Living out your own authenticity is the sexiest thing. It’s gorgeous. More and more, I feel myself stepping into my own authenticity as I commit myself to the theatre world, leaving behind a skin that felt less true. That’s why it was so beautiful to read about the work and journey of Will Davis, director and artistic director of Chicago’s American Theatre Company (ATC).
In the May/June 2017 American Theatre Magazine article “The Curiosity of Will Davis” by Suzy Evans, Will Davis is quoted talking about his relationship to the plays of William Inge. He says that Inge asks, “Shall I follow my heart song?” Inge’s answer is “no.” Or “don’t you dare” or “it’ll kill you or no one will love you.” As a transmasculine individual, Davis says, “I do very deeply identify with that.”
Davis first encountered Inge’s works during one of his first jobs, as Damon Kiely’s assistant director on Inge’s “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” in 2006 at ATC. And just recently he’s directed Inge’s “Picnic” at ATC.
I LOVE the idea of a director choosing works that catapult the message the particular director wants to communicate. This was an idea that was introduced to me by a few UC San Diego MFA Directing students and alum whom I spoke with given my interest in the program. They talked about the Head of the Directing Program, Gabor Tompa’s, understanding of directing as the director having a clear knowledge of what she or he wants to tell an audience, then choosing a play that is a vessel for that message. The play comes after the fact. It’s the tool for the voice of the director, not the other way around. (I don’t remember any talk of the director communicating QUESTIONS through art, though. I’m curious about that now. In Tompa’s view of the directing discipline, should the director communicate questions, or is it strictly statements? Are questions statements, just in another form? I’m curious because we so often hear artists, especially playwrights, say they wish audiences to leave with questions, not answers. Are messages answers, or are they “thesis statements”/“arguments”/“propositions?”) Either way, I find it inspiring that Will Davis has paired with a playwright that he so identifies with. It feels like a match.
At the same time, I know that this cannot always be the case in the professional theatre world. Directors must direct things they are less into sometimes, I imagine. The theatre is a business, after all.
…Yet, sometimes there is magic.
What I found most beautiful in the article, were Davis’s words on his own authentic manifestation, the ghost of Inge behind it all. He says, “You can feel something and dream of something and you can manifest it. Like, I made this [his transformed body]. Cost me a lot of money. But I did make this body. And to me it means that anything is possible. I dreamed this idea, and now it is in three dimensions and you can touch it.” Looks like Davis dared to follow his heart song. And it didn’t kill him; it brought his authentic self to life. HELL YEAH.
Evans, Suzy. “The Curiosity of Will Davis.” American Theatre May 2017: 42-45. Print.