JACQUELINE LAWTON: What was the first play that you ever directed? What did you learn from that experience that remains with you today?
SHAWN LACOUNT: The first play that I directed was Tennessee Williams’ “Out Cry” or as it is sometimes known, “The Two Character Play.” I learned the value of starting a theatrical process with great writing and working with people who have generous hearts. I also learned that doing a dark, incestuous, psycho-drama during the holiday season is not nearly as marketable as it sounds.
JL: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
SL: I really never intended to get into theatre. Truthfully, I was embarrassed by my interest in it. I broke my ankle trying out for the basketball team one year and my parents told me that I had to do something in school to socialize and keep me from causing trouble. My mother had been an actress and a theatre educator, so it was in the blood. Working on stage felt strangely natural. Throughout my artistic career I still have points when I ask myself if I really need to be doing this, is it the best way to engage and express?
JL: What kind of work do you do to pay the bills? How do you balance this work with your work as a director?
SL: In addition to being the Artistic Director at Company One, I also own a bed & breakfast. I like making my money outside of the theatre. It means that whatever project I choose to do, it better be worth my time and the time of everyone involved as artist or audience. It also means that I don’t have to take on projects that I don’t think are important. It’s incredibly liberating and I suggest it. I am a multi-tasker at heart, so running two or three businesses at once keeps me alert.
JL: Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts about working in Boston. Finish this sentence
JL: How do you feel the Boston theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to get your work produced on the main stages?
SL: The Boston community feels like it is finally starting to address issues of race in a meaningful way. This is core to Company One’s mission. Stage Source seems to be trying to help us all address the issue as a community. Gender too, in some ways. Some of the most powerful people working in the Boston theatre are women and Boston seems to produce more plays by female playwrights. Bottom line is, if we care about these things we have the power to change them.
JL: Tell us about the play you’re working on and what excites you about it.
SL: I have the great pleasure of working on Kirsten Greenidge’s new script titled Splendor Lit Beneath Their Bones. In 2010 Company One commissioned 7 writers to write one act plays inspired by one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, with a Company One twist. We had wonderful writers and the production was called GRIMM. Kirsten was one of those writers and her play Thanksgiving was inspired by a fairytale called Clever Else. Thanksgiving became the inspiration for Splendor as Kirsten began creating a full length play out of that one act. What is most exciting to me is that Company One has committed to producing Splendor on our mainstage next season, once it has been through the XX PlayLab development process this year. That means we will have spent a good three years developing this play, and that is kind of awesome! It’s also a local story and I am a Boston boy. It is one of the many reasons that I love Kirsten’s work—she writes about people and circumstances I know.
JL: Why should audiences attend the XX Playlab Festival?
SL: The primary reason people should attend the festival is because of these exceptional playwrights. These writers are not only three of Boston’s best, but they are some of the strongest and most important playwrights in America today. Kirsten, who has been in residence with Company One since we first produced one of her plays in 2005, is an incredible writer who has work being produced across the country at major theaters. Off her recent Broadway run of Stick Fly, people will be able to get the first glimpse of Lydia Diamond’s brand new play Smart People. And Natalia Naman, who may be the newest voice among the three, is continuing to get residencies and commissions around the country as well! Her play The Old Ship of Zion is beautiful, funny and full of song. To hear these plays at this stage, with dynamic playwright discussions and panelists (and all for free!!) is a gift!
JL: What advice do you have for up-and-coming directors?
SL: My best advice to up-and-coming directors is to direct. If you are one of the lucky ones to be hired and/ or paid to direct, then good for you! For everyone else, you will only truly grow by directing. There is only so far observing, assisting and reading can take you. If you are inspired to make theatre, then you need to find a way to do that. And if you get to direct on your own terms for whatever reason, please think about the work you are putting into the world. Are the stories you are choosing to tell forwarding us as a society, a community, a people? Know your point of view as an artist, it will set you apart from the rest.
JL: What's next for you as a director? Where can we keep up with your work?
SL: After the XX PlayLab readings in March, I will begin work on the mainstage production of Kirsten Greenidge’s Splendor Lit Beneath Their Bones for Company One in the fall. At Company One in April we have Qui Nguen’s bad-ass play She Kills Monsters, which you do not want to miss! You can check out all of the incredible plays we produce at companyone.org. You can follow the company on facebook or me on twitter, if you are in to that sort of thing.
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!