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DIRECTING AND DEVISED

A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, 2021

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Adaptation: David Lane

Direction: Tom Truss

Scenic Design: Obadiah Savage

Lighting Design: Greg Solomon

Costume Design: Denise Massman

Photos: Katria Foster

Premiere: November 2018, Siena College, Albany, NY

This project sought to bring a version of Frankenstein to the stage staying true to Mary Shelley’s original 1818 text — maintaining the order of events, expressionist points of view, and wild philosophical pondering.


The questions raised by Shelley rely on a complex reading of the Creature. Her Creature is sensitive and perceptive — a passionate spirit, who seeks love in a world in which he is misunderstood and abandoned. 


In response to the current rise of fearful sentiment toward “the other,” the Creature was cast as a composite of four diverse actors who would share the Creature’s lines and be connected by means of a puppet, bits of which were worn by each performer, able to be seen as a single entity but also separate aspects of the Creature’s spiritual being.


The ensemble cast embraced a highly physical posture — lifts, dance, and contact improv allowed for the exploration of Victor’s tumultuous inner world. Shadow play, in the style of Victorian silhouette brought Victor’s past to bear on the present.

Rhinoceros

By Eugene Ionesco

Direction: David Lane

Set and Lighting Design: Jeremy Winchester

Costume Design: Andrea Williams

March 2018, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, MA

Photos: David Lane

In his 1971 personal memoir, Present Past Past Present, Ionesco describes a conversation with a friend who details his experience at a large Nazi rally during Hitler’s accession to power: 


“Look at them, look at them, they are full of the mud of propaganda, they think they have invented and thought what has been stuffed into their skulls. There are a few who dominate: all others are dominated, passive, as in many animal societies, many insect societies. But those who dominate are merely unconsciously obeying their instincts to dominate.”


This quote would be the jumping off point for the performance and acting aesthetic. Instead of working with masks or prosthetics worn by the actors,  all the characters transformations would be shown on stage as physical transformations. We would see characters loosing their humanity, as they twist, squirm,  and writhe about -- consumed by totalitarian instinct — ultimately changing into the animal and insect beings described in Ionesco’s memoir. 


Training in Butoh and Suzuki inspired movement allowed for the actors to attain visceral and sustained performances.

The Chronicles of Rose

Conceived by David Lane and Shawna Reiter

Written and Directed by David Lane

Puppet Design and Construction: Shawna Reiter, Jonathan Davis, David Lane, Ramona Fabregas, Jacqueline Coughlin, Krista Duke, Chloé Tremblay

Original Music by Sophie Lane

November 2016, Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams, MA

Funded by a grant from the Jim Henson Foundation

The Chronicles of Rose is the real-life story of Rose Valland, the curator of the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris which was commandeered by the Nazis during the occupation of France in WWII. Used as a kind of clearing house for stolen and appropriated Jewish art, the Jeu de Paume was a favorite spot for upper echelon Nazi officers like Hermann Goering and Baron Kurt van Behr to gather, sip champagne and review “new acquisitions.”  Rose spoke fluent German, but kept this secret from the Nazis, and quickly built connections to the French Resistance. Her notes on the coming and going of stolen art would become crucial to repatriating efforts after the war.


The impetus for telling this story was held within a fascination for the power of art to be used as a weapon. Hitler understood this when he launched his 1937 art exhibit, Entartete Kunst, demonizing Jewish and modern art.  It all bore an eerie resemblance to the way in which ISIS used art as a cultural canon-ball in the war in Iraq and Syria, destroying antiquities and places of religious relevance, most notably, the 1,800 year old iconic, Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


Using puppets to tell this story allowed us to emphasize the power imbalance at work, the fragility of human life, and embrace a style of magic realism, where Rose’s premonitions about the war leap from her dreams to the stage, and the paintings themselves become alive.

The Painting

A Clown Scenario by David Lane 

Direction: David Lane

Scenic Design: Denise Massman

Lighting Design: Greg Solomon

Costume Design: Karin Mason

Photos: Katria Foster

Premiere: April 2016, Siena College, Albany, NY

Invited Selection: Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region One

Inspired by history, The Painting tells the story of two French servants who unwittingly become the custodians of a mysterious painting only to discover that what they have on their hands is Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, and that they must do all they can to protect it from discovery by Nazi storm toppers, hell-bent on “acquiring” the painting for Hitler’s Führermuseum.


Devised in the manner of a Commedia Dell’arte scenario, the play is completely wordless, in the style of the great silent-film clowns of yor — Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Edna Purviance.


Training in silent narrative storytelling, physical action, improv and clown allowed the performers to sustain the energy of the story without the need for dialogue. The cat-and-mouse nature of the play was further developed by characterizations based in observations of animal physicality in the spirit of Commedia.

Copenhagen

By Michael Frayn

Direction: David Lane

Scenic Design: Denise Massman

Lighting Design: Matthew Fick

Costume Design: Karin Mason

Photos: Katria Foster

March 2014, Siena College, Albany, NY

Fragmented, poetic, post-modern — Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen sets the audiences’ imagination a whirl, just like the atoms Bohr and Heisenberg try to describe. Although the main players are dead and gone, we, the living, are the ones who must ultimately answer the moral questions posed by the play in our own time — a time when science is pushing the boundaries of mechanized warfare more than ever, but instead of fission, we are faced with navigating the ethical terrain that comes with miniaturization, drones, and digital surveillance. 


Presented in the round, the staging embraced the notion of characters moving like particles in response to each other, and the central questions of the play. Tiered platforms, embossed with blackboard equations, were arranged like a Venn diagram — the truth was to be found somewhere in the overlapping stories, through a hazy past, as these lost souls attempt to reconcile competing aspects of themselves, unraveling time itself in search of safe harbor from the seas of regret, of anguish.

One Grimm Night

Student Devised Shadow Puppetry and Movement based on tales by the Brothers Grimm

Direction: David Lane

Siena College, Albany, NY, Fall 2012

Our journey began with exercises and experiments aimed at finding the playful source of our impulses and at gathering our creative energies. The result was a series of mini-labs in which we took up the challenge of story-telling and expressing our ideas with distinct parameters, limiting ourselves to visual aspects, then switching to tonal aspects, and so on. 


We responded to haiku poems by Matsu Basho using only sound-scape; invented games based on childhood memories; explored tableaux and movement; composed visual poems using only un-hewn cloth for costume, prop and scenery, exploring the limits of scale. All of this has led to a series of compositions, inspired by the stories of the Brothers Grimm, often raw, sometimes non-linear, but true to our group’s creative impulses and aimed at something authentic we gleaned from the story.

The King Stag is Carlo Gozzi’s magical tale of love and betrayal, talking birds, transformations and misunderstandings. The company and I spent the first part of the rehearsal process in training up and preparing for the physically demanding style of the play, including mask performance, broad slapstick, puppetry and stilt-walking. A special part of the process was the creation of the masks. Actors created living-death-masks of their faces and then I took them through the process of sculpting directly onto their own form, melding the character’s face with their own. This ensures a proper fit, but also connects the performer to their character in a meaningful way, perhaps even on a psychological level to be discovered during performance.

The King Stag

By Carlo Gozzi

Direction: David Lane

Costume Design: Dawn Shamburger

Scenic Design: Juliana von Haubrich

Masks: The Company

Main Street Stage, North Adams, MA

Summer 2012

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