Melanie White
Director/administrator
EVENT: She's the new artistic director of Open Circle Theatre.

How long have you been in town? "It'll be two years in May. About a year and a half."

So really, you're pretty fresh. "Yes, pretty fresh."

So how do you just waltz into town and become an artistic director? "Excellent question! I'm not exactly sure how that worked. The Open Circle folks are a lot of reformed New Yorkers, so maybe that appealed to them."

You're from New York? "I spent three years in New York, and three years before that in L.A."

Doing what? "Freelance directing. At the Mark Taper Forum New Works Festival, and before that at the Old Globe in San Diego, and in New York with New Dramatists and the Women's Project. And a whole bunch of really teeny theaters nobody's ever heard of in between."

Any shows you're particularly proud of? "While I was in England I worked on a production called Cardenio, which is an apocryphal Shakespeare play, and we were invited to take that to the New Globe Bankside. That's the Globe museum they've done up in London."

Which is some kind of big deal? "If you're a Shakespeare buff. Or a British person."

Has anyone given you that weird, glassy-eyed stare of "I want something from you" yet? "At the TPS conference this year, the members of the artistic-director panel were talking about how once you become artistic director people start wearing question marks on their foreheads that say, Will you hire me? Suddenly people are sprouting those, I notice."

Which is bizarre when you work in, for all practical purposes, an all-volunteer situation. "It is. But it makes you feel less guilty about asking people to do things for no money when they've already indicated that they'd love to do it."

Were you making a living as a freelance director? "Rarely as a director, per se. I've managed to more or less support myself doing theater-related things. A lot of teaching, that kind of thing."

Any dream projects in mind? "Lots of them--there's a play by Silvia Gonzalez S. called Boxcar. She's a writer that I've worked with extensively. It's a magical-realism piece based on a true story about seven guys being smuggled across the border from Mexico in a boxcar; the boxcar was accidentally uncoupled in one of the freight yards and basically they baked to death."

That'll bring in the crowds! "It's not uplifting. And there's also a Darrah Cloud adaptation of a novel by José Donoso called The Obscene Bird of Night. It's about an aristocratic family in South America; their only son is born a freak, and rather than tell him the truth about his condition, they isolate him in a mansion in the woods, surrounded by other freaks. The play uses a lot of masks and puppetry; it's a carnivalesque atmosphere."

What's Open Circle's mission, as you see it? "Their mission statement is to pursue work with mythical storytelling and fantastical drama. But they've allowed me to look at where the company has been and given me the freedom to take it in new directions."

Such as? "I'm very interested in plays that are language-oriented, that are about wordplay, dense language--Shakespeare, but also contemporary writers like Mac Wellman and Len Jenkin."

Any favorites of their plays? "Of Mac's, probably The Hyacinth Macaw and A Murder of Crows. Of Len's stuff--everybody likes Dark Ride, me among them--Len's stuff scares me a little bit; I can only read it in small doses. For that matter, Len scares me a little bit. I've worked with him a couple of times, and he's a lovely, lovely man, and sometimes the oddest things come out of his mouth. He's got a dark streak a mile wide."

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