What It Takes to Run Your Own Theatre Company

Outside the Theatre   What It Takes to Run Your Own Theatre Company Director and Colt Coeur’s founding artistic director Adrienne Campbell-Holt gets real about the long hours, the extra work and why it’s all worth it.
Adrienne Campbell-Holt
Adrienne Campbell-Holt Monica Simoes

Who: Adrienne Campbell-Holt
Where: Outside HERE Arts Center

It looks like there’s a lot happening in the theatre today. What’s going on in there?
ACH: We are in day one of tech for Empathitrax, a play by Ana Nogueira, that I’m directing. I can’t believe that the actors are about to show up—we [the creative team] haven’t left the theatre for two-and-a-half days. We’re getting everything ready amid the chaos!

Talk me through what a director is feeling at this point in the process.
ACH: I’m trying to put on my director hat and take off my artistic director/producer hat for Colt Coeur. It’s so important that I get back into the world of the play and be really focused on working with the actors, as well as communicating and executing the aesthetic vision. I love working with designers so much. This is the moment where I can shift my attention to each designer’s process—integrating sound and lighting, for example—and allowing those elements to come together. It’s really important to be patient and collaborative.

Adrienne Campbell-Holt
Adrienne Campbell-Holt Monica Simoes

It sounds like you’re wearing a lot of hats. Is that something that energizes you?
ACH: I do love multi-tasking. I feel most creative when I’m stimulated in different ways. For the past two days I’ve been hanging lights and painting scenery; it’s not something that every director does, but because I’m also the artistic director. I’m very invested. We’re a small company so that’s what’s required—it’s all hands on deck. Looking at the curtain that I sewed the pleats into, I feel an extra amount of pride.

Tell me more about your company, Colt Coeur?
ACH: I founded Colt Coeur six years ago with a company of artists—a combination of actors, designers, playwrights and myself. I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done. This is our eighth world premiere and 2016 will mark our first year of doing two shows in a year. Less than two-and-a-half months ago we closed Cal in Camo at Rattlestick Theatre. We’re building a reputation for doing boundary-pushing work, really strong production values and incredibly truthful storytelling.

Cal in Camo got such a wonderful reception when it debuted Off-Broadway. That must have been a nice confidence boost for you.
ACH: It was exciting to have such a long run; we had almost twice as many performances as a usual run for us. It allowed us to build a larger audience that will hopefully continue to stay connected to Colt Coeur.

Last question—what made you want to produce and direct Empathitrax?
ACH: I was so fortunate that another playwright, Chiara Atik, who is a good friend of Ana’s, sent it to me. I was immediately drawn in by the idea of a drug that allows you to feel what somebody else is feeling. I think everyone has been in relationships or friendships where you wonder—if you could just know what the other person is really feeling—whether having a true experience of empathy, would help you understand where they’re coming from. Then maybe there wouldn’t have to be conflict or separation. As a human being, I’m deeply interested in that question, and this play approaches it in such a subtle and surprising way.

Empathitrax began performances at HERE Arts Center September 10 and officially opens September 13. For tickets and more information on Empathitrax or Colt Coeur visit coltcoeur.org/.

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