Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Lynn Sharp Spears: Why get into theater? I had a science teacher in 9th grade who heard me playing my guitar. He insisted I play for a school assembly. I was terrified-2000 students! My hands were sweating and I worried I’d foul it up...but it went just fine. I was hooked.
JL: What was the first play that you ever directed? What did you learn from that experience that remains with you today?
LSS: The first play I ever directed was South Pacific for a company my husband and I helped start; Damascus Theater Company in 1986(?). I learned that no matter how much you may like someone, you may not always have the same artistic vision. The production was successful.
JL: What kind of work do you do to pay the bills? How do you balance this work with your work as a director?
LSS: Paying the bills is always a challenge if you are an independent contractor. My friend Chuck Young, a wonderful DC Actor, recommended me to a producer for The Learning Channel back in 1991. I ended up doing Production Design and Casting for a number of the Great Books series and also the Understanding series. TV is a great supplement to the stage. It’s easier to balance when you’re directing because you have more control over the schedule.
JL: In DC, we have the Capital Fringe Festival, the Intersections Festival, the Source Festival, the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, the Black Theater Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival. We also have the Mead Lab at Flashpoint Theater Lab Program. Have you participated in any of these? If so, can you speak about your experience?
LSS: I love our Fringe Festivals! I directed a musical that I commissioned Joan Cushing to write while I was at Adventure Theater, Brave Irene, which we performed for Page-To-Stage. I directed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead with Kari Ginsburg for Fringe 2012. We also co directed Body Electric, a musical which I wrote for the 2012 Hope Operas that Chris Griffin produces. I’ve also performed or designed for Source’s Festival, Page-To-Stage, Fringe and the Washington Women In The Arts Festival.
JL: How many plays have you directed in the DC area? How many of them were written by women? By playwrights of color? How conscious are you selecting plays by women or people of color when deciding your season?
LSS: The year I was Artistic Director for Adventure Theater, back then you were only allowed to hold the position for a year, I commissioned five new plays for our season. Four of the playwrights were women. I have directed dozens of plays in the DC area, 6 of which were World Premieres. I gave the present Artistic Director, Michael Bobbitt, his first job at Adventure Theater.
JL: How do you feel the DC theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to work?
LSS: The DC Theatre Community is filled with amazing, creative, crazy people. I love most of them. We are slowly getting better with race and gender issues in both stage and film. I have been trying to burn a path through the male dominated TV industry for decades and we now have wonderful female producers and designers. I’d like to see more women DPs.
JL: If you could be direct at any theatre in DC, which would it be and why?
LSS: Studio Theatre. I love working there. Their creative and production teams are filled with wonderful people who are great fun to create with. I would love to direct there.
JL: DC audiences are ...
JL: DC actors and designers are ...
LSS: Great People
JL: DC playwrights are ..
JL: DC critics are ...
LSS: Sometimes misguided by their personal agendas.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming DC based director or a director who has just moved to D.C.?
LSS: Jump IN! We have an amazing array of vibrant theater companies in this town. See theater, go to talk backs, join Actor’s Center.
JL: What's next for you as a director? Where can we keep up with your work?
LSS: My next directing gig will be for Summer Theater Experience. I will be writing an adaptation of one of the Shakespeare comedies and Deborah Wicks LaPuma is going to write some music for it. VERY exciting! I don’t choose the plays until after we have our auditions in March at Artisphere.
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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!