Dallas — Contemporary Theatre of Dallas has two directors steering their latest production, Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel’s 1991 Tony Award-winning play about five Irish sisters in a Northern Irish village in 1936 coming to grips with the forces of small town gossip, industrialization and the ongoing retreat of youth and beauty.
Miki Bone, CTD’s managing director since 2014, and Frank Latson, former Artistic Director of The Playhouse in San Antonio, are co-directing the show for both personal and artistic reasons. Latson directed CTD’s production of Paul Zindel’s The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild last season, but his four-year battle with prostate cancer has weakened him enormously. Says Bone, “Frank always wanted to direct this show, but wasn’t sure his health would allow him to see it through. We decided to approach the production as a team. He hasn’t missed a day of rehearsal, even while catheterized, and he brings a smile to every rehearsal.”
TheaterJones asked the co-directors about the dynamics of team directing, and found both are clearly on the same foot in this dance.
TheaterJones: How does co-directing work?
Miki Bone: It’s a lot like parenting. We work together as a team and grow the production. We had numerous meetings on the script to develop an approach to make sure the actors heard a single, unified voice. We live in the same neighborhood, and drove to and from rehearsals together. The 40-minute ride let us prepare before rehearsal. On the way home we had our daily follow-up.
Frank Latson: We saw almost eye-to-eye from the beginning. We had great discussions about certain moments and the impact of those on the ultimate family outcome. It’s been a joyful collaboration.
TJ: How are two directors better than one?
Bone: This particular play is tricky. Dancing at Lughnasa demands that we capture the layered realities of five women, but it is told through the prism of one man’s memory. Having a male and female piloting the project allowed us to pursue both perspectives.
Latson: Oddly, however, I did a lot of work with the women, and Miki made a huge difference in working with the men. A perfect combination.
TJ: Did you ever disagree on some aspect of the play?
Bone: Nope! We always ask each other’s opinion. The collaboration is about the art and not the ego. We may occasionally have a different impulse, but once we see it fleshed out, the strongest idea goes forward.
Latson: Fortunately, we not only support each other, we push each other’s creative buttons. That makes the whole show better.
TJ: Do you each take on separate aspects of the directorial job?
Bone: I took the lead on dramaturgy. Dancing at Lughnasa won a Tony Award for Best Play, and it’s a very well crafted script. It’s often compared to another great memory play, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Friel, like Williams, is masterful at creating richly realized female roles. In the years since that award, many published scholars have studied the script, and I enjoy studying the various facets they see in the play. I was also the point person for the properties designer.
Latson: I took the lead on blocking the physical movement of the actors and the dancing. I was also the point person for the costumer. We worked together on character development, relationships, pace and driving the through-line of the action.
TJ: Any feedback from cast and crew about your joint parenting skills?
Bone: We’ll have to get back to you on that on after we get through opening weekend.