Middlebury

October 1, 2001

Contact:
Sarah Ray

802-443-5794

sray@middlebury.edu

Posted: October 1, 2001

MIDDLEBURY,
VT
- The London Theatre Exchange (LTE) kicks off a
five-week residency at Middlebury College this fall with two
works: "Elizabethan Rivals: Art or Money," featuring the
legendary rivalry between William Shakespeare and Philip
Henslowe over art versus enterprise, and "A Century on
Stage: from Shaw and Wilde to the Present," exploring how
dramatic literature in the 20th century reflected a changing
society. "Elizabethan Rivals" is scheduled for Friday, Oct.
12, and "A Century on Stage" for Saturday, Oct. 13. Both
performances will take place at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall
in the Center for the Arts on South Main Street (Route 30).

Public
question-and-answer periods will follow both performances.

Now
10 years old, LTE was formed by a group of senior actors,
directors and teachers from the Royal Shakespeare Company,
the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Art, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

LTE's
award-winning director and producer Chris Hayes and other
founding members sought a way to broaden their creativity by
collaborating with actors, companies and playwrights from
around the world. Known for an innovative production style,
the organization draws on leading theatre companies and
training schools in the United States and Britain for its
artists-actors, teachers, directors, writers, designers and
technicians. Their primary focus is the development of
small-scale ensemble shows with American and British casts,
as well as the organization of workshops for actors and
directors in U.S. and foreign locations from Atlanta,
Nashville and Los Angeles to Milan, Munich and Buenos Aires.

While
in Middlebury, the LTE will present these two performances,
conduct a two-week workshop with Middlebury College
students, and put on a teacher workshop for a diverse group
of Vermont educators and Middlebury College teacher
education students. Director Hayes will also lead a
Middlebury College theater program production of "Henry V"
in early November.

The
performances are sponsored by the Middlebury College
Performing Arts Series and the theatre program. Tickets for
the Oct. 12-13 shows are $10 for general admission and $8
forsenior citizens. A pre-performance dinner Friday, Oct.
12, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Rehearsal's Cafe in the
Center for the Arts. Reservations are required. For tickets
or dinner reservations, call the College box office at
802-443-6433.

To
follow is an interview with director and producer Chris
Hayes conducted by Middlebury College Professor of Theatre
Cheryl Faraone via telephone and e-mail in
September:

An
Interview with Chris Hayes of the London Theatre
Exchange


Chris Hayes has worked in British theatre, film and
television for over 30 years, directing in that time more
than 500 productions. He founded the London Theatre Exchange
in 1991. This year during October and November, the London
Theatre Exchange will be in residence at Middlebury College
and will conduct a variety of events: an intensive two-week
workshop by Hayes and colleagues Katya Benjamin and William
Richards for theatre students in acting, voice and movement;
two platform performances for the Performing Arts Series,
one featuring Elizabethan theatre and the second exploring
20th-century British drama; subsequent discussions of the
work and the company's process; and a three-day teacher
education workshop at the College's Bread Loaf campus, led
by Benjamin and Richards. The residency culminates with
Hayes' production of Shakespeare's Henry V, by a company of
21 Middlebury students. Henry V will be presented in the
Seeler Studio Theatre on Nov. 8-10.

Q:
Chris, how did you first become involved with
theatre?


As a callow and shy 14-year-old, the drama club at my school
was a magnet. It was certainly run by an inspirational
teacher who influenced me greatly. The real pull, though,
was that you got to spend time-sometimes even in chaste
legitimate physical contact-with girls. And naturally, the
girls who were interested in drama were always the most
desirable. Within two years, I knew that I wanted to direct.
Even before I understood what it really meant, it seemed to
me the plum position.

After
drama school (New College in London), I started working in
as many areas of the theatre process as possible. Over the
next few years, I did everything from FOH [front of
house], publicity, stage/production management, lighting
design and…yes, of course, acting. I wanted to direct,
but I thought it important to experience all areas. I
devised and directed several terrible, typical '60s
confrontational pieces on the nascent London fringe
scene.

