Orlando Artist Interview: Brittany Goodwin, Stage Director

Get to know members of our Orlando production team!

Brittany Goodwin is the stage director for Orlando, playing Feb 18th and 19th at the National Opera Center, NYC - get your tickets today!

Who are you/what do you do/why do you do it?

My name is Brittany Goodwin, I am a director for the stage & I do it because I was born to tell stories.

How did you get involved in this project & how did you know it was the right project for you?

Well, it all happened one day past Christmas when I got a message from my buddy Dylan saying these two amazing ladies (Laura and Joyce) were in need of a stage director for their upcoming production of Orlando he was conducting. As a big Handel nut, I jumped at the opportunity and the next day met Laura to solidify particulars.

Upon meeting Laura (& Joyce via FaceTime!) I immediately got the feel that they provided a nurturing, collaborative environment for singers which, in this current operatic climate, is a rarity. I know young opera artists jump at the opportunity to land these delicious roles for their resumes and it is my job as their leader to handle that delicately and provide the most explorative experience they can receive.

My dramatic origins do not lie within the realm of opera-­‐ I started out as a dramatic/musical theatre director, then got into devising new works THEN opera. And I’m always straight forward about that, even to my singers. This has always worked to my benefit, as I treat each of the singers as actors telling a story.

Anywho-­‐ Laura and Joyce thought I would be an asset to the production and their mission as a company, and I felt welcomed in immediately.

How did you approach the concept/staging?

With a little fizz and ginger, no?

We had chatted initially about placing Orlando within the confines of a mental ward. And whenever you're doing an update of a show-­‐ Shakespeare, Puccini, whatever, you need to find the central heartbeat of the text and raise the questions:

Why does the story need to be told this particular way? Why cant it be told any other way?

Then you, as we say in the acting world, “back it into a corner” and iron out every single subplot, every single intricacy so there are no discrepancies or questions left.

Orlando is this esteemed warrior plagued with defeat and trauma, he’s falling in love, getting rejected and literally not a single person is on his side. Not one character within the world of the story wants to see this guy succeed. And when you think about it-­‐ where does someone go when they are that beaten down and that delusional? They get help. They need help.

So through that foundation, things started to fall into place. Okay, the fellow patients can serve as Orlando’s hallucinations of the people that have haunted him and contributed to his trauma. The wizard can be the doctor. The crazy fountains and celestial explosions can be physicalized through the constant feeding of medication. A lot of dramaturgical research went into this, and I could never have done it alone. The two casts were so hungry to sculpt this environment with me, and it's evident in its execution.

Most interesting/enjoyable aspect of putting on the show?

Honestly, It would have to be the discoveries we find within the rehearsal process. Because I’ve been devising so often, I create a framework for the scene, where the stage pictures need to land on certain beats but then I just say

“Go!”

and initially I got “but…”

to which I say “no. don’t think. GO!”

and I got to watch the singer live in the environment truthfully, read behaviors in the recits and lament in their arias. It was so organic and special. Then we’d take it off and talk about what worked and what didn’t.

In dramatic texts, we do things like this all the time and it becomes second nature to tap into those vulnerabilities and reactions. But for singers, its different. Ya’ll have so many technical things to execute and think about, me asking you to run around and finger paint your face is a lot, I know. But it looks stunning and I love it.

One moment that stands out to you?

Oh I couldn’t possibly choose one.  Here’s a teaser of my favorite moments:

the group therapy pillow / Dorinda’s cardboard mansion / Orlando’s finger paint / Medoro’s oranges / Angelica’s magic marker wedding band

What do you hope the audience will take with them?

I’d love the audience to take with them the joy, whimsy, and pathos opera can provide. I want them to leave knowing a new story. I want them to talk about it.