage was just having so much FUN! I couldn't stand missing out on that any longer.
JL: How long have you served as Artistic Director at your company? What drew you to the position? What keeps you there?
KA: I founded the Disreps almost a year ago. It wasn't really my ambition to become an Artistic Director. I had an idea that grew from “Let's do this play!” to “Let's do more plays and help ladies!” to “Let's do all the art and help all the people!” I'm still here because we haven't helped all the people yet.
JL: What is the most valuable lesson you learned during your tenure? Also, what skills and traits do you feel a successful artistic director should have to support the health and growth of an organization?
KA: My most mind-blowing revelation so far has been that “Could you do this differently?” does not equal “You should already know how to do this differently.” A successful AD needs grit, flexibility, grand dreams and a thick skin. Stress management skills don't hurt.
JL: What excites you most about being an Artistic Director? What is your greatest challenge?
KA: It excites me to meet people who are excited about our work; our mission statement is like a magnet for fabulous, compassionate, positive people. Challenge: I'm the slowest writer on the planet, so responding to email just kills me. Why are there so many?!
JL: If your work as an artistic director doesn’t pay the bills, what else do you do? Also, how do you balance your role leading an organization with your work as a director? Are you ever able to direct outside of your company?
KA: I walk dogs and petsit, and occasionally teach voice lessons. This year wasn't so much about balance as it was about getting the company off the ground, so I wasn't involved in many other projects. Check back with me next year!
JL: Looking at your body of work as an artistic director and a director, how conscious are you and selecting plays by women or people of color when deciding your season? Also, when it comes to hiring administrators, designers and other directors do you take race and gender into consideration?
KA: Our mission is all about providing a forum for the underrepresented, which pretty much automatically puts us in a position to receive interest from and provide opportunities for minority theatre-makers. For instance, we didnt take gender into consideration when choosing pieces for SLUT (our recent staged reading festival addressing the War on Women), but 85% of the plays we finally selected were written by women.
JL: DC audiences are …
KA: Eager and supportive.
JL: DC actors and designers are …
KA: My favorites! Also, sleep-deprived.
JL: DC playwrights are ...
KA: Brilliant and welcoming.
JL: DC critics are …
KA: Helpful to varying degrees.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming theatre artists who have just moved to D.C.?
KA: Just jump in because we really want to meet you! Join Actor's Center right now. Take classes: I'm a Theatre Lab alum and recommend them to everyone. Finally, we small theatre companies always need help, so volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door and maybe earn some brownie points.
JL: What's next for you as a director and your company?
KA: Our next performance is black&blue, a staged reading festival comprised of short plays inspired by the many faces of domestic violence. Each performance will be followed by an Action Hour reception with representatives from local organizations involved with DV prevention and victim assistance. We haven't officially announced the dates yet, but we know it will take place mid-late spring. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!
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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!