Betrayal with co-director Caitlin Preuss ’23
By William Dowell ’22
A necessary part of growing as an artist is getting your hands dirty doing the real thing. Whether that is preparing for a recital or submitting your work for an exhibition, it is essential to actually practice creating art. For Caitlin Preuss ’23, that means working with Professor Herschel Kruger to co-direct Betrayal, a production that dives into the inner struggles of marriage, infidelity, and yes, betrayal. I sat down with Caitlin after Betrayal’s opening weekend to discuss the challenges of preparing for the show and how she has been growing as a director at Carthage.
You just finished opening weekend! How does it feel?
It feels really good! It was a long tech week and everyone deserves the three-day break we’re gonna get. Honestly, every show went really well and it was a nice weekend of watching for me.
How has it been preparing for these shows while maintaining #StaySafeCarthage guidelines?
The actors were only unmasked for full run-throughs, so for most rehearsals they were completely masked. In my opinion, the most difficult part was we couldn’t include the intimacy scenes until about two weeks ago, which is pretty late in the game considering the emotional and mental safety it takes to do intimacy work. But we watched the numbers and did cut one kiss so not all three cast members who were intimate were in the same bubble. They’ve been doing the full intimacy work for about a week and a half and got used to it very quickly which was impressive.
Speaking of intimacy work, while this production is really professional, these actors are still students. How did you set up the intimacy scenes safely for everyone involved?
Firstly, the intimate moments in the show were explicitly choreographed. We talk about the context of the intimacy and why it is important for the story, before going over every single thing that is going to happen in that moment. Then, each actor asks for and gives consent for whatever is going to take place and we run it. It does get easier over time, but these steps are extremely important for the show, since the actors are young people and we don’t want to throw them into uncomfortable situations. Sometimes they need the time to get used to these moments. Now that we have gotten through that process, every day we do an intimacy check-in where the actors come on stage before the show and they check in with each other. They have a word that they use to show that they are in the story now and are ready to work. We then run the intimate moments to make sure there are no surprises or awkward accidents.
You ended up co-directing this with Prof. Herschel Kruger. How was it balancing the directorial workload and vision with him?
Early on in the production—almost right after Herschel asked me to co-direct—we had a couple meetings about our individual visions and each wrote up our own core action statements, which is our personal driving action of the play. Our statements went really well together, so that was a perfect start. From there, we made sure we stuck to the vision we created together. Once we started getting into scene work, it was not difficult at all. I was not at Herschel’s original rehearsals for his scenes and he wasn’t at mine, so it was really rewarding the first time I watched the show all the way through. Even though it was a really early run, it was satisfying seeing that through line in both of our work.
How did you maintain your personal voice while working with the faculty?
Honestly Herschel and all the faculty in the department were great. I was given a say every step of the way. This was not the first time I’ve been on a production team nor is it the first time I have directed at Carthage so I’ve been able to build that trust with the faculty over time. They put a lot of trust in me to create the story I wanted to. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive group of faculty.
How does it feel moving through the Theatre Department and growing as an artist at Carthage?
When I applied to Carthage, I did not think I was going to direct. I was planning on going in as a double major in music theatre and theatre performance, but in my interview and audition, Herschel said that based on what I wanted from my education, I should be a directing major along with music theatre. A light bulb went off and I said yes since I’ve always been interested in the directing side of things. It has been a really nice balance of performing and directing during my time at Carthage. I have been able to continue growing as a director all throughout this journey, since last year I directed a one-act play and next year I will direct an entire musical for my thesis. It has been great building this experience instead of just taking the classes and jumping in kinda cold. I would not have the experience I have now without all the opportunities I’ve been given.
Both music theatre and directing are intense majors. How do you balance them?
I definitely have to make a choice each semester on what I will be most focusing on. It has been about saying yes to projects that speak to me as an artist. When this production was planned to be in the spring, Herschel gave me the option to direct or audition for it because he knows I like the show. Looking at my education, I knew that directing spoke to me, so I said yes to directing. So this semester I am directing this production and performing in the music theatre workshop. As time has gone along, I have found ways to do both. I cannot believe how well that has worked out. I’m really happy since I love doing both and I want to get the most out of my education as possible.
With all this work in performing and directing, not to mention your writing work in the Office of Performing and Visual Arts, you have built a strong resume/portfolio. Where do you see yourself after graduation?
I think I will try to perform first. It has been my first love and it is a very gratifying career to go through as a young person. I’ll likely audition in Chicago and Milwaukee. I want to work in theatre wherever possible, whether that is directing, performing, stage managing, choreography—which I’ve done a little—or writing. I’m happy I have been able to do almost everything I’ve wanted to do in the real world at Carthage. It has been an eye opening experience in every aspect.
Looking to the not so distant future, what are you looking forward to patrons seeing in the second weekend of Betrayal?
I think Betrayal is a really human show. I have never read a script that sounds so much like how people talk in real life. One of the big draws of the show is just its human experience, so it is exciting walking into a show and knowing you are going to watch something relatable. Even if the plot hasn’t happened to you, there is so much true feeling in it. I take pride that people have come after the show and said they continued thinking about it into the next day. The show really hits the heart in some way and I think that is a really good reason to see theatre.