We caught up with Stephen Nicolazzo ahead of our final show for 2014, The House of Yes. Little Ones Theatre’s Psycho Beach Party sold out within one day of opening at Theatre Works last year so we suggest booking now for this fabulous end of year show! It plays form Nov 27 until Dec 13.
What was the first show you ever directed at Theatre Works?
It was a musical. A bad one. Not for any other reason than that I decided to use a very clinical compositional method to staging the work that involved no hand gestures, no eye contact between the performers and a multi-use ladder as the main set piece that was supposed to represent the hand of a clock… I am dry retching just thinking about it. This was not exactly the ideal way to present a work that was written by one of the most loved musical theatre makers of the 1990s, the late Jonathan Larson, of “Rent” fame. Lordy. The music was lovely though, and it was amazing working with singers and a band in the Theatre Works space.
How have you developed as a director since then?
I think I have started trusting my gut a lot more since then and my research method has changed a lot too. I am obsessed with finding connections between the history of a play and how I might interpret it, how every decision we make in our productions can be influenced and informed by the past. The history of live performance and cultural, political, and social contexts effects all of our decisions whether we are rebelling against form or celebrating it. This sort of pastiche has become a real staple in the way I approach theatre and that is something that I could only have discovered by experimenting with styles I adore and those I really detest. I now like to explore how performance styles are related to the political content of a work, how heightened worlds can be created through the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality and can acknowledge that movement, choreography and composition are the most important ways I can communicate and express all of these ideas as an artist.
What would you tell your 21 year old self about making theatre that they would not have known but that you know now?
Firstly, I would tell them to stop smoking. I just quit. After fourteen years. So that. You don’t need to smoke and be in the arts! The other thing would be to not take my self too seriously. To laugh. A lot. And to friggen enjoy the work you make. If you don’t enjoy it, walk away. Life is too short to put one self through hell to make a piece of art. Back then, I believed there needed to be a level of trauma, a level of torture in the process of making art. After going through some tough experiences, I really don’t think that is true. You do not need to lose your hair, go grey (which, I have), and get sick to make a show. You need perspective, you need patience, and you need passion. These are positive things. I think the misconception of truly great art being the result of agony is a myth not worth perpetuating. So yeah, “Smile dickhead”, is what I would say to my 21 year old self.
Why House of Yes?
Incest. Comedy. Kennedy.
It’s a wonderful cult satire; risky and sick. All things that turn me on when I make a work.
How conscious are you of the audience when you are making a work?
We are always conscious of the audience when we make a work. Every detail of a Little Ones show is tailored to the fact that there will be a group of people from disparate walks of life, classes, races, sexualities, genders entering the space, that will, for one hour or two (never three cos that be too much!), be sharing an experience together. This is important. We need to know what we want to share with them and how to express that in way that is accessible to as many minds and hearts as possible. We want to share our work with people, not alienate them. Comedy can’t exist without the audience anyway. Their laughter, their joy, their disgust, their desire is all integral to the work; to the experience of the event and the magic of a well-timed movement or beautifully landed gag. We’re here to make works that excite you, that present you with a world unlike the one you have just walked in off the street from. It might seem similar sometimes, but its always magical, something “other” and it is made to turn you on.
How do you work with designers to create a shared vision?
Little Ones Theatre is a family of weirdos who adore design and fashion. We are all inspired by queer iconography, by cinema, architecture, fashhhiiiioooon, light, sound, and how all of these visual and aural mediums come together on stage. We have similar tastes in music and design and come at a project from different angles so that the overall vision is always textured and detailed. Its never one note. Or dictated by one mind. It is informed and considered from a critical, theoretical and finally, visceral point of view. There is a life to the design. Our costumes, our sets are all hand constructed. It is designed and made for the actor, for that particular experience, that event, that crazy fantastical universe we wanted to create. There is an artisanship to our practise. The shared vision always comes back to the experience we wish to create for an audience. We want the audience to walk into the theatre and from the very second they walk through that door be transported into a world they have never seen before. Our process as a team is always about how the images and sounds we create will effect the audience and support their experience of the story.
We asked Stephen to provide us with some of the inspirations behind The House of Yes.
Here are some songs that have inspired the work:
And some images: