Colleen is a director and teacher, mostly in the NYC area. She is currently on the Theater faculty at American University in Washington DC. She recently completed a workshop with Complicité in London and toured her company’s 2-man adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear (duomuzi.com) across the western United States. Recent events: taught at Manhattanville College, guest taught at Sarah Lawrence College, traveled to the UK to Cambridge University where she designed and taught a 2-week course in acting and ensemble theater, and an international tour of Duomuži's 2-man Antony & Cleopatra which premiered at The Brick in NY and toured to the UK in Cambridge and London and to Athens, Greece. During the academic year 2015-2016 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania where she taught Acting and Directing and directed A Midsummer Night's Dream and Clare Barron's Obie-winning play, You Got Older. Colleen's artistic focus is ensemble theater, directing Shakespeare, and directing new plays in development.
She is a member of SDC the Stage Director’s union, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab 2013, works whenever she can with Ensemble Studio Theater on new plays, has worked and/or trained with LaMaMa International Directors Symposium in Umbria Italy, Patsy Rodenburg in Shakespeare's Heightened Language, David Neumann, SITI company, Frantic Assembly, Elevator Repair Service, DAH Theatre, and completed her MFA in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College and her MLitt in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College. She co-founded Make Trouble actor training intensive in Shakespeare and Ensemble, Devised Theater making and was the first Artistic Director and architect of the Shakespeare Academy at Stratford’s curriculum, pedagogical practice and performance approach. Complete Artistic resume and Academic CV here.
If I had to describe my process, I would say it is primarily following my curiosity—following it like a kid where the only possible outcome is some great adventure. And that’s contagious. The energy in the rehearsal room thrives on that belief, the optimistic anticipation that curiosity will lead to something. Something bigger than ourselves.
I listen. A lot. To the words. To the play. To the actors. To the space. To the world. To the energy in the room.
My fellow theater-makers and I are truly, genuinely a team.
I don't just crank out work. I'm picky about what I work on but never predetermine precisely how I will work, how all my fellow collaborators will work together. My responsibility as a director is to inspire others to do more--to learn more, to play more, to dream more, to become more. More is more.
I think theater can be one of the most profound, gut-wrenching, intellectually invigorating, entertaining, beautiful, mysterious things in the world. And I love how impossible it seems to make that kind of theater.
It’s not about you
I have been teaching at the college level for several years. I am fortunate to have an intrinsic love for teaching that has motivated me and made the hard work one of the great joys of my life.
Perhaps the best way to express my teaching philosophy is to share what I typically share with my students on the first day of class or rehearsal. It goes something like this:
I see my role as a teacher and theater artist primarily as trying to figure out human nature. That includes you humans. Together, we will become students of humanity. Humans are as complicated as supersymmetric quantum mechanics. More complicated. More variable. Prone to whim. There is no checklist. I am providing the open space. Also some tools, raw materials, and the opportunity for dialogue and collaboration. You are providing the open heart, rigorous mind, creative energy, and inner motivation. Together, I believe we can produce a learning experience that is wholly our own, meaningful, and enduring.
Ok, sure. Sounds good. But I also believe that teaching philosophies are only as good as the practice that they inspire. So, I practice.
Because we value creativity in our open space, I must practice Patience. I must know when my input is needed, and when it is not. I must provide ample time for students’ ideas to incubate. I must recognize the difference between showing and telling. When to push what buttons, and when to, sometimes, simply wait...wait...wait for them to come up with something. And, because creativity ultimately comes from knowledge, I must expose them to as many perspectives and viewpoints as possible, so that they may build a deep, diverse, creative toolbox. Across cultures, eras, genres, philosophies, and theatrical practices.
Because we value self-direction, I must practice Flexibility. When a student has a question that takes us on a tangent, I must say “Yes!” When a student has an idea far off our rehearsal trajectory, I must say “Let’s try it!” And, ultimately, I must balance this flexibility with the assurance that saying “Yes” is worth the risk. We might just make a mistake, we might just fail. But, we might also make a grand discovery. It's worth the risk. And then we adapt and move forward. Relentlessly.
Because we value dialogue and collaboration, I must practice Engagement. I must, first and foremost, be there for them—live and virtually; in the moment and long after the course or play is over; as a teacher, fellow artist, and mentor. I must practice the same levels of engagement, contribution, and responsibility that I expect from my students.
Finally, there is another important guiding principle that I share with my students on the first day: “It’s not about You.” When I tell them this, most of them are a bit confused (I am an artist...of course it’s about me) And then I explain. I want you to leave my courses seeing your world differently, masters of understanding people and situations, unravelling the human spirit on a scale of Shakespearean proportions. I want you to realize that, yes, theater is everything—story telling, culture, politics, religion, science, problem solving, etc—but the heart of theater is human relationships. I want you to listen. To look others in the eye, with ingrained empathy, ballasted by curiosity, and tell the truth. And maybe fall in love. With whatever greater good you believe in. I want you to know that your growth as theatre artists is assured through a dedicated practice of empathy, bravery, trust, and truth.
It’s not about you. It’s about everything else.
Photography inspires me deeply as a director. I take pictures with my Rolleiflex TLR and my Nikon D90. Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of my heroes. Not only has he inspired my photography, but has changed the way I direct. Shooting with just one lens, the 50mm, has taught me to understand composition on the stage in a new way, to see organic lines of a space, to appreciate geometry. I've learned patience. To be unobtrusive. To look for where the pulse beats. To allow the mysteries of humans and nature to reveal themselves.