Student Director: Michelle Kuchinsky

Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice

March 6, 2012

Michelle Kuchinsky ’12 is the director of Brandeis Ensemble Theater’s latest production, Fuddy Meers. The play, which debuted at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1999, follows protagonist Claire, a woman with amnesia who wakes up each day as a blank slate, à la “50 First Dates.” Unlike the Adam Sandler comedy, however, Claire’s condition makes her an easy target. The play will be staged Thursday, March 15 through Sunday, March 18 in the Carl J. Shapiro Theater.

JustArts: How did you hear about this play, and why did you decide to propose it to Brandeis Ensemble Theater?

Michelle Kuchinsky: I was looking for a show that had a little bit more intrigue than just your straightforward linear plot. I was in “Suzuki” last semester, and I asked one of the TAs for the class (he used to be an MFA grad student, but I think now he’s assistant teaching for theater in the area) and he recommended the author [David Lindsay-Abaire], and I don’t know, the play just really called out to me.

Obviously it’s not the most well-known play, and the title is kind of obscure, so I think it’s hard for people to conceptualize what they’re about to watch or what they might spend $3 to go see, but I think that the play has a lot of intrigue and mystery [and] in the end has a lot of depth and moving moments to it.

JA: Have you ever seen Fuddy Meers performed before?

MK: Nope, never. This is my first time.

JA: So where are you right now in the rehearsal process?

MK: This is basically our last week of rehearsing. This week the actors cannot commit to any other clubs aside from us. Next week we start building the set, and that’s pretty much what we do all week except for maybe one of two dress rehearsals, if we’re lucky.

JA: What are, in your opinion, the main themes of this play?

MK: On the surface it’s about a woman who’s trying to uncover the truth of her past, but a lot of the characters are looking for ways to change and to search for forgiveness. It sort of blurs the lines between what it means for someone else to forgive you and for you to forgive yourself. [It’s about] just trying to uncover what those differences are and what really is the essence of forgiving yourself and moving on.

JA: There’s a lot of physical action in the play, as well as several twists and unforeseen revelations about who the characters really are. What was that like to direct and choreograph?

MK: There are various moments when you find out something totally new. It was definitely cool for me, at the first read-through when all the actors thought that everything was one way at the beginning, and they themselves [were uncovering] each piece of the puzzle as they were reading. That was really cool to see them all gasp and [say], “Oh my God, I can’t believe that.”

But we always have to remind ourselves at every stage, what does the audience know now versus what they knew before. And it also follows the main character, so the audience knows exactly as much as the lead character knows. It’s a very clear reminder of where the audience is in understanding the piece and the greater mystery.

JA: Have you directed previously at Brandeis?

MK: Yeah. Last fall I directed White Liars/Black Comedy, and then I also did Quickies once.

JA: What other theater experience do you have? Have you acted before?

MK: My freshman year I was in The House of Blue Leaves, and I’ve acted in Quickies a couple of times after that. I did a couple of 24-Hour Musicals, and I also teched a couple of shows. I did the board operating, the light and sound [operation] and run crew and behind the scenes things.

JA: This cast only has seven characters. What was that like working with such a small group of people?

MK: Well, I guess it was the same for White Liars/Black Comedy. That was the same, one half of the performance also had seven characters [White Liars/Black Comedy is two plays combined into one performance]. So for me it was pretty much the same. Ironically enough, I could never get them all in the same room, because we just happened to pick very over-committed people—well, I think everyone at Brandeis is over-committed.

Yesterday was probably the first rehearsal that the whole cast was at for more than five minutes, and this is our last week of rehearsal. So it would be nice to say, “Oh, a small cast, they were all there and got to know each other really well,” but unfortunately they always kept missing each other.

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