Wednesday, August 20, 2014

James Zager

An Interview with James Zager!          
[ Co-director of Master Class ] 

James Zager
What kind of research did you do to prepare for MASTER CLASS?

Since MASTER CLASS is based on a real event but is not an actual recounting of the event I spent a great deal of time looking at how Terrance McNally combined multiple students, 30 or so, into the three distinct characters we meet on stage.

You are co-directing the show with Jill Anna Ponasik. Please share a bit about the process and how it worked.

This is our 10th creative collaboration and each one has a slightly different configuration. We both have our strengths and we share a strong artistic sensibility so the real challenge is not talking at the same time or finishing each other’s sentences. For MASTER CLASS we started with Jill Anna focusing on the music and the classroom, with me on the text and technical elements, but once we got rolling we really shaped the show together.

MASTER CLASS is also in collaboration with Carroll University - where you are a professor. Could you share some details about that collaboration?

There are two main contributions; The projection surface, which is comprised of acoustic panels that came directly from our concert hall,and two fantastic student interns working as assistants to the stage manager and directors. This is a great experience for them to get a change to work at the professional level.

Although this is your MCT debut – you and your family have a long history with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre! Could you share that story and tell readers what it is like to now be working at MCT?

My parents have been involved with MCT since the very beginning and have been major supporters with both their time and money for 40 years. It is very possible that they will be serving a sundown supper between shows on a Saturday to this cast during the run. Besides getting to see so many of the early productions I myself participated in a number of 5 hour mailing prep sessions when I was home from college and licked more stamps for MCT than I care to remember! I sometimes wonder what they would have thought if their brash young son had said, between stuffing envelopes, that someday he would be directing at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

What aspects of the show are you most excited for patrons to see? What do you hope audiences take away from MASTER CLASS?

A look behind the curtain into a world that as preforming artists we are intimately familiar with but as audiences we never really get to see.

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