Long time theater actor and technical director, Jamie Wilson, takes the helm as a director in Repertory Philippines’ newest production: Joseph Kesserling’s hilarious dark-comedy ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. In this interview, Wilson shares his thoughts, visions and experiences as he takes the “table” in this production.
We’ve been seeing you in different productions as an actor, and you have already gained a following. Can you tell us how this project and role as a director came to you?
I am part of REP’s Arts Council, tasked to read and suggest plays for the season, and having such great memories of having seen ARSENIC AND OLD LACE during my childhood. I kept bringing it up during our meetings. Little did I know that not only would my suggestion to mount this show again be approved, but that I would be asked to direct it.
I never thought of being a director until I started working as Bobby Garcia’s Assistant Director. I was asked if I would be interested to work and apprentice under him by the amazing Liza Camus, and I immediately said yes. That was also around the time when I started working as a technical director for Rep, and somehow down the line I started believing that I was ready to take the helm of a production.
With the support of a great team, and the commitment and dedication of such an amazing cast. I am blessed that this experience is every bit of a dream come true.
Can you tell us a bit of your original vision for your ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, as influenced by the fact that this is your directorial debut. How did this vision evolve during the creative processes with your team and cast?
My first question was: should I play it safe, and do it like how it’s been done before? Because of such vivid memories I have of the previous productions, it was difficult to see it any other way than that. But almost immediately I decided that I couldn’t go that way.
In this classic comedy, there’s not much that I could change or adapt, not only due to restrictions with the rights but also with the way it’s written; this is a classic, so what fresh vision could I bring to it? What would be my take on it? And so ideas began to form, with my creative and artistic team, until we found the direction we wanted. When the actors came in, they brought so much life into the process, that of course things changed and grew; we also got a better idea of what was needed to bring new life to this story.
I think a big part of the creative vision is knowing what the story needs, and knowing the strengths of your cast and your designers. If you bring enough wonderful, talented and creative people to the table, then the process takes on a life of it’s own; my job was just to keep this ship sailing straight!
We’ve worked together back in training when you were a corporate consultant and a trainer. How did your experience as a teacher/trainer align with your role as director for the stage?
The responsibility for making sure your students perform well would be the biggest alignment with directing a play.I have to make sure that it’s a safe and creative environment for the students; that they feel confident about making mistakes so they can learn from them. It’s the same with theater.
Also managing the people under you; making sure you play to their strengths, and strengthen their weaknesses, and always always inspire them to do their best, and to strive for excellence.
Who’s your most favourite Theatre Director in our local stage? Why?
That’s a trick question if I’ve ever hear one!
And there’s two sides to that question: favorite director to work with, or favorite director whose work I enjoy watching? Every Director has their strengths; stories that they excel in telling. Some specialize in drama, some in comedies, some with musicals and others with the classics.
I’ve had the good fortune to work under a lot of directors, and I’ve seen how they work.
But there is nobody quite like Zenaida Amador. She was a force of nature, and excelled in everything she did — drama, comedy, musicals, classics, you name it! No other director has assembled a body of work like hers, and achieved critical acclaim and commercial success like she did.
She also created a legacy that is still being seen today: we have seen the people that she’s trained put up their own theater companies, or appearing in international productions, all because she inspired them and equipped them to pursue a life in theatre. I am honored and profoundly grateful to be a part of that legacy.
I noticed during the open rehearsals that you had five cast members (Tita Joy Virata, Tita Jay Glorioso, Robbie Guevara, Jeremy Domingo and Steven Conde) who were directors themselves and have had experiences of being at the production’s helm for quite sometime. Was there ever a point when you felt inferior or doubtful of your capacity to handle such experienced directors for your stage?
All of them are, first and foremost, incredibly talented actors who immediately agreed to be a part of this show…and I’ve had the privilege of working with each of them on stage and off, so our experience together really helped a lot. Every rehearsal was terrifying and exciting, because here I was, directing these amazing people. But early on in the process, they became a source of wisdom and encouragement; key people that I could approach for advice and opinions, who were also committed to this collaboration, and always very supportive of me.
I’m lucky and very honored to have them in my directorial debut!
The local stage is booming than ever. If there’s one or more thing you think would make Philippine Theatre better, what would it be?
The theater industry is a community, with all companies sharing very limited resources. I think that we should continue acting like a community, taking care of each other, sharing with each other, and doing what we can to make Philippine Theater more professional, and more accessible to everyone.
Final question: To whom do you dedicate this production, Jamie?
I dedicate this work to all my mentors and teachers whom I’ve learned from. To my parents who supported my choice to pursue the arts. To my Tita Mila who showered me with love and understanding. And to my fiancé Goldie, who has been behind me and beside me every step of the way.
Repertory Philippines’ production of Joseph Kesserling’s ARSENIC AND OLD LACE runs from April 6 to 29 at Onstage Greenbelt in Makati. For ticket inquiries, please call (02) 843 3570 or visit Ticketworld.com.ph.