Guest director hopes Shakespeare play is clear

Sara Petersen

READ a review of the play.

Guest Director J. R. Sullivan is directing “Twelfth Night”, for a second time, the first being in January 2009.

“As it happens, I (had) not done this play,” Sullivan said. “I had always wanted to, but it hasn’t come around.”

Sullivan directed the Shakespearean play in January. He has been working as a director after he graduated from Beloit College in 1972. Sullivan began intensively working with productions written by Shakespeare since 2003 and has directed about 15 or 16 Shakespeare plays total.

Sullivan said this production of “Twelfth Night” isn’t going to be “blazingly original,” but it should be clear.

“I think the things about these plays is that audiences … are afraid they won’t be able to understand them,” Sullivan said. “The language is too difficult. I hope that what they find, in the fine work of these young actors and graduate actors, is that it’s actually a lot more clearer than they thought.”

Sullivan’s residency at Kent State as a guest director is made possible by the Roe Green Visiting Director Series, said Cynthia Stillings, director of the School of Theatre and Dance.

The Roe Green Foundation supports one visiting director each year and gives students the chance to work with different directors who have different styles and processes and allow students to network with directors outside of Kent State.

“It’s our hope that not only our students will learn from the experiences they have here, but forge connections with these guest directors,” Stillings said. “Many of the (guest) directors have gone to cast our students (after they leave) Kent State.”

Sullivan said he has worked at other universities about 10 times and enjoys working with students.

“It’s an energy that is unique and wondrous, really,” he said. “I appreciate that a lot. It regenerates me.”

Sullivan said he will see a student who excels in theater while guest directing at universities.

“You see people who ‘have it’ as we say and keep an eye on them in the future,” he said. “There’s an extra spark, an extra ability, an extra eye and ear, an extra intuitiveness. It’s very exciting.”

Sullivan said she enjoys seeing these talented students because “they’re the future.”

“It’s cliché, but it’s true,” Sullivan said. “If you don’t have that surge of youthful talent all the time, then there is no future.

“And it also has to do with creating audiences for the future, as well. Anybody who participates in a program like this becomes a remarkably acute audience member for the theater, as well. And the theater needs that, too. It needs good audiences, not just large audiences, but perceptive audiences. Acute audiences.”

Sullivan said he can never predict how a production will go or how the audience will react.

“At the end of the day, each day I think, ‘Well, we went a little farther today; we went a little higher today,'” he said. “If we keep doing that then we’ll be fine.”

“Twelfth Night” opens tonight at 8 p.m. in Wright-Curtis Theatre and will run through April 26. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for faculty, staff, seniors and alumni and $8 for students.

Contact performing arts reporter Sara Petersen at [email protected].