In this week's Take Ten, Forum Theatre Artistic Director Michael Dove shares his admiration for theatre greats Tony Kushner, Caryl Churchill and Joe Papp; offers a shout-out to Marie Osmond; and waxes poetic about the collaboration with Holly Twyford that resulted in Blackberry Winter playing through June 11.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
Probably school or church plays but I vividly remember a touring production of Hamlet by Shenandoah Shakespeare Express (now the American Shakespeare Center) where some of us were selected to sit onstage. The actor playing Hamlet sat on my lap whenever he wasn’t onstage and distracted me from what was happening. It just broke every rule I thought theatre stuck to and I was hooked.
I also received tickets to see Marie Osmond in The Sound of Music for Christmas somewhere around then and it kinda blew my mind, ha!
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
Probably a sheep or angel or something in a Christmas pageant. I eventually took over the lead angel with the big monologue and added a ladder for height, a spotlight, and a fog machine. My staging/directing path started early…
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
The impossible question…for play it just has to be Angels in America. That play changed my life and broke me for good. It made me the theatre artist I am today. It shows how big, political ideas can be married with the deeply personal and the highly theatrical. It has everything you could possibly ask for in a play. I think of it most every day and imagine new things to do with it. It’s my goal to work on several more productions of it in my life. Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill tell you everything you need to know about how I think of theatre.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
It’d be hard to choose one, to be honest. But let’s go with a temp gig I had filing insurance claims at a nursing home. Everything had a terrible story behind it, each call was transferred 5-6 times, and I was seated in a closet with no sunlight. I would push as hard as I could to work faster than anyone else and then hide in the kitchen and watch World Cup matches with the cooking staff.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
To get real for a moment, it’s anytime I see something I’ve worked on and I know I didn’t give it my full, 100% effort. It’s happened more than I’d like in my career and I just have to keep reminding myself that every show is an opportunity to make something great. No matter the play, you have the chance to elevate it and find true honesty and beauty. And to not do that is criminal. There are too many passionate people and resources are too precious to waste on half-efforts. That embarrasses me.
6) What are you enjoying most about working on Blackberry Winter?
It’s a pleasure to do another show with my friend, Steve Yockey, it’s so great to work with frequent collaborators Deb Sivigny and Thomas Sowers again, but I have to say that this experience has been remarkable due to my first time in a rehearsal room with Holly Twyford. She’s every bit as brilliant as you’d expect and more. I’ve never been so positively challenged as a director as I have in this process. And talk jumping into the deep end on a first collaboration: the play is practically a monologue! She challenged me to be as rigorous as possible with her and it has been an unbelievable experience.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
Since I’ve already mentioned Kushner and Churchill, let me say Joe Papp of the NY Public Theatre. I’ve read every book about him and I’d do anything to share a meal with the great man and hear his stories.
8) What is your dream role/job?
Doing what I do now in the space I dream of: a community hub, a gathering place where theatre plays a central role in the daily lives of a community. It has a killer coffee shop, some food, and activity every day and night.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
I just read an account of the opening of 4:48 Psychosis that premiered shortly after Sarah Kane’s death. It’s a beautiful and tragic story (much like her very work) and you just put yourself in that audience, reading it. So, today, I’ll say that. That or the first time an audience saw Cloud 9. I bet the ushers had to clean brains off the floor, afterward.
10) What advice would you give to an 8 year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
For the 8 year old I’d say “Follow it wherever it may lead and love it. If you become an actor or a stage hand, that’s awesome. If you just become a life-long theatre goer, then I can promise you it will reward you. Be curious, use your imagination.”
And maybe I’d say the same thing to the MFA graduate!
MICHAEL DOVE is a native of Stuarts Draft, Virginia and attended James Madison University with a few of the other co-founders of Forum Theatre. He has lived in DC since 2003 and his passion for theatre is only rivaled by his undying love for Manchester United. At Forum, he has directed the NNPN Rolling World Premiere of Steve Yockey's Pluto, Agnes Under the Big Top, Holly Down In Heaven (world premiere), Church, Mad Forest, Scorched, Angels in America: Perestroika, Amazons and Their Men (co-directed), dark play or stories for boys, Marat/Sade, Antigone, Valparaiso, Rockaby and Rough for Radio (for the DC Beckett Centenary Festival), The Memorandum, Hamletmachine, BECKETT: The Shorter Plays and the upcoming Passion Play. His other credits include 4000 Miles at Vermont Stage Company, Side Man at 1st Stage, A View From the Bridge at Cape Fear Regional Theater, The Twelve Days of Christmas by Renee Calarco at Adventure Theatre (world premiere), La Corbière at Solas Nua (co-directed), The Water Engine and Metamorphoses at Montgomery College, as well as shows for the Imagination Stage Conservatory, Source Festival, and the upcoming premiere of Human Capacity at the University of Maryland. He recently directed When the Rain Stops Falling and Doubt, a Parable at 1st Stage. He is an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Board Member of theatreWashington.