Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
Michael Sullin is a sophomore drama major from Wilkes-Barre, PA. He has previously assistant directed Macbeth, directed by Eleanor Holdridge and Picnic directed by Bill Largess at The Catholic University of America. He also served as an assistant to Eleanor Holdridge for An Act of God at Signature Theatre. He will be assistant directing the last show of the season Our Town under Matt Ripa.
Below is an interview about his upcoming independent production Agnes of God by John Pielmeier.
What about the play interested you in wanting to direct it?
I found the script for Agnes of God by accident when I was looking up some cultural references I found in another script that was set in the 1980s. It seems more and more that the popular culture of today looks back and falls in love with the cultures from decades of the past. This nostalgia largely influenced the type of story I wanted to bring to life on stage. Aside from its rich cultural history, Agnes provides an unforgivingly explicit dialogue between faith and reason. Keeping in mind that The Catholic University is a beacon of faithful youth in America, I wanted to bring something meaningful enough to my audience that it might start a serious conversation, even if that meant being slightly provocative. John Pielmeier’s play explores how we cope with the unanswerable questions of life – whether they be of the supernatural or of our own pasts. These questions are what continually draw me, and hopefully audiences, to the play.
What can the audience most look forward to about this production?
Not often do we see a play that showcases such powerful roles for women as Agnes does. This all-female cast tells an exciting, and often untold, tale in the midst of one of the largest feminist empowerment movements of our time. It is the story, however, that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats until the final moments. Audiences are guaranteed a thrilling story about murder, faith, and the power of love that will leave them with more questions than answers.
What have you learned throughout this process?
As I continue to study directing in theatre at CUA, I approached this project knowing that I would learn more than I could ever teach. I learned first and foremost how to work with actors in such a way that the cast became collaborators, rather than tools in the process. Through this collaboration with actors and designers, I navigated what I wanted the audience to see what audiences will actually see at performances. This process of collaboration leading to creation is at the heart of how this company has been working for the past month.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in directing their own independent project?
Find people who make you happy, people you can trust with your art and who, in turn, trust you with theirs. Bring these people together, and fully enjoy bringing the stories that need telling to life.