“The Other Place” at The Kathleen Howland Theatre
by Todd Walburn
Many artists are known for working in a particular medium. Painters mostly paint, sculptors mostly sculpt and photographers mostly take photographs. There are a handful or artists who slip easily from one medium to another, effortlessly transitioning from the smell of oil paint to the spinning potter’s wheel, in an effort to scratch their personal creative itch. In the Theater Arts the roles of people needed to create a play are just as varied, with the overlapping drive to create the perfect piece the unifying force in any theater company. But actors mostly act, directors mostly direct and lighting designers mostly design lighting. As with everything, however, there are exceptions.
Jacki Dietz has been testing those creative waters for about a year now. An actor for 23 years, last year Jacki directed her first piece, a one act play by Christopher Durang called “The Actor’s Nightmare”. She was also my choice to facilitate the staged reading of my play, “We Rise” last summer. I chose her for the task not because I knew she had an interest in directing but because I knew she knew the art of acting and she understood the importance of the words on the page and knew how to bring those words to life. She was successful in both endeavors last year and in 2016 has directed her first full length play, Sharr White’s “The Other Place” which opened May 13 at The Kathleen Howland Theatre.
“The Other Place”, a play about a woman’s struggles with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, might not be most people’s first choice for cutting their directing chops but Dietz was drawn to it for several reasons. “I love surrealist plays, I love memory plays that are character-driven,” she said. “The writing is beautiful and these characters are real and provide actors with opportunities to develop their acting skills and also an opportunity for me as a director to pull things out of the actors in a way that other plays do not.
As for the challenge of transitioning from actor to director she found the task formidable to say the least. “As an actor, I’m used to looking at things through the microscope of my character and the other actors with whom I interact,” she says. “As a director you are looking through macroscope. You have to look at everything, the lights, the sound, the actors, the set design. It’s a huge challenge and it can be overwhelming.” You don’t have to be any special skills to understand while talking to Dietz, however, that she loves what she is doing. She talks about her production with the tenderness and familiarity of a parent talking about her child. This is a play created with the care of someone who knows the art of theater, no matter which hat she may be wearing.
“The Other Place” by Sharr White has two remaining performances, Friday and Saturday, May 20th & 21st. The play features Bridget Bazzignotti, Patrice Rittenhouse, Doug Tennant, Grady Provance and…..well……Jacki Dietz. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at 2nd April Galerie or by calling 330-451-0924.