Holly L. Derr
Holly Derr is a director and professor of theater specializing in the Viewpoints & Composition, the performance of gender, and applied theater history. Originally from Dallas, TX, she holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia University and a BA in Theater from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the founding Artistic Director of SKT Inc., a small, New York based not-for-profit theater, and has directed new plays for Big Dance Theater and the PlayPenn New Play Development festival. Holly has served on the faculties of Marlboro College and Smith College, and has taught and directed at the American Repertory Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University, The Brown University/Trinity Repertory Theater Consortium, and the California Institute of the Arts. Most recently, Holly presented her original script, American Medea, at Ensemble Studio Theater/LA and directed Twelfth Night at the University of Riverside. Favorite past projects include In the Penal Colony, Speak, The Time of Your Life (as a musical adaptation), The Front Page, and new plays by Gregory Moss, Ann Marie Healy, Timothy Braun, and Colin Denby Swanson.
As a director, I use a combination of the Viewpoints & Composition and the tools and philosophies of Epic Theater to represent multiple points of view within one theatrical event, disrupt the false binary of gender roles, and explode the social constructs of identity. But more than anything, I use these techniques to organize human experience within a community: to tell stories. ♦ A song and dance Twelfth Night, Or What You Will at the University of California at Riverside combined the worlds of rave, Las Vegas, and Lady Gaga to illuminate the Illyrian culture of excess central to this love story. I also created a thirty-five minute version for a tour to underserved communities as part of the Gluck Fellows Arts Education Outreach Program. ♦ In December of 2010 I directed a semi-staged reading of my play American Medea at the Ensemble Studio Theater Los Angeles. American Medea combines the real-life stories of Andrea Yates, Darlie Routier, Deborah Green, and Susan Smith with the structure and characters of Euripides’ play to elucidate the cultural construction that is modern motherhood. ♦ Ruins, a new half musical, half domestic drama, premiered at the California Institute of the Arts in 2010. Unfolding in…
New Play Development
New play development is a crucible in which ideas are lit up by the fire of necessity. Ideas that begin as sounds and images in a playwright’s mind become black words on a white page become sounds and images in the space and time of a public forum. An audience consumes the performance, interprets it, and turns it back into ideas. Artists working to create quickly and collaboratively under the pressure of this compressed time invest in ideas that seem to have been plucked out of the ether, but in reality have been released by the heat of that necessary fire. ♦ In December of 2010 I directed a semi-staged reading of my play American Medea at the Ensemble Studio Theater Los Angeles’s Sunday Best, a monthly “artistic gymnasium” for actors, directors, and writers focusing on plays-in-progress. American Medea creates a post-modern collage of the real-life stories of Andrea Yates, Darlie Routier, Deborah Green, and Susan Smith and the structure and characters of Euripides’ play to elucidate the cultural construction that is modern motherhood. ♦ Ruins premiered at the California Institute of the Arts in 2010. Unfolding in both the past (through Rogers and Hammerstein-style song and dance) and the…
WRITING/ADAPTATIONS Warriors Don’t Cry, an adaptation of Melba Patillo Beals’ memoir of the integration of Little Rock High School (in process) American Medea, using the structure and characters of Euripides’ play with text from the letters, trials, and news coverage of Susan Smith, Andrea Yates, Darlie Routier, and Deborah Green; read at Ensemble Studio Theater LA’s Sunday Best, December 2010 Speak, an adaptation of the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson The Time of Your Life (original musical adaptation), based on the original play by William Saroyan Anatomy of Isabelle: A Reconstructed Production, a documentary production chronicling unfinished work on a production of New Anatomies (Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play about Isabelle Eberhardt, an early 20th-Century European traveler who converted to Islam and lived among the Sufi Mystics of North Africa), which was interrupted by the tragedy of 9/11 In the Penal Colony, an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story Monsieur X: Here Called Pierre Rabier, an adaptation of the Marguerite Duras memoir, War Hundreds of Collisions, an original piece based on the theories of John Cage Doors, an autobiographical piece about the director based on the theories of Thadeusz Kantor
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY My journey has been characterized by confronting the unknown. I was born and raised in Dallas, TX, and have always been deeply interested in the culture of the South, especially as represented by my Louisianan grandmother and her small town worldview. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where one of my favorite classes was The Sociology of the South), I moved to New York City and lived consecutively in Hell’s Kitchen and Dominican Harlem. There I became fascinated by the difference between the politics of multiculturalism and actual life in diverse communities. I moved from there to rural Vermont, where I participated in old- American-style Town Meetings and other New England traditions. Seeking the kinds of adventure I read about in my favorite childhood books (Little House on the Prairie, A Wrinkle in Time), I found real-life adventure by living American culture in its many forms. As a teacher, I try to engage students in this ongoing adventure of discovery. I value the unique contributions of diverse students and help them to start from where they are by bringing their experience to the table, but I also encourage them to embrace the unfamiliar. Whether…
Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow
Comedy of Errors
Harry and the Thief
Romeo and Juliet
The Metal Children
Rimers of Eldritch
As Long as Fear Can Turn to Wrath
Twelfth Night, or What You Will
by Louise Page, photos by Jon Crispin
by Louise Page, photos by Jon Crispin
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