Supporting creative work by women
Jordana Williams is a theater director extraordinaire. She is known for her award-winning collaborations–The Honeycomb Trilogy, Frankenstein Upstairs, Viral, Hail Satan and more–with playwright Mac Rogers and her gift for mining deep character relationships on stage. The successful team is back together again with Asymmetric, a co-production between Ground UP Productions and Gideon Productions, running at 59E59 through December 6th. Asymmetric is a spy thriller with a fractured marriage at its heart.
Works by Women spoke with Jordana about Asymmetric, her fantastic working relationship with Mac Rogers and how being a mother has changed her work in theater.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Why theater? What first inspired you to be a theater artist?
JORDANA WILLIAMS: I started out in theater as a kid because I was hopeless at sports and I loved to sing. I stuck with it because there’s nothing like the joy and fulfillment of collaboratively building a production.
WBW: Tell me about Asymmetric.
JW: We developed Asymmetric at the Vampire Cowboys‘ Saturday Night Saloon. The mandate there was to mash up two genres and present episodic chunks of the resulting play each month. Mac Rogers decided to interweave a spy thriller with a drama about a marriage on the rocks. He wanted to see if he could write a rich, complex relationship play that also scratches the audience’s spy genre itches–lightning fast dialogue, secret agendas, double- and triple-crosses, etc. He knocked it out of the park on both fronts.
This is Gideon’s first co-production with Ground UP Productions, a company we’ve known and loved for many years. Many of us attended UNC-Chapel Hill together. Having several more hands on deck production-wise has been a huge luxury. The cast is fantastic (Rob Maitner, Kate Middleton, Seth Shelden, and my husband, Sean Williams) and so is the design team.
WBW: Your collaboration with playwright Mac Rogers is one of the most enduring in indie theater. What makes it work so well?
I still kind of can’t believe Mac trusts me to direct his plays. It’s a great joy and a profound privilege, and I will never take it for granted.
We’ve known each other for a really long time. I think Mac was actually my first friend at college. So our sensibilities are really similar. We laugh at the same jokes and we mostly care about the same things. It also helps that neither of us is particularly territorial. If I step on his lawn or he steps on mine, but the result is that she show is better, that’s all we really care about.
WBW: You have two wonderful kids. Has being a mom changed/enhanced your directing? Or contributed to it in any way?
JW: It’s definitely changed how I go about choosing projects. I used to say yes to everything, because I never knew when the next opportunity would come. But now I measure projects in bedtimes. Is it worth missing however many bedtimes I’ll have to miss to do this show? So, when I take on something now, it means I really believe in it.
It’s also made me much more efficient with rehearsal time. When I get to rehearsal, it’s often after a full day at work and a quick evening with my kids. So I really, really want to use every minute of that rehearsal intelligently and well. And I think everyone benefits from that.
I should say that I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if we didn’t have a great deal of family help. My mother-in-law Linda, who has the apartment above ours, has been an absolute godsend. My parents, who live a little further away, have also been wonderful.
WBW: What’s next for you?
JW: We’re finalizing the details, but I’m planning to direct a show for Boomerang Theatre Company in early Spring. Mac and I are also finally beginning development on a project we’ve been talking about for years. Sean wrote a fantastic play that we’re trying to find the right home for in late Spring. And… we’re also hoping to bring the Honeycomb Trilogy back in rep next Fall.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
JW: The numbers are atrocious, of course. I’ve only recently come to really understand how important representation is–both in terms of the characters on stage and the decision-makers behind the scenes–and how far we have to go on that front.
And since self-promotion is, unfortunately, such a big part of making a career in the theater, I think that also presents a particular challenge for a lot of the women I know. We just expect to have to prove ourselves ten times over before anyone takes a chance on us, whereas I know a lot more men who think, “Sure, I haven’t done exactly this before, but you should totally trust me to take it on!”
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
JW: The astonishing women I have worked with over the years. The women playwrights, directors, actors, designers, producers, and stage managers I know are so amazing that it’s pretty much undeniable. Eventually people in power will give these women a chance because it’s just indisputably in their best interest to do so.
For tickets and information on Asymmetric, visit 59E59’s web site.