An Interview with Gloria DuGan on Directing ‘A Man for All Seasons’ at NextStop Theatre Company

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She is one of my favorite directors in the DC Metro area and I am so thrilled that veteran director Gloria DuGan is at the helm of A Man for All Seasons for NextStop Theatre Company. Gloria knows the intimate space so well as she has directed many shows for The Elden Street Players before it turned professional and became NextStop Theatre Company.

Gloria DuGan directs 'A Man for All Seasons' at NextStop Theatre Company. Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.
Gloria DuGan directs ‘A Man for All Seasons’ at NextStop Theatre Company. Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

Joel: Why did you want to direct A Man for All Seasons for NextStop Theatre Company?

Gloria: A Man for All Seasons is one of the great classic plays ever written and it is also an exceptional historical piece. More importantly, the conflict between conscience and authority is as pertinent today as it was in Henry VIII’s time. My daughter, Hilary, loves this play and has always wanted me to direct it.

What are some of the benefits of staging this show in the small black box?  What have been some of the challenges?

Staging this play in a small black box enables the audience to almost become part of the play. Audience members are so close that they feel part of the story. Of course, the disadvantage in trying to stage a huge play in such a small space; is the considerable creativity and conceptual issues required to stage many different scenes in confined spaces. The main issue is how to make one set serve for all the scenes and make it believable.

Introduce us to your cast and what do you admire most about their performances?

Todd Huse plays Sir Thomas More and he interprets the man as a rather strong and passionate person who is very human, a loving husband and father rather than the pure ascetic, generally with little feeling as usually depicted by other actors.

Bruce Rauscher plays Cromwell as a manipulative and ruthless man bent on destroying More, the Catholic Church and pleasing the King even though history is a little kinder to him. He is most ruthless when smiling and friendly, something Bruce does very well.

Sun King Davis is a mercurial, demanding and arrogant King Henry VIII who insists on his absolute authority even though he destroys the church he will cling to even in death and nearly bankrupts the nation with his profligate ways. Sun King’s Henry will make you smile the moment he steps onstage with his energy and daring.

Gloria DuGan and Actor Sun King Davis at Rehearsal for 'A Man for All Seasons.' Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.
Gloria DuGan and Actor Sun King Davis at Rehearsal for ‘A Man for All Seasons.’ Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

Laura Russell is Lady Alice, wife of More, who enjoys the noble life her husband has provided her and is unhappy with More’s ethical stance against the King although, in the end, her love for him trumps all. Laura Russell gives such a convincing performance as the nagging but loving wife.

Megan Behm plays More’s daughter, Margaret, unusually educated for the times and adored by her father. Megan’s Margaret is a spunky, intellectual, proud of her father and in love with a man of whom her father disapproves.

Josh Goldman is that man. He gives Roper a firebrand personality confident in his ideas even when the ideas contradict each other. Josh has that bombastic, pompous delivery that is perfect for his character.

Bill Aitken is the Duke of Norfolk and characterizes him as a loud, arrogant noble who enjoys all the comforts of the nobility and ridicules the lower class men who have risen to the top, Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. He expects obeisance from them and resents their importance. This is a salt-of-the-earth Norfolk, one who is intimidated by the King and bends to his will.

Brandon Herlig is Richard Rich, a scheming minor official who will do almost anything to get ahead – and does. Brandon is the embodiment of the young courtier, who, through cunning, rises through officialdom and betrays More.

Manolo Santullo is Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador. I love his flair and flattery that is so much a part of who the Ambassador is. He is so typically a Spaniard of the 16th Century.

Bill Fleming is the perfect Cardinal Wolsey, self-important, brilliant, and ruthless. His one big scene is a show-stopper.

Lyle Smythers depicts Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, as a gentle, old man who just ties to please everybody. Lyle has that great tenderness and simplicity required of Cranmer.

Lorraine Magee is an old woman, who provides Cromwell with the excuse to justify condemning More.

Ian Brown plays the Attendant to the Spanish Ambassador.

And last but not least, Michael Sherman is the Common Man who narrates this story and plays many different characters throughout the play. His work demonstrates his incredible talent as he portrays each character and moves the play forward.

Tell us about your vision for this production for this production? Has it changed since rehearsals began?

My vision for the play has not changed during production. I wanted it to be big, lush, and theatrical and I believe we have achieved that.

How can today’s audiences relate to this show? Why is A Man for All Seasons so relevant today?

The idea of standing up for yourself, of believing in your thoughts, of not bowing to authority when you believe they are wrong are so relevant today, certainly as much as in More’s time. From the Pentagon Papers to the Snowden affair, conscience is still important as we fight government interference in daily life. I am no right-wing conservative, but I do believe we have drifted into unsafe territory with government monitoring of our personal lives.

Which scenes were the hardest to direct and why? And which scene moves you the most and why?

The most difficult scenes in the show were  the opening and closing scenes.  The opening because it is introducing all the family and friends and what their relationships depict. The easiest scene is the last jail scene where More says goodbye to his family knowing he is going to be beheaded soon. Todd’s More and Laura’s Alice make me cry every night in rehearsal.

You have been directing for a long time. How would you describe your style of directing? And has your style changed over the years?

My style of directing is very collaborative. I like actors to try different things and encourage them to bring their ideas to the rehearsal. I am extremely well-organized and very prepared for every rehearsal and I expect the actors to do the same. I think I have evolved over the years. As a young director I was more set in my ideas for a show whereas now I see all possibilities and love the great ideas that actors bring to the table.

What show or shows that you have directed in the past on this stage and in this space at The Elden Street Players and now NextStop Theatre would you like to see performed again on the stage?

I’m not particularly interested in redoing plays and musicals I have done before. If another director wants to direct a play I’ve done, great. In theatre, we do the same shows over and over; sometimes too much and then everyone is sick of them-like Guys and Dolls.

Where did you get your directing training? What memories do you have about your first play and musical you directed?

I have never received any theatre training at all, not even one class. I spent most of my adult life overseas and had no opportunity to study. However, as a performer, when I worked for a good director, then I would apprentice myself to him/her and learn by watching and listening. Over 50 years I learned a lot.

I honestly can’t remember the first play or musical I directed.  However I do remember the first time I took the stage.  I was 7 years old and I did a tap dance to a song called “GI Jive.” I can still remember the dance.

Are there any young directors in the DC area whose work you admire, and who think could have a fine career as a director?

I think both Christopher Smith and Sam Nystrom have potential as directors and have done good work in the past.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing  A Man for All Seasons at NextStop Theatre Company.

I hope that audiences believe they have seen a great show, one that makes them think and talk about all the issues raised in A Man for All Seasons as well as the fine acting and technical work on the show.

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A Man for All Seasons plays from May 28-June 21, 2015 at NextStop Theatre Company – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 481-5930, or purchase them online.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.