A Behind the Scenes View of Into the Woods

By August 2, 2017Connections
Into the Woods Village Theatre Highlands Day

See me soon at Highlands Day!

When the 2017-18 season opens at Village Theatre, the curtain will rise for Into the Woods, the 1986 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. It has since been produced many times, including a critically acclaimed film adaptation in 2014.

I have always wondered what it would be like to meet a theater director and finally had the opportunity in meeting Kathryn Van Meter, the director of Village Theatre’s Into the Woods. Together with her creative team and the artistic staff, Into the Woods will be magically brought to life.

For those who need a refresher: Into the Woods is about a baker and his wife who are childless from a witch’s curse. To remove the curse and restore the witch’s beauty, they must go on a journey. During their journey, they meet Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack, each one on a quest to fulfill their own wishes. These beloved fairy tale characters weave together stories for grownups about choices made and the subsequent consequences.

Kathryn was gracious enough to sit down with me despite numerous other commitments, including another drama production. Her passion for the creative process was infectious.

Village Theatre Into the Woods Highlands Day

Into the Woods: Coming to Village Theatre in September!

She began with the practicalities of producing a play.

250 actors auditioned for 16 parts over a 5-day period. The actors were selected in a 3-step process which included their ability to sing Sondheim. Kathryn compared the process to an archaeological dig in which the actor blows away the sand to create their interpretation of a particular role and to bring the character to life. The individual actors are carefully chosen but Kathryn’s stated overall priority is to the needs of the play. A collaboration ensues as the actors themselves bring a certain tone, mood and feel to the performance.

The production is brought to life on a remarkably tight schedule. I was fascinated to learn that rehearsals begin on August 14th and the actors’ first performance in Issaquah is on September 14th! The actors don’t actually rehearse on stage until September 2nd. Literally four weeks of rehearsals from start to finish and it is a three-hour play! The first act is its own play with everyone theoretically achieving their happy ending before act 2. She requested with a smile that we all wait to enjoy the final act.

Being at the helm of a production sounds extraordinary; I was intrigued to learn how one becomes a director.

Kathryn stressed that there are many paths to becoming a director. Originally a dancer, she progressed to theater in Atlanta before going to college at William and Mary. She cut her teeth directing in school and moved on to leadership roles in directing and choreography. Seattle became home 17 years ago. This is her first solo musical director role for Village Theater.

She referenced the importance of “cross pollination” to act, choreograph and direct to fuel the creative process. She enjoys many of the performing arts, including opera.

I couldn’t resist asking about final show preparations and opening night.

According to Kathryn, there is a magic window between the first preview and opening night- which is equivalent to 12 hours of rehearsals. She uses those hours to make final adjustments and changes before opening night. The actors are in charge of their own destiny, just like children heading off to college. All the work has been done and it is up to them to succeed! Interestingly on opening night, she sits in the audience to assess both the production and the audience’s reactions.

From the inspiration to the polished production, this I am sure will be an event to be savored. I for one will be sitting in the audience – even more appreciative of the performance, now I have been given a behind the scenes view to the creative process.

by Susie Sharp, The Brownstones (Photos courtesy of Village Theatre)
As seen in the August 2017 issue of Connections

See me at Highlands DayGet a sneak peek of this Tony Award-winning musical at Once Upon a Highlands Day on August 26! 

Village Theatre will open Highlands Day with a short performance highlighting their new season, including the Tony Award-winning musical Into the Woods, on our main stage. 

Also, visit the Village Theatre’s booth to learn more about the upcoming season, KidStage programs, and tie a wish to the wishing tree!

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