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"The Eccentricities of a Nightingale" by Tennessee Wiiliams – Dana Jackson Directs a Classic

By Cary Hall

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Pacific Resident Theatre has become a classic in its own right.  Celebrating their 30th season this year, the company has garnered close to two hundred awards since 1986.  Recognized as one of the top regional theaters on the West Coast, they present works of the highest quality – perhaps best known for their exquisite offerings of plays that are not often produced.  Their multi-awarded productions throughout the decades have included Ondine by Jean Giraudoux, Golden Boy by Clifford Odets, Tonight at 8:30 by Noel Coward, Indiscretionsby Jean Cocteau, The Swan by Ferenc Molnár, and more recently their hit version of Shakespeare’s Henry V.


In addition to their commitment to rediscover the rarely performed classics, the company promotes the theatre arts by providing opportunities for artists and craftsmen to develop and enrich their skills.


Director Dana Jackson is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab and has been a member of PRT for sixteen years.  She has acted in numerous productions but has now hit her stride as a director – most recently at the helm ofAnton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (LA Weekly “Ten Best Plays of 2014,” LADCC nomination, Best Supporting Actor) and she co-directed the critically acclaimed production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (LA Times Critic’s Choice, LADCC nomination, Best Revival of a Classic Play).  After years of experience, Ms. Jackson now takes on a Tennessee Williams classic, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, at Pacific Resident Theatre.



Dana Jackson was interviewed on June 16, 2016 for her perspective on this project, and she discusses her most significant influences as a director.


Do you prefer directing classics to newer plays, or world premieres?

“I like directing all of it.  It is a great privilege to direct a classic play, working with a text that has a history and to rise to the level of the play.  It is equally thrilling to introduce an audience to a piece that they have never seen.  I think that it is essential for us to produce living writers so that we cultivate the classics of our present, for the future.”



What is special about this play?

“Tennessee Williams stated that Alma is his favorite character so it is very fulfilling to work on the play of a genius, and have the play contain his favorite creation.  Alma is very delicate but has an intensely strong will that triumphs over repression.  The play asks the audience to really “see” people, to not discard someone because he/she is different, and to celebrate and see the beauty in someone who is unique.  This is true of all of his plays, but Alma is particularly gallant in all of her uniqueness!”




Why did you start directing?

“When my mentor and teacher, Gar Campbell, passed away I ended up assisting his wife, Marilyn Fox, when she was directing plays.  In a way, I think that I direct to honor his work and keep him alive because he absolutely meant the world to me and I much prefer life with him in it.”

Who are some of your favorite directors and why?

“Marilyn Fox is one of my favorite directors because I have never seen someone work with actors the way that she can.  Everything that I have ever directed has been a form of collaboration with her, even if my name is the only one on it.  This play is no exception.  I love the work of Ivo van Hove and thought that his production of A View from the Bridge was astonishing and poetic.  He distilled the whole play into an unbelievable theatrical moment at the end that perfectly conveyed the very essence of the play.  I was fortunate enough to see The Suit directed by Peter Brook and his work is a great inspiration to me because it is all at once highly theatrical, simple, very physical, and all the while remains truthful.  I also love Ingmar Bergman.  I have only seen his films or photos of his work in the theater, but it has a magical quality while still being human.”


With this production are you bringing something new to the story?

“I am not sure.  My only interest is to interpret what Tennessee Williams was trying to say with the play, and then to convey the deepest meaning of the play to the audience.  In the production, Brad Greenquist, who is playing the Reverend, is announcing the acts and the titles, which might be new.”



What were some of the biggest challenges in getting this production to opening week?

“The technical elements are very challenging because there are a number of locations and the stage at PRT doesn’t have wings.  So, it’s tricky to make a bunch of set changes and not have it look like a clunky mess.  Especially, when there are beds involved.  The costumes are elaborate and there are a number of quick changes out of suits and dresses into pajamas and back into suits and dresses with hats and feathers.  So, that is tricky as well.  The cast is a dream which made all of the above much easier.


Who should see this production and why?

“It is delight to be around people who have passion for Tennessee Williams and to be able to celebrate his work together.  To be in a room with a bunch of Williams fans is bliss.  I would love for teenagers to see the play as well.  During their age period it can be such a difficult time, finding your identity, feeling all kinds of shame associated with your sexuality or stifled sexuality, not fitting in, or not being attractive enough or normal enough or whatever.  It might help them to not feel so alone, and to come out and be who they really are.  


Finish this sentence please: Within the next five years I plan to…

“...continue to direct plays that will hopefully inspire people to have more compassion.”



The cast includes Ginna Carter, Andrew Dits, Brad Greenquist, Rita Obermeyer, Mary Jo Deschanel, Paul Anderson, Joan Chodorow, Choppy Guillotte, Amy Huntington, and Derek Chariton

The Eccentricities of a Nightingale opens on Saturday, June 18th and runs at 8pm Thursdays - Saturdays, and at 3pm on Sundays through August 14, 2016. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd. in Venice, CA 90291. Tickets are $25 - $34 and can be purchased at the Pacific Resident Theatre website  or by calling (310) 822-8392.

Published on Jun 19, 2016

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