Aloha Friends of The Actors’ Group. The time has come. The moment we have all been waiting for and working hard towards opening night for The Realistic Joneses. I certainly hope you have your tickets because this show is going to be sold out! I feel it in my bones. Not only do we have an amazing cast, and a fantastic crew, but our director is stellar! Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce you to Peggy Anne Sigmund. I once had the honor of working with Peggy Anne when she directed me last season in Defiance. She is a phenomenal director, with the key eye for detail and nuance. I had an opportunity to talk with her about her process, her thoughts on this particular play, as well as her amazing theatrical background.
Aloha Peggy Anne! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your background?
My first professional performance was tap dancing on a radio show in New York City [there was a studio audience] and shortly thereafter, at the age of 5, I made my Broadway debut in a play that distinguished itself as one of George Abbott’s few flops. Mainland credits include Broadway and Off, summer stock, regional theatre, radio, television and film. Fast forward to Hawaii, where I have lived most of my life: more tv, some film, a lot of stage plays, musicals and some opera – as performer, educator, playwright and director. My film work includes the movie Hawaii, Hawaii 5-0 [the original], Magnum PI, and Lost. As founding director of Kaimuki High School’s Performing Arts Center, I taught Acting, Musical Theatre and directed over 60 main-stage productions. I have also performed with the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival in Henry V, Richard II, and Richard III. Further, I did Sound Design and Music Direction for HSF’s recent Othello. At the Hawaii Theatre I directed an original script for Hansel and Gretel. And for TAG, I have directed The Heiress [6 Po’okela Awards] and last season’s Defiance [5 Po’okelas].
Wow, you have had an incredible career. From Broadway, off-Broadway, and here in Hawaii – we are lucky to have you. Considering your long career, can you tell me who or what theatrical influences have impacted you and your work the most?
No specific person – over the years I’ve been exposed to Directors’ pendulum swings from “do it exactly like this” to “whatever happens in the moment,” or “just remember your lines” or [I] “can’t hear you.” ME: how about what’s happening in this scene and why are we saying these words?
Honestly, I’ve not had a lot of directors who have taken the time to give me, as an actor, an opportunity to consider motivation or cause and effect, since working live tv drama in New York a long time ago. In Hawaii I’ve appreciated attention to actor needs in my work with HTY and the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival.
As a director, what is the most important thing you do when directing?
Make sure the actors tell the story clearly.
This sounds very simple, but I know it is also tough to accomplish. So, how do you accomplish this? What are YOUR directing processes? What steps do you take to get a show off the ground?
It’s a 4 to 6 month prep before we even get to auditions; varies with the complexity of the script.
I think that’s important for our readers to know. I guess a lot of folks might not realize how much time goes into a production – things don’t start naturally with the auditions. With that in mind, if you had to give one piece of advice to give to a young director, what would it be?
First, be an actor. Also, learn a lot about sets & lights & costumes & sound & makeup & hairstyles & history & marketing, and the gazillion other components involved in getting the script onstage. You may not have to do all these things [if you’re lucky enough to have a reliable production staff], but you have to know what you want and whether it’s possible.
Then see as many productions as you possibly can and consider specifically what aspects of the direction worked [or did not] for you, and why.
Ask yourself – can you multi-task? If not – be honest – learn to separate and sequence.
Audition carefully – this group is going to be together for several months. You don’t want it to seem longer.
Oh wait, you asked for ONE piece of advice. OK, here:
“If you don’t love directing, don’t.”
When you’re not directing, what is it you enjoy doing?
I live in Kailua with a husband who runs Marathons and an adorable Lhasa Also rescue dog who needs daily walks. Although I walk the dog regularly, I am NOT a runner. One runner per family seems sufficient. I go to the gym.
LOL – I understand what you mean. I gave up running years ago; the gym is indeed sufficient, that and a good swim. You also like to sing, correct?
[Yes,] I sing with a church choir and the Oahu Choral Society.
Excellent! I got to see you once last year, and I enjoyed it. But let me get back to the play at hand, The Realistic Joneses. What is it about this play that speaks to you personally?
The difference between “just throwing words at each other” and real conversation. Social media and personal technology are not the culprits here. Will Eno gives us four people who, for their own reasons, are unable to discuss terribly important issues. I think this is very real, and realistic.
Is there something unique about the language in this play, how the playwright uses words?
Here are some of my favorite lines from the script:
- It’s impossible to be almost late.
- I feel like I should go to med school or get my hair cut or something.
- You don’t have to say something, every time someone says something
- I remembered people can do that. That talking with someone can make you feel better.
- The secret [to listening] is not saying anything.
And those words are just the tip of the iceberg. I have read this play a dozen times over, and I am always finding something new in the script. It is truly well executed. But let’s focus on the audience now: what “truth” do you think the audience will walk away with after seeing this show?
Life is precious, relationships are important. Talk to each other and really listen It’s called “conversation.” Do you remember what it was like when people used to do that?
Thank you, Peggy Anne. I imagine that’s what the audience is going take away from this show, as well as lots of laughs, tears and hearts filled to the top!
I want to end this interview with a question I have asked your actors and production staff: If you had four ducks, five rainbows, and 30 raisins, what would you have?
I’d be a few verses short of a partridge in a pear tree.
HA! That’s perfect. Break legs Peggy Anne, and we shall see you later this Opening Night!
Friends, if you have not done so already, get tickets for this amazing show – and hold on to your pants, it is one hilarious and touching ride 🙂
The world needs theatre and TAG needs you!
The Realistic Joneses runs February 26 – March 20th, 2016
Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.taghawaii.net or 808-722-6941