A Fiendish Conversation with Braden Abraham
One of the hottest young theater directors in town takes on Tennessee Williams.
Director Braden Abraham is starting to realize the meaning of "in demand." In addition to his duties as Seattle Rep's associate artistic director—second in command to Jerry Manning—he's also led three local shows to great reviews in 2012: Seattle Rep's Clybourne Park, Tommy Smith's domestic drama White Hot, and gun-toting rock musical Riddled starring Marya Sea Kaminski as the second coming of Bonnie Parker.
Abraham now helms Seattle Rep's Leo K-stage production of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, which is in previews starting October 26. Considering the modern slant of his last few shows, it should be interesting to see what he does with a classic.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation we chatted with the prolific director about the power of listening and up-and-coming talent in the local theater scene.
What is your favorite aspect of The Glass Menagerie?
It’s the balance between the poetic and the realistic that I find really extraordinary, and was really revolutionary for this play when it came out 70 years ago. The sort of crushing poverty of this time in 1937 and the extraordinary family dynamics that are happening within this apartment are really fun to investigate as a director because there’s a lot of nuance in the interactions and the structure is really tight. I also love that it’s balanced with this very poetic frame—the lyricism of the play and the more expressionistic gestures the play calls for.
What do you think your strength as a director is?
I think I listen well. I try to set up a situation in rehearsal where everybody feels like they can bring their best ideas to the table in a safe environment where we can collaborate. You want to set up a space where great accidents can happen, and I feel like I’m pretty good at that and I can recognize when a spark happens and move towards that. I think I’m a very visual person. I feel like the play really takes shape in my mind in three dimensions. So it’s about having a strong vision for the piece, but also being receptive to what’s happening in the moment.
Are there any local directors or actors you think people should be noticing?
Absolutely. I think Paul Budraitis is a really interesting performer and director. Let’s see… There are so many young performers right now. Eric Riedmann and Brenda Joyner are two younger actors who are both in Glass Menagerie who are both excellent. There are several people in the Intiman shows this year, but I can’t think of their names off the top of my head. There are also some great playwrights right now. Emily Conbere, who is having a show (The Dog Legs) put on by a group called Catapult, is a really exciting new voice in Seattle.
What shows around Seattle have you really enjoyed in the past year?
I just saw the Gob Squad show (Gob Squad’s Kitchen) that was at On the Boards. I enjoyed the spontaneity of it and the audience engagement, the sort of sincerity they were able to get to with that piece. I enjoyed the Pinter Festival [at ACT] over the summer; I’m a big Pinter fan—especially Old Times. It’s one of my favorite plays and I thought it was done very well.
What do you think about critics?
You have to take the good with the bad. In the end, it ends up being a law of averages in terms of the press we get. Of course we all want good press, because that helps us get more work, but you also have to accept the fact that you’re not always going to get good press. So, I think critics are necessary to the process.The Glass Menagerie
Oct 26–Dec 2, Seattle Repertory Theatre, $22–$70