Meet The Director: Mark Hein

mark.hein001Mark Hein recently starred in Its A Wonderful Life for Christmas. Before that he’s performed many times at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre as well as many other venues. He is co-director of Carmilla!

How did you come to be involved in Carmilla?
I stumbled on LeFanu’s story 20 years ago.  I loved the wicked genius of not only having a woman vampire, but having her seduce women.  I eagerly saw several of the movies made from it, but was always disappointed.  David was the first person I’d met who knew the novella, and when he said he was adapting it for the stage, I was intrigued.  At the table reading, it was clear he’d created a play at least as powerful as the original — so I was in for the ride.

What is your interest in vampires, lesbians and/or lesbian vampires?
Of course, as a youth I saw and loved the 1931 Dracula, and enjoyed vampire films when I could.  But back then, they were either at drive-ins or on late night TV — no VHS, DVD, or internet.  (And  no cons, cosplay or fandom.)  Decades later, a grad school prof asked which mythic figures had a presence in our lives, and I was stunned — for me, it was vampires. Largely because two lifelong friends had become major vampire novelists.  So I decided to research them … and found Carmilla.

As for lesbians?  Spending my first adult life as a teacher and therapist, I came to appreciate that people who grow up LGBT have fought and won their way into life.  So I’ve done whatever I could to be supportive, personally and publicly.  As an artist (in my second adult life), my passion is bringing to light what has been hidden or ignored, devalued or made taboo.
Lesbian vampires?  Two for the price of one!

Describe how you approach directing a play?
I’ve learned that imagining the play — the lighting and costumes, the set, the blocking — is the easy part.  The hard part is inviting people to become vulnerable and go deep, to find human truth and embody it — and then holding a safe place for everyone to do this dangerous and delicate work together.
I’ve also learned that a play grows constantly.  From the writer’s first envisioning, through the director’s re-imagining, then the actors’ and crew’s re-conceiving and presenting it, and lastly to the audience, who are the final authors.  As you hand it forward, you hope it will become something more than you imagined.  So I share my vision not as The Text, but trusting the company to find something — many things — that I couldn’t.

Are there any particular challenges you see in directing this play?
Oh, yes.  It’s always a delightful challenge to have such an elegantly crafted script.  You want to do justice to all its subtleties — the rhythms, the echoing themes, the beauty of the language — but you also want to sustain the tension and forward drive of the story, and its increasing horror.  In addition, David has followed LeFanu’s lead in creating a tale of extreme ambiguity.  Each character has a different point of view, and holds it passionately.  And there is no definitive reality for us to judge by  — not even our own.  So we’ll be working constantly at keeping each point of view as real and convincing as all the others, even when they flatly contradict.

Care to offer any thoughts on the cast?
Gratitude, and trust.
As David has said, we were “gobsmacked” at the amazing array of talents we were offered in auditions.  It was a huge privilege (and almost a curse) to be given such lovely, difficult choices to make.
At the first read-through, they did it to us again.  This is simply a splendid cast.
I feel like a conductor asked to lead the LA Philharmonic.  I’m thrilled — almost terrified — but I know they will create marvels.

When audiences finally see Carmilla, what do  you most hope happens?
Well, because it’s a vampire play and a play about ambiguity, I’m hoping they go home debating. Talking over everything, from whether vampires even exist to whether we can ever know such a thing as truth, or even the truth of someone else’s experience. Most of all, though, I hope people feel touched personally by experiencing this play.  I hope it inspires them to feel and wonder about what it is to love, what death might mean, and what makes us human.

Finally–any questions you wished I’d asked? If so, ask the question and give the answer please!
“Do I believe in vampires?”
No and yes.  Do I believe dead people re-animate and drink blood?  No.
But we humans have, in all cultures and times, imagined such figures.  I believe it’s because they embody something important about our experience of ourselves.  Perhaps they carry some of our need for one another, the need we try so hard to hide.

They also seem to say something to us, for us, about whatever lies beneath and beyond the physical world — the super-natural, the meta-physical, the divine.  What exactly?  The best place to look for that is in the mind and heart of each person who comes to Carmilla.

Meet the Cast: Annalee Scott

introducing.ingrid

Annalee Scott plays a character far removed from her inspiration in the LeFanu’s novella! Baron Vordenberg in Carmilla is a nobleman living in genteel poverty whose ancestor once fell in love with a girl, a girl who became a vampire.

So tell me about yourself.  Who is Annalee Scott?
I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an Actress.  I spent most of my adolescence playing sports, doing competitive Irish Step Dance, and playing music.  However, growing up in Concord Massachusetts, I was constantly surrounded by old homes owned by famous authors and stories of past battles fought during the American Revolution so history and literature have always been a big part of my life.  Once I discovered theater I found a way to live inside these stories and influence people with their meanings.  I don’t see storytelling as an escape from the world but a way to take a closer look at humanity and purge the emotions we often carry deep within ourselves but cannot easily release.  To be immersed in books, movies, and the arts we face ourselves head on and discover our strengths and weaknesses.
I graduated from Emerson College with a BA in Theater and a Minor in Dance and despite the decision to pursue my acting career in Los Angeles, which is mainly dominated by the film and television industry, I have been lucky to find fun and interesting theater to busy myself with.  Which is why I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this awesome production!
How did you come to be involved in this production?
Period pieces are my favorite and after reading the breakdown I decided to audition.  I’m attracted to dark material and was initially intrigued by the characters and the world they live in.
 
Were you at all familiar with the story of Carmilla before this?
Even though period and fantasy pieces are my favorite I’d never heard of this story before.  It’s been a treat to learn some of the history surrounding this gothic tale and the effect it might have had on it’s 19th century readers.
 
What about vampires?  Interested? Not? Any favorites?
People often say I look like Jessica from the HBO show True Blood.  If the implication is that I look like a vampire than perhaps secretly I am one.  Otherwise, I wish I could say vampires have always been an interest of mine but I’ve only just recently joined the vastly growing fan club.
 
Tell me about your character, Ingrid.
Ingrid in my mind represents the masses.  She is not the hero of the story but a woman who, even though she is a prominent public figure, tries to blend in with her rapidly changing environment despite its grave implications.  She is a survivalist and as the last living member of her noble family does what she can to take care of herself and carry on within her means.  Although cautious, she is easily influenced by others giving her a relatable vulnerability that we all feel from time to time.
What are your personal hopes in this production, and how do you hope the audience will react?
I hope to make people uncomfortable and intrigued.  Each of our characters have moments in the story which explore fear and desire sometimes at the same time.  I hope people are able to enjoy themselves and be entertained while taking something deeper away, whatever that may be to each individual.

Auditions Scheduled!

Basic RGBWe’ll be having auditions in a couple of weeks here in Los Angeles. The play i will be staged in North Hollywood in February or March 2014 (just before Pilot Season). Exact dates to be determined, but Fridays and Saturdays look by far the most likely. By far!

Anyone interested should show up Saturday October 26, 1pm- 5pm at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood (this is the home of Visceral Company, doing a splendid show at the moment–Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite).

Here’s a list of who we need:

Woman (lead), 20’s, Caucasian
Men (2), 30’s to 70’s, Caucasian
Women (2), 30’s to 70’s, Caucasian

PLEASE BRING — Headshot and Resume stapled (or glued) together.  Prepare a Monologue (1-3 minutes) from a play, such as the works of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard, etc.  Sides will also be provided.

If you like, you may also join the Facebook Event page for these auditions. Please spread the word!