My
first professional directing job (i.e. where I was paid to
work with other people who were also paid-albeit £30
per week) was in a small theatre in a bleak summer coastal
resort in East Anglia in Norfolk. It was weekly rep-a new
production each week-70 seats and a proscenium stage, 12
feet by 12 feet. I went to windy Norfolk with, to me, the
huge carrot of directing Blithe Spirit. In a week! Those
were the days when the "company" was acting one show at
night, and during the day rehearsing the next and learning
the lines for the one after that. I have no memory of what
it was like-but I'm sure it was an appalling,
cliché-ridden, derivative mess!

And
no doubt I might have gone on like that if I hadn't had the
good fortune a few months later to be tried out by Hugh
Cruttwell (then principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Art, RADA) to direct a production of Orton's Loot in a small
upstairs room with some students. That led to three years
working at RADA virtually continuously, and that's where I
learnt what directing was

about. I had the good fortune to work on the widest
conceivable range of plays that commercially would have been
impossible. Also I was cutting my teeth on, by and large,
talented actors. It was the best training a young director
could get-and I was being paid for it! I never forgot that
and all through my career I have gone back at different
times to direct and work with students as a teacher at RADA
and other drama training institutions or schools.

Q:
What, then, does directing now mean to you?


Forty years later, I really don't like the term. It is a
misleading description. The old-fashioned term of
producer-as it was used previously in the United Kingdom, to
mean someone who worked with the actors, etc., as opposed to
the money person or manager-is more descriptive, although
now not reclaimable. Peter Brook suggested the word
"distiller" in 1999. This is much more accurate to describe
the process and function but, unfortunately, far too
pretentious sounding to my ears to actually use. So I guess
we're stuck with director. Doesn't really matter as long as
the people who are working with you don't expect you to
"direct" them anywhere.

Q:
Can you talk about the founding of the London Theatre
Exchange?


LTE was established in 1991 as an independent company to
work in partnership with like-minded organizations overseas
to develop these international cross-cultural productions
and training workshops. Underlying our work are four
principal objectives: to revitalize the presentation of
classical texts by integrating the strengths of different
theatrical traditions, to facilitate the interchange of
practitioners between countries, to create possibilities for
original writing in a global context, and to research and
develop new training methods for today's modern
actor.

Underneath
what's written, there is a realization that I came to in the
late '80s/early '90s. The personal journey that I found
myself merrily, and unthinkingly, rolling along on-always
directing and producing "bigger and more showy" productions
in the West End, etc.-was not satisfying any more. The
catalyst for this re-think was, I admit, pragmatic. There
was a recession looming and that, quite simply, was making
it harder and harder to do the kind of plays I wanted to in
such a public arena. Looking back on it from this
perspective, I see that I was seduced by the chimera of its
glitz, which, at the time, I took for "success." Thus the
idea of what became London Theatre Exchange-a platform of a
much lower key was born.

Q:
What can you say about the production of Henry V which you
are directing here?


Except in the most general terms, I am finding it impossible
to describe how Henry V will turn out. The idea is to use
the text as a vehicle to explore war, conflict, heroism,
etc., at the personal level of the ordinary citizen. It has
been cut, I hope, in such a way that gives scope for
this.

However,
the shattering events of September will inevitably sharpen
our collective focus in, as yet, unknown directions. How
this will manifest itself on stage in a play written 400
years ago, I do not yet know. But at this moment, it feels
so present and all consuming that it cannot but affect what
we come up with. Is it a harbinger of the next chilling
phase in the history of "man's inhumanity to
man"?

In
practical terms, the hope is that the experience of the
immediately preceding British Classic Theatre Workshop will
allow us as a group to develop a common language of
communication, trust, lightness-of-touch, and freedom which
we can take directly into the performance via the rehearsal
room.