The Art of Directing with Logan Milway ’17
By Madison Kobe ’18
Theatre major Logan Milway ’17 had the interesting task of coordinating a way to drop a shoe from the sky on a guy’s head; this was one of his many jobs as the director of the upcoming production of A History of Falling Things. A History of Falling Things by James Graham depicts a unique love story between two people, Jacqui and Robin, who suffer from keraunothetophobia, or the fear of things falling from the sky. Logan kindly took time in his schedule to answer a few questions regarding the interesting show and how he brought it to the stage.
What is your major?
What year are you?
I am a senior.
What is your role with the production of A History of Falling Things and how did you come about it?
I am the director of A History of Falling Things. I applied for the position of director in the spring of last year when I submitted my Studio Directing Proposal, but I have been planning to propose this show since I saw it my Freshman year when Carthage participated in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was the first play I saw at the festival and I walked out thinking “This would be PERFECT for a studio show!” and I have been planning the production ever since.
What have been the challenges and/or obstacles this show has presented?
One of the biggest challenges this show has presented is showing that these characters are separated in space when in reality they are sitting right next to each other. This led to one of the first set design choices I made for this production. I don’t want to spoil it now, but my cast and crew are confident we are able to show this separation both through our story and through our set. Also, making a smart-looking men’s size 11 black dress shoe fall from the sky. We’re still working out the kinks on that.
What has been your favorite part of the show and what are you most looking forward to?
My favorite part of the production has been creating the little moments that make up the whole show. In the directing and acting classes at Carthage, we are taught not to view a show scene to scene but moment by moment and see how each action and reaction leads to the story unfolding. There are many moments of symmetry in this show, recurring themes, lines, and moments that I hope the audience will pick up on. One of my favorite parts about theater is when the audience has the “Eureka!” moment in their seats, usually followed by some sort of audible gasp. I’m most looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to the unusual direction of our set and is able to see why we made those choices by the end of the show. Again, secrets!
What do you feel is important to convey to the audience? What do you want them to get out of it?
One of the messages of the play is pushing past fear and putting what you want in life above what is easiest or safest. To young and impressionable people living at a private Liberal Arts College, it might seem easy to go through life without having to put yourself on the line and take a chance to achieve something that is seen as impossible. Safety is always easier to achieve than victory over challenges life throws our way, but those victories will always be worth more in the long run, and help us to grow as people. I truly believe that Robin and Jacqui are ordinary people that have been put in extraordinary circumstances and face difficult inner and external struggles. I want the audience to identify with these characters and get a sense of hope that they, the audience, can control and change their lives, even if it seems like the world is crashing down around them. Pun intended.
How has this project differed from others you have worked on here at Carthage? Has it been easier or more difficult? In what way(s)?
This production bears some similarities to working on a brand new play where I have been able to create brand new characters and worlds from the ground up. Everything is up to interpretation by the cast, designers, and myself to make our own unique story with this text. But for me, that’s where the similarities end. I have begun to feel, in the best way possible, like a human litmus test for my cast and crew to gauge if what they are doing fits the story and the world of the play, being asked many questions I had never thought of and may not have answers for. There is a lot of pre-planning that I have never been exposed to as an actor in a production before which means my normal method of approaching theater in a “throw art at the wall and see what sticks” style doesn’t always transfer to the planned and calculated tactics needed by a director. My cast and crew have helped me extract and concentrate method from my madness over the entire process, and it’s nice to know that I have a whole team to support me and work side by side with.
What kind of research or skills have you needed to be able to do your job?
On the artistic side of directing, the classes I have taken throughout my high school and college career have prepared me well for this directorial role. Being able to look for subtext in lines, making sure that an actor is in their light and facing the right direction, that’s all well and good, and most theater artists could probably get the hang of it just by being involved in theater enough. Actors and designers are constantly directing themselves in every production, making new choices and ideas every day and trying to improve the story they are trying to tell. The difference is my job is to make sure all of these visions of individual direction line up together and tell a cohesive story. Over the process I have been able to learn about each of my cast and crew member’s personal styles and needs for the production, and have been able to hand tailor my directing style for each individual to make sure we are able to be as efficient and productive as possible.
On the production side of directing, the most important skill a director can have is the ability to quickly and clearly communicate their ideas to their design team. If there is any confusion on what needs to be done then the whole production can take a hit. It’s definitely not as overwhelming as I thought it would be because I have an extremely talented and self-sufficient design team. The thing to keep in mind is that the director isn’t supposed to be an all-knowing and all-powerful force; they need to collaborate with everyone in the production to make sure their skills and gifts are being properly utilized. I’d say it takes a village to create a production but what we have is more of an extremely fine-tuned militia of artists.
What are your current plans for after Carthage?
My current plans are to continue my work as a Teaching Artist at First Stage Children’s Theater in downtown Milwaukee while continuing to find work as both an actor and director in the Greater Milwaukee Area. I have always loved teaching and theater so finding this avenue where I can do both is a dream come true. The fact that I’m actually getting paid to talk about theater all day and help young people explore and create art through performance is icing on the cake.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in theatre?
My advice is to always strive to be the brightest presence in the room, regardless of whatever path you take. Make yourself indispensable to the production by having knowledge in every aspect of theater so you can step up when opportunities present themselves. Take initiative. Be the first one at the theater and the last one to leave. Know how to turn on the lights and where to find chairs for rehearsal. Volunteer to take on additional duties and make sure you follow through and do them well. Try something new every single rehearsal and performance whether it’s trying out a new reading for a moment or making sure you’re breathing and standing correctly. I do this with every production I’m in, just ask the people I’ve worked with. Go on, ask! I’ll wait. This may all seem like obvious advice for any profession, but in the tight knit world of theater consistent and well-done work is what your fellow artists in the room will remember as much as if someone was a pain to work with because of bad attitude and poor rehearsal etiquette. And trust me, word gets around, so someone might be getting their first impression of you and making hiring decisions based on the word of others you’ve worked with. Showing that you are a pleasant and capable human being is often overlooked in every line of work, but I can assure you that it has opened doors and made networking connections that has put me at the front of a director’s mind over other potential actors. Talent will get you in the room, but passion and heart will keep you in the room and open the door to others. The unfortunate truth is that there is not going to be a shortage of talented performers any time soon, but being a positive and hardworking force in addition to your talent will make you an asset to any production and put you at a cut above the rest.
This gentle and warm love story that is perfect for Valentine’s Day week, but seating is limited. A History of Falling Things, February 16-18, 7:30 p.m. will take place in the Studio Theatre. Get your tickets 24/7 online at www.carthage.edu/fine-arts/tickets.