This is the fourth in a series of interviews where Epic artistic director Kevin Broccoli interviews other ADs in the area to create a more in-depth conversation about theater in Rhode Island. This month’s interview is with OUT LOUD artistic director Kira Hawkridge.
Kevin Broccoli: My last interview was with Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, who also grew up with parents who were involved with the theater. How did growing up in the arts shape you as an artist?
Kira Hawkridge: Growing up in the arts was the best thing that could have happened for me. I had the opportunity to not only be surrounded by theater, music and visual art, but I was able to learn by observation. There is no doubt in my mind that from a very young age watching my parents teach, act and direct influenced and shaped my artistic path. I had the opportunity to be immersed completely within a lifestyle that embraced the arts, and my artistic experiences began practically at birth. A life dedicated to the arts was not only presented as something that was possible, but as a viable option to pursue. My parents taught me that there was never a reason why I wouldn’t be able to accomplish exactly what I wanted to, and for me, it was always a life within the theater.
KB: OUT LOUD is a young company, but it’s already made its mark as the place to find unique and highly choreographed theater in Providence. Is that identity something you sought to create or did it happen on its own?
KH: It definitely happened on its own, for sure. As our identity forms within the rehearsal room and through our ensemble finding it’s rhythm and style, that identity begins to find its way out into the community. The Most Massive Woman Wins, back in 2014, was the first show that I feel truly embodied our way of working, and it has been a learning experience ever since. To have this ensemble act as a training ground, a place for all of us to explore and experiment, has been an incredible gift. We grow, adapt and evolve with every production, project and process, and I for one am ecstatic that we have the opportunity to share what we are working on with audiences across Rhode Island.
KB: Every time I see an OUT LOUD show, I’m amazed at the staging. Do you go into a production with specific ideas for staging in mind or is coming up with them part of the rehearsal process?
KH: It is 100% part of the rehearsal process. I very rarely, if ever, have any sort of preconceived notions about specific staging or choreography before we begin. Some productions more than others, I will have a basic idea of the overall environment or have a series of elements/tools that feel most effective to utilize throughout. For Antigone, we knew that we would have four sheets and a chair, but beyond that, the staging/choreography depended on what was discovered in the room. It truly depends on the production, but based on my experiences so far, it has always come back to not only creating in the room, but creating with who is in the room.
KB: OUT LOUD’s entire 2016 season is free to the public. From a business standpoint, did that make going into this year a little daunting?
KH: It is of course important to take into account what creating a “free” season actually requires of its artistic team from start to finish. We discussed, at length, every benefit and every risk we could articulate as a group and I spent time discussing this concept with other artists and community members outside of our process to gather an array of feedback. But once we realized that this was an essential element to the overall aesthetic of season 4, we all dove in and haven’t looked back.
KB: You’re the first AD I’ve talked to whose company is based in Providence. Does being downtown inspire the work that you do?
KH: Absolutely. I love working in Providence and feeling the energy of this city infuse itself into our work. Our 4th floor residency at The Mathewson Street Theater overlooks downtown Providence, creating a continual visual connection to our surroundings. The sounds of the city are often incorporated in our productions, and that city soundscape definitely affects and interacts with what we are creating in a unique and exciting way. Providence is also a thriving cultural and artistic hub. There is so much to experience and so much to support. OUT LOUD is grateful to have the opportunity to be a resident artist within this city and to learn and connect with the amazing things that are happening all around us.
KB: Can you talk about the specific challenges you’ve had to face in starting OUT LOUD?
KH: “Leap and the net will appear.” It sounds so cliche, but it has been a mantra of mine for a long time. OUT LOUD was a leap into the ether, and the net that formed is because of Rhode Island artists and collaborators willing to take risks.