This spring, Tisch Drama is thrilled to welcome visionary theatre artist Melissa Crespo as our artist in residence, known for her work directing theatre, opera, and film. Over the past several weeks, Ms. Crespo has collaborated with our students, faculty, and staff to develop and direct ‘Promenade,’ a campy, clever critique of the 1 percent, written by the late, great María Irene Fornés, and winner of the Obie Award for best musical.
The production will be the third offering in the 2019-20 TISCH DRAMA STAGE season. We recently caught up with Ms. Crespo to discuss the project:
Congratulations, Melissa, our featured artist in residence! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Can you start by telling us a little more about your unique approach to theatre making, particularly in regard to avant garde works such as Promenade?
I am most drawn to work that is especially meant to be experienced in a theater. It is a rare thing nowadays to gather in a room, put away your screen, and be a witness. I say witness because the audience observes and then testifies to others as to what they saw. It’s exactly why I love theatre, and Irene’s Promenade is a uniquely theatrical work. It largely deals with the act of performing—because let’s face it, we constantly perform in our everyday lives. This production constantly uses the Brechtian model of reminding us that we are indeed in a theater.
How do you feel you’ve evolved over the years? In addition to your work as a director, you’re also a producer, dramaturg, and playwright—that sounds busy! Can you speak to having a life as a multi-hyphenate artist?
I have evolved over the years by embracing my love of making theatre beyond just directing. I don’t believe in staying in your lane—and anyone that tries to tell you you can’t multi-hyphenate is not doing you a favor. My directing has only improved by doing other things like writing and producing. And I am certainly never bored!
With Promenade, can you tell us about the origins of the project, and your vision for the piece?
I have always been a fan of Irene’s work and was surprised to learn she wrote a musical. With her recent passing and having a brilliant Fornes scholar like Gwendolyn Alker on the NYU faculty, it seemed like the perfect timing to sink my teeth into Promenade. I hope audiences leave with their sides hurting from laughter while also remembering how important joy is in the face of pain.
How has your experience working at Tisch Drama been so far? What have our students brought to the conversation?
Tisch students are special. This is my second production here with TISCH DRAMA STAGE and I am always grateful for their brilliance, talent, and most of all, how fervently they throw themselves into the process. As a professional who has been doing this for a long time, it’s refreshing to be around that kind of love for theatre. I am a highly collaborative director, and the students are very much a part of the vision and creation of Promenade.
What has been your favorite part of this collaboration at Tisch Drama?
My favorite part of the collaboration with Tisch Drama is all the amazing support from every department. Tisch has such a huge, dedicated team of faculty and mentors pushing and challenging their students to be their very best. It’s an exciting atmosphere in which to work and only challenges me to rise to the occasion. I am most definitely a witness to the future of American Theatre.