In the fall of my senior year at Texas Christian University, I was selected from my BFA cohort to direct that season's production of Silent Sky, by Lauren Gunderson. In this case study, I describe my intellectual, analytical, creative, and leadership approaches to this massive logistical and artistic undertaking. Of the nearly 40 projects I worked on during my theatre career, this one is by far the most meaningful. I consider Silent Sky my de facto capstone project for my formal education as an artist.
After a summer of research and preparation, over three months I cast, staged, oversaw design, and of course, directed actors.
Silent Sky is a celebration art, science, and all manifestations of the pursuit of knowledge. It is also a celebration of women in STEM. I am not a woman! To tell this story, an elite legion of woman--my faculty advisor Lydia, stage management team Miranda and Emily; my design team Ashley, Alex, and Brenna; and four wonderful actresses Lauren, Ashlie, Brooke, and Julia-- dialogued with me to help me see the show from a perspective that I, as a man, do not have, and trusted me enough to tell a story informed by their voices.
I will always be grateful :)
Meet my team
Director: Grant Lattanzi (me)
Assistant Director: Jack Kapple
Faculty Advisor: Lydia Mackay
Stage Manager: Miranda Anthony-Miller
Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Lopez
Technical Director: Tristan Decker
Set: Ashley Cranefield
Lighting: Brenna Bueller
Costumes: Alex Colig
Sound: Jacob Buttry
Props: Ian Loveall
CAST. (Left to right) Brayden Raqueno as Peter Shaw; Julia Light as Margaret Levitt; Lauren Messemer as Henrietta Levitt; Ashlie Whitworth as Williamina Fleming
My first task as director was to develop and communicate unifying artistic concepts to provide direction for the design team. After intense textual analysis, I was able to extract key thematic, tonal, and poetic elements of the story of Silent Sky that informed production design. I found that ultimately, Silent Sky is a work of historical fiction that celebrates the legacies of women in STEM and addresses a series of dialectical tensions that emerge when human-kind reflects on it's place in the cosmos.
Screen grab from my concept presentation delivered to the cast and crew on day 1 of rehearsals in September 2019.
Screen grab from my design concepts presentation on day 1 of production meetings in August 2019.
After listening to my analysis of their characters, the cast and production team brought them to life. In order to avoid over-directing, I summarized each character's development arc through identifying quotes that embody both the artistic utility of the character and their soul in the world of the play. By providing a creative true North, the actors and I were free to experiment widely in the rehearsal space without getting too lost from the source material.
Once we had a solid intellectual/artistic foundation, I began staging the production and coaching actors through the story scene by scene. I won't get in to the details of my code for blocking, but here is an example of how I used the scene designer's floor plan and my script to create an symbolic system to both develop and communicate blocking.
Example of my system for managing the staging of each scene. $20 to anyone who can decipher it. It's not proprietary but it might as well be.