Getting Real with the Joneses
An interview with The Realistic Joneses director
By Caitlin Wade Billings, LSt Marketing Director
Lee Street theatre’s upcoming dark comedy, The Realistic Joneses, includes many new additions that make this production one of the most unique in Lee Street theatre’s history. The show revolves around the laughably mundane lives of two couples that share the last name Jones and how their destinies seem to tangle more rapidly with each passing day. This production will stand out to audiences as it is the first Lee Street theatre’s new Technical Director Rod Oden has built in its entirety and it stars Lee Street theatre’s Artistic Director Craig Kolkebeck. The most notable attribute of this production, however, must be the Catawba College student directing the piece.
Beginning last August, Lee Street theatre and Catawba College installed the CataLST Internship Program into their ever-growing partnership. This has allowed high-achieving students to participate in professional theatre as actors, publicists, researchers, stage managers, and now directors. Peyton Glendinning, Catawba College Theatre Arts senior, is the first student director to take on a full production of this caliber at Lee Street theatre. Navigating this new territory hasn’t been easy so marketing director Caitlin Billings sat down with Peyton Glendinning to discuss her directing process and how her experiences have led her here.
Why did you decide to pursue theatre?
I got into theatre when I was younger, around the fifth grade through an afterschool program. In high school, I began working on the production side, mostly in stage management, playwriting, scenic and lighting design with an occasional performance. Despite being a public high school, my theatre program took itself very seriously and equipped me with a skill set that has helped me in every project I have pursued since. I think the rigor of that program made me realize that theatre was a viable career option, so I put forth a lot of time and energy whenever I work on a project.
Was there someone who inspired you to pursue theatre?
I have a family that has always been really supportive of my career in the arts. As with most, it took a village to really generate my interest in theatre. Most notably is one of my high school theatre teachers, Kathleen McNulty. She is still a great friend and the mentor I call for advice in most situations. Artistically and educationally she has always been able to steer me in the right direction and pushed me to listen and trust my intuition.
Did you always want to be a director?
When I first applied to Catawba in my junior year of high school, I was gunning for the design & production program. In my senior year, I realized that directing best suited my skill set. If you ask just about any of the Catawba Theatre Arts faculty you will learn that I have changed what I wanted to do with my career more times than I can count.
Who are some of your favorite directors? Who influences your work?
I will forever be inspired by other directors, especially women like Jo Bonney, Rebecca Taichman, and Anne Kaufman. My work is heavily influenced by many mediums (music, photography, social interactions, film, etc.) that help me articulate ideas like rhythm, tone, and the overall conceptualization of the world of the play.
How long have you been directing?
I directed my first ten-minute scene in my junior year of high school. At Catawba, I’ve been directing since the second semester of my freshman Year.
Your last project was Dog Sees God at Catawba College. How did that prepare for you for this, your professional directorial debut?
That project taught me a lot. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the lead of the show was unable to fulfill the role and had to leave two weeks before opening night. That was a big hurdle for me. After that experience, I am now able to work better on my feet and further trust the individuals around me to really rise to the occasion.
How does this directing experience differ from Dog Sees God?
Being in a rehearsal room with all adults is incredibly different than being in a room full of your peers. I have to really tap into my instincts and trust my analysis of the play much more than before. These actors demand good direction, and I work really hard to provide that for them.
You cast two established directors in the play, Kindra Steenerson and Craig Kolkebeck. What has it been like directing them as actors?
Craig and Kindra are two of my closest and most valued mentors. In my time at Catawba, I have relied on both of them heavily in terms of my professional and artistic development. This actually is not my first time directing Craig. In my second semester of my freshman year, I directed him in a staged reading of John Logan’s Red. Which, in retrospect, was a pretty bold move. Reminding myself of Red has helped me a lot through this process. As actors, Craig and Kindra both are extremely capable of tapping into their emotional wells. They have strong impulses that allow them to dive into these roles headfirst. At first, this was pretty intimidating, but they are the two best suited for the roles. At this point in the process, I think the two have come to trust me a lot. On top of that, they are a blast to have in rehearsal and I think the rest of the production team would agree that they make everything way more fun.
You are a part of the inaugural internship program Lee Street theatre and Catawba College have established called CataLST. What opportunities have you been granted due to this new program, if any, and what are your thoughts on the program as a whole?
So, on top of directing this production, I am serving as a development intern for Lee Street theatre. This meaning that I am going in for two hours a week and working on grant writing. CataLST also allows me to see the day-to-day activities of a professional theatre. I think the program is a great opportunity for students to really push themselves and apply what they’ve learned throughout their time at Catawba. Further, it gives students an artistic home that allows them to share their progress with a community that has watched them grow for the past four years. It is an awesome opportunity.
What can a person expect when they go to see The Realistic Joneses? What is the vision?
I think audiences will be caught off guard by this production. It is written in such a way that audience members get swept up in the rhythm of the dialogue and surprised by the humor. The overall vision is to create a world that is grounded in reality without being especially heavy. It is easy to get swept up in the tragedy of the human experience, but really all we can do is continue. I think this play highlights that part of existence.
How would you describe Lee Street theatre to someone who has never heard of us before?
Lee Street theatre is a community-oriented theatre that serves this area through theatre that is of the highest possible quality. Under Craig Kolkebeck’s artistic direction, this theatre selects plays that aren’t watered-down with fluff. Craig has a strong sense of blending community values with theatre that does more than turn a profit. Other regional theatres should sit up and pay attention to the work that Lee Street is doing, especially as community members grow tired of seeing the same cycle of whitewashed musicals.
What do you hope to take away from this experience as student director?
This project has equipped me with a better understanding of my personal directorial style, along with an enhanced ability to articulate my ideas to a variety of individuals. Similarly, I am excited to abandon the title of “student” director.
The Realistic Joneses cast includes Craig Kolkebeck as Bob Jones, Kindra Steenerson as Jennifer Jones, Matthew Monte as John Jones, and Alyssa Whiting as Pony Jones. The creative team includes the talents of Peyton Glendinning as CataLST directing intern, Ryan Maloney as set designer, Rod Oden as lighting designer and technical director, Caitlin Billings as marketing director, Craig Kolkebeck as artistic director, and Mary Cheek as stage manager.
This production is inappropriate for young children. Performances will be held at Lee Street theatre Performing Arts Center at the Tom & Martha Smith Event Center at 329 N Lee Street, Salisbury, NC 28144. Performances will run February 22-24 and March 1-3 at 7:30pm. General Tickets are $17.55 and Student Tickets are $10. Tickets are available online at www.leestreet.org or by phone 704.310.5507.