Steampunk’d with Director John Maclay
By Claire Heronemus ’17
John Maclay is an adjunct theatre professor at Carthage College, and this year he has accepted the role as guest director for Carthage’s upcoming production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The musical is an adaptation of the unfinished manuscript for Charles Dickens’ last novel of the same name, and allows the audience to decide the ending of the play. I was able to meet him and get a behind-the-scene look at the production.
How has your experience been as an outside director? How did you come about this job?
While it is true that I am not a full time faculty member, I’ve been teaching at Carthage for about eight years, so I don’t feel quite like an outside director. But it is true that most of my directing life is outside of academia in the professional theatre so there are some adjustment. For the most part, I’ve just been so impressed with the level of work and professionalism that the students have brought to rehearsal every day. The faculty designers from the theatre department are the best around and are all routinely sought out to work in professional theatre so that was no adjustment at all.
What is a little background about yourself?
I received my MFA in Acting and began directing about 18 years ago. In addition to teaching at Carthage, I serve as Associate Artistic Director at First Stage in Milwaukee, a professional theatre for young audiences. I also write and adapt plays.
Why do you feel The Mystery of Edwin Drood appeals to audiences today?
First, it’s just great fun. It’s genuinely funny and the mania of being able to be choose your own ending is surprising and exciting theatre.
What are you most excited for in this production?
I’m ready to see an audience react to it. There are over 500 hundred possible variations in the second half of the play depending on the whim of a given audience that night. I can’t wait to see what they choose and how our fine company of artists respond.
How did you choose the Steampunk approach? Why?
I think Steampunk is fun and sassy and sexy and a little silly. Just like this piece. I think keeping the Victorian silhouette and giving costume designer, Professor Kim Instenes, license to play within that has really worked to great effect for our production.
What advice would you give to aspiring directors?
Be better prepared than anyone in the room and then be willing to listen to new ideas and perspectives. A collaborative leader always makes a better play than a dictator. And go see every play you can.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, written by Rupert Holmes opens Friday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wartburg Theatre. Performances will also be held on Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 30 at 3:00 p.m., and the following weekend, May 4 through May 6, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Fine Arts Box Office Tuesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. or online 24/7 at carthage.edu/tickets. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors (55+) and $8 for students. For additional information, please contact Carthage Fine Arts at 262-551-6661.