MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City. She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival. Upcoming: Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.
Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award. She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant. She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop, Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League. She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep. Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College. She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009). She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program. Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.
A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs. Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse. They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia. May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.
Visit May’s Web site: http://www.mayadrales.net
May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman—Part II.
One skill a director must have?
A strong curiosity about the world we are living in. And an ability to translate that curiosity into the work.
How should a playwright best interact with a director? How are the boundaries between the two best set—and what are they? How do you work with Betty Shamieh?
Every playwright/director relationship is different. You are in a marriage of sorts, so you have to work out how best to communicate with one another. I think you must build an innate trust and know that you both want to create the most powerful theatrical event possible. I also don’t try to go out to “fix” a play. I believe unequivocally in the power of The Strangest and only wish to interpret what’s on the page in the most persuasive and moving way possible.
What’s different about being a professional director than you suspected as a student? How would you advise a young director, or your students, trying to break into the business today?
I teach a class at Yale called “Bridge to the Profession,” which aims to prepare students for the professional world. I try to get them to think more specifically about who they are–what drives them, what are they curious about in the world–and also what work they want to put out in the world. I try to guide them, practically speaking, by teaching them a little about self-producing, budgeting, and also balancing personal and work life.
Would you tell them to read reviews—and what kinds of things might they learn from critics?
It’s helpful to read reviews sometimes. I always do. It’s always painful to read about your work in sound bites when you have dedicated at least half a year, usually more, to the project. But my professor, Liz Diamond, once advised us to read reviews and reflect on the facts of the review– what the reviewer saw–rather than the adjectives. It was an important lesson for me. I was able to cut through the biting critique and better understand the work I put on stage. Now, as a teacher, I try to lead a class discussion on failure and success and ask students to determine what their own criteria for success is, rather than a reviewer’s.
Most influential director, person in theatre, or mentor in your life?
Lee Breuer of Mabou Mines. He taught me to dare inventively, shake off fear, and eschew the need for acceptance in my work.
How do you beat the stress that comes with your job?
I used to smoke. Now I long-distance run. But red wine and good company makes the stress always go away.
Best recent Broadway or Off-Broadway play? How do you know what fine directorial work is?
Simon McBurney’s Mnemonic opened my eyes to what technology could do in theater; Lee Breuer’s The Doll’s House showed me the skillful hand of a director and how a director can push the envelope again and again within one production; and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters– it was the first play I ever saw Off-Broadway that had characters that resembled me and my family.
Must all good stage work be political?
I think by nature all theater is political. It’s a political act to engage in a community that presents you with another way to live life and empathize with people other than yourself. But good theater is a rare alchemy–there are so many elements that must cohere in order for it to be impactful and powerful. Theater with only a political message often bores me, but theater that can ignite real questions, about what it means to live in this world, and that questions my own way of thinking is what I go to the theater for.
When are or were you happiest in the theatre?
When I see the strange and the beautiful collide in an unexpected way. When I see dissonance on stage and it shakes me to the core. When I see pure joy expressed and feel free myself. It’s a wondrous thing to be moved by such fiction.
Thank you so much.
Read Part I of the interview with May Adrales:
The Semitic Root presents
An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers
Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger
Written by Betty Shamieh
Directed by May Adrales
March 12 – April 1
Fourth Street Theatre
Regular Price: $25
Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)
Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing
(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.
Photo: Stephanie Keith (Alok Tewari as Abu)