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EMAV Director's Dish: Noah Keeling and 'The House of Yes'

A show is a company's product, but the innovation process begins long before opening night. Eat More Art Vegas is happy to share the behind the scenes scoop with our "Director's Dish." Enjoy these insights from director Noah Keeling about his recent project with UNLV Second Stage, "The House of Yes," by Wendy MacLeod.

Q: How long have you been directing?

A: I’m a directorial virgin! I’ve been primarily a performer in the past and I thought this time in my life was the time to stretch myself—after all, what is college for if not learning?

Q: Why directing? What about directing caught your interest?

A: I’ve always loved to tell the stories, and with directing you get to have a complete vision of how the story you are telling onstage is told and actually have it come true!

Q: Why The House of Yes? Why did you choose this play?

A: It has an endless wit about it—a director friend of mine told me it was the perfect show for me because “all the characters talk like [I] do”. It’s got everything I love: quips, dark humor, and a gothic element that I adore. Not to mention—the show has some amazing roles for the age range of our students and I’ve loved seeing them take it on.

Rehearsals began about 6 weeks before opening.

Q: What's one idea you want The House of Yes to leave audiences with?

A: I think that the central conceit of the play is an indictment of unmitigated wealth—at one point, the matriarch says that her daughter “can have everything she wants, she always has.” Any psychologist—or any parent—could tell you how dangerous never being told “no” can be to the development of empathy and even basic social skills in children. There’s a reason the play is called The House of Yes.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of this rehearsal process?

A: Watching this amazing cast get the hang of the lightning-fast speed of the dialogue.

Q: Who are your "Directing heroes?"

A: My real heroes are people who do it all. Harvey Fierstein, who wrote Torch Song Trilogy for himself and won the Tony for it. Joe Mantello, who was both IN Angels in America AND directed Wicked on Broadway. And in the television world, Rachel Bloom, who writes, directs, produces, and stars in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on the CW.

Q: From start to finish, how long did each part of the process take ?

A: It was in many ways a long and short process--I'd brainstormed wanting to direct House of Yes with UNLV Second Stage basically all of fall semester. It took about two months to get funding from CSUN in October, we got final approval from the theatre faculty in November and began the rehearsal process in the first week of December. So all in all I would say the process for this particular show was rather speedy. (About 5 ½ months)

Q: What are the differences between demands of performing in a show and directing in one?

A: When you perform in a show, you really have to worry about first and foremost your journey in the show and the work you do with your character in the context of the larger story the entire cast and crew is telling. Of course, the best actors are always aware of the world of the play they're in and cognizant of the other actors onstage so any necessary adjustments can be made in the moment. Directing a show is different because once the show opens, it's up to the actors and the crew and you have to have trust in them--all you can do is sit back and watch the show at that point. It's a feeling of powerlessness that is really unnerving.

Q: What advice could you give to aspiring directors?

A: Like I said, I’m a baby director and am certainly not qualified to give any advice on directing. All I can say to aspiring artists is to work hard and tell their inner critic to shove it.

Q: What is a funniest memory from the whole experience?

A: The space we perform in isn't often used for performance, so some of the lighting equipment can sometimes act up. During first dress, the lights started flickering on and off without the light board op touching them! We eventually shut the board down and ran the show under the work lights for the actors, but after a busy tech week all I could do was laugh at the absurdity!

Noah Keeling's show,

"The House of Yes"

runs Thursday, January

18th through January 28th

at the Paul Harris Theatre

on the UNLV campus.

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