This week’s Take Ten finds director-designer Frank Labovitz digging deep into the “weirder corners” of his imagination for Pointless Theatre’s King Ubu, playing through January 7. Get the inside scoop on Labovitz’s dreams of a soap-operatic Shakespeare production, and his eagerness to share a James Dean adventure.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
The first show I remember seeing was The Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. I loved the spectacle of the show. I also loved the spectacle of the audience, with everyone dressed up to see a holiday show in a fancy theatre.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
I acted in a production of Finian's Rainbow at summer camp. I think I was 10. I'm sure it was dreadful, and I'm grateful that it was in the pre everything-about-your-life-is-on-the-internet world.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
I love Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph. It's clever and gritty and intimate. And it's heart-breaking.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
Temping. Definitely temping.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
That'd be buying hundreds of dollars worth of sex toys and trying to explain to the salespeople that they were for a show I was working on. I should have kept my mouth shut. The more I talked the worse it got.
I've had a fantastic time getting to be gross, and exploring the weirder corners of my imagination! Working with the cast and the designers to come up with ways to subvert the audience's expectations has been a blast!
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
Hmmm. How about James Dean? He's beautiful, tortured and seems up for adventure.
8) What is your dream role/job?
I'd love to design a production of Much Ado About Nothing in the style of an 80s prime time soap. Think "Dynasty" or "Falcon Crest." It'd be glorious!
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
I'd have to say the opening (and closing) performance of Ubu Roi on December 10, 1896. Jarry changed theatre that night. It'd also be exciting to be part of an audience so passionate about what they were seeing that they rioted in the theatre.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
See as much theatre as you can! You can learn so much by seeing what others are doing, whether it's good or bad theatre.
FRANK LABOVITZ is a DC-based costume designer (and now, apparently, at least this once, director). His designs have been seen on the stages of many local theaters including Pointless Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Round House Theatre, Studio Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, Imagination Stage, Theater J, Ford's Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences, Rorschach Theatre, Adventure Theatre MTC, Metrostage and Forum Theatre. Frank received the 2013 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Costume Design for his work on Dreamgirls at Signature Theatre. He received his MFA in design from The University of Maryland.