In Part 5 of interviews with the cast and Director of Amadeus, meet Julie Janson who directs Providence Players of Fairfax’s production.
Chip: Please tell our readers where they may have seen your work on our local stages.
Julie: This is my fourth time directing, though first time with Providence Players (“PPF”). My past work includes The Elephant Man, Reckless, and The Shadow Box. This is my second time directing a Peter Shaffer play — I directed Black Comedy back in college.
Amadeus is my tenth show in a row with Providence Players, where I work both on and off the stage. Some of my roles include Maggie the Cat in Glass Mendacity, Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men, and Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (our Salieri, David Whitehead, actually played Mr. Beaver!). When I’m not on stage I primarily work properties design. I have WATCH nominations for my properties work on Of Mice and Men and Calendar Girls, and a WATCH win for Other Desert Cities.
What made you want to direct this show?
I first discovered this show while sitting on the floor of a library over ten years ago. Like Salieri when he first hears Mozart’s music, I read these meticulously crafted lines and asked, “What is this? What is this pain? What is this need…?” And then, how I laughed! How could one writer evoke such visceral desperation while at the same time making me laugh with such merriment!? I knew I had to direct it. I immediately pitched the show to my theater company and received a resounding, “No! That is FAR too difficult!” (TOO MANY NOTES?!) Well it was worth the wait, because PPF gave me a chance, and I couldn’t have asked for a better company to help bring my vision to life.
The author of Amadeus, Peter Shaffer, died the same day that your company announced the show to the membership. How does Sir Peter’s passing alter this performance?
Shaffer’s passing had a profound impact on me. I realized that we will likely be the first company in the local area to stage his work after this massive loss to the theatre world. I felt compelled to speak to the fact that his work will be timeless and live on long after his passing. Therefore, we have worked to create a production in which all the glamour has been reduced, and you are left only with a man, his battle with God, and the immortal words of one of the great playwrights of all time, accompanied by the music of one of the great composers of all time.
On that note, for the most part, your production will not be using traditional 18th Century costuming and design despite the fact that this show is normally a period piece. What do you hope to achieve with this direction?
I admit this is a risk, but I believe it’s the right thing to do. Even Peter Shaffer says in his notes that he loves the sumptuous look of the period, so I get that I’m going against the playwright’s wishes in a simultaneous effort to honor him. The show will not abandon the period, but rather integrate it along a fluid timeline. Let me be clear: We have not altered the script or the characterizations in any way. The look of the show will simply stretch across time, integrating elements ranging from 18th Century opulence to stark, modern day elements. This will be done against the backdrop of a train station, representing the movement of the action across space and time. This is meant to not only illustrate the timelessness of the work, but also create a deeper focus on the script, which is a masterpiece no matter what year it is or where the show is being performed.
Traditionally, Amadeus mimes the musical pieces of the show but your production will have some live singing and playing. Why did you do this?
So much of this show discusses how Mozart’s music grips you and leaves you gasping for air. I had to share some of this with the audience. I believe that to truly connect with them on this level, we must have some live music (we can’t possibly do everything live without bringing in a full orchestra). Luckily David Whitehead (Salieri) is a trained pianist, and Mike Rudden (Mozart) is so dedicated to his craft that he was willing to learn some pieces. And wait until you hear Christina Massimei sing as Katherina — she will blow you away. She is an operatic soprano and a Cantor and served in that capacity and sang for Pope Francis at the Mass he celebrated in Washington in 2015. THAT’S how good this cast is!
What does Amadeus bring to today’s audiences? Why should people see this particular run?
Aside from the live music and different design element, this cast and crew are absolutely superb. David Whitehead as Salieri is a tour de force, and you will effortlessly fall in love with Mike Rudden and Julia Buhagiar as Mozart and Constanze. Plus, not only will you see the pain and desperation these actors so eloquently portray, you will LAUGH. Bobby Welsh and Debora Crabbe as the Venticelli are an absolute riot, and the Royal Court is delightful. Musical director Kyle Keene has been invaluable in integrating both live and recorded music, and you can’t ask for better technical directors than Jason Hamrick and Sarah Mournighan. Backstage, stage manager Liz Mykietyn and her crew will seamlessly execute the show. Everyone really is wonderful…I’m not just biased.
In short, this is one of the greatest shows of all time being executed by an extremely talented group that will make you laugh AND cry — what more could you ask for? Dinner? Well we are partnering with Argia’s Italian Restaurant in Falls Church to provide Italian dinner and a show! Your ticket will get you access to a special three course meal at a great price. Check out our website for details on that.
Amadeus plays from September 30- October 15, 2016 at the James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church VA tickets, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (703) 425-6782, and leave a message, or purchase them online (there is no fee).
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 1: Meet David Whitehead (Salieri) by Chip Gertzog.
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 2: Mike Ruddent by Chip Gertzog.
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 3: Julia Buhagiar as Constanze by Chip Gertzog.
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 4: Debora Crabbe and Bobby Welsh as The Venticelli by Chip Gertzog.
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 5: Director Julie Janson by Chip Gertzog.