This Week’s Artists In Conversation Is Jacqueline Isaacson, Director Of ‘Murder In Green Meadows’
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This week’s artist is Jacqueline Isaacson, director of Black Box Theatre’s “Murder In Green Meadows.”
What’s it like to be at the helm of this mystery?
I put a lot of thought into how the audience will perceive the show. I never want anything to be given away to the audience too soon. Not only is this show a murder mystery but it is episodic in nature; Douglas Post wrote the show originally as a teleplay for the NBC playwrights festival, which was a collaboration between WMAQ – TV and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1986. It was important to me as a director that it still had that episodic essence. To prepare, I rewatched my favorite horror/thriller movies like Scream, American Beauty, and American Psycho but also television series like Seinfeld, Friends, and Big Little Lies. It is my hope that the audience continues to second guess what will really happen and enjoy how authentically the actors portray their characters.
Why is this piece perfect for the Black Box?
The Black Box is a very intimate setting. Perfect for this piece because it all takes place inside one of the two couples homes. When you sit in the audience and watch the show it is like you are in the living room with the characters watching it all happen. You are a witness to all the sinfulness that occurs onstage. The set looks incredible thanks to Lora Adams and Michael Kopriva, who made everything perfect down to the minor details.
How did you get involved with Lora and company?
I emailed Lora at the beginning of the summer thanks to the direction of my professor Shelley Cooper. I was looking for summer work having to do with anything regarding theater. I am technically a musical theater major at Augustana College, but I want to explore all realms of theater because I believe every technical/production opportunity helps me grow as a performer and vice-versa. Lora and I met at the theater one rainy afternoon in April and we instantly bonded. Ever since then I have been organizing the Black Box’s costume storage and helping out around the theater however I can. I am eager to learn in any theater role I can and Lora has been gracious enough to provide that environment for me.
Have you directed before? What drew you to this piece?
This is my first time directing. I didn’t think I would be directing anytime soon, but when Lora brought up the show and had me read it, I felt that I could manage since Lora would be there in rehearsals if I had any questions or expressed a need for help. I was drawn to the relationships between these four characters. I love the intricacies and downfalls of portraying relationships on stage, especially affairs and broken trust. Relationships are tricky in real life, and I like portraying the tricky things through theater. I believe that it helps people feel less alone in the things they are personally ashamed of and hopefully can find forgiveness in themselves. The show is also a murder mystery, so of course, there is drama and that makes things fun.
What’s it been like working with this company of artists? This cast is AMAZING!
Every rehearsal I learn something new from my cast; whether it’s a tidbit about playing the game of poker, or watching one of them nail the rhythm/timing on a monologue, I go home thrilled and humbled to be a part of this artistic journey. All of them are mesmerizing actors. They are also incredible teachers and very patient. Jenny Winn is genuine and makes acting look easy. She gracefully walks around the stage but can easily become as intense as her counterparts. She asks pointed questions about her character and is quick to problem solve. James Driscoll is a meticulous actor. His range of emotion and energy are all shown within this character. James is also kind and helpful; he not only knows his material but everyone else’s. Jonathan always has the brightest energy in the room. He makes all of us laugh, and is always engaging to watch on stage. Jonathan also makes strong character decisions that show up in the fine details of his performance. Lora is a joy. I wouldn’t be in the position I am without her. Not only is she an incredible set designer and theater owner, but she is a strong actress. She is the glue that holds everything together. Lora serves killer looks onstage with the presence to meet it. She is tenacious and fun to work with because of her vast tone/emotional range.
What are some of your favorite pieces? Any other bucket list shows?
I have a soft spot for Sondheim and Jerry Herman, and golden-age musicals too. Though I love classical works (Taming of the Shrew and Lysistrata), I am drawn to modern and contemporary plays. Some of my favorites are Angels in America, Yerma, and A Doll’s House. Shows that I would love to direct if the opportunity presented itself are Killing of Sister George, The Children’s Hour, and A Little Night Music.
What’s next for you?
The next show I am working on is one of my dream shows. I am grateful to be working on the show Companyas the character Susan, directed by David Miller. I will continue to work on costumes at The Black Box and do whatever else is needed. In 2022 I am costume designing two shows, first Night, Mother directed by Amy Nicholson and second, The Captive directed by Keenan Ellis. I am excited to see what other projects/shows are in the future.