Maids (Jane Froiland, left, and Sara Marsh, right) play mind games with their employer (Emily Bridges, center) in Jean Genet's "The Maids," opening Jan. 25. /Hilary Roberts
Actor Sara Marsh is taking over as director of "The Maids," in which she will also star, because why not add one more job to the five or six she already has on the production?
Mel Day, who has worked with Marsh on six plays (including D&S's "Extremities"), was scheduled to direct "The Maids," an absurdist drama by Jean Genet. But, says Marsh, "A health issue came up suddenly last week and the treatment Mel needs right away is going to knock her out of rehearsal long enough -- and possibly for the entire time -- that she is not going to be able to direct the show."
Marsh, who is artistic director of D&S and has appeared in all of the shows in its five-year history, had been in on planning and production meetings, and she's very familiar with the Grain Belt Warehouse where the company performs. So -- with the first rehearsal scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 2 -- it made sense for her to step in to make her directing debut (unless you count the "Steel Magnolias" she directed her sophomore year at Breck School).
"It would have been really difficult to hand it off to somebody brand new and say, 'Welcome. Direct the show, but you have to do it like this.' I don't know how a person could even do that," says Marsh, who says the fact that almost everyone in the company has collaborated in the past will make things go more smoothly.
"In a situation like this, I would like to think any group of artists would come together to make it easier," says Marsh. "But I have found it to be true, over and over, as an artistic director -- which is not to diminish the importance of bringing in new talent -- but there is something to be said about having that vocabulary you share from working together in the past. You know how people work, you know if they communicate quickly or slowly. So it absolutely streamlines things."
Also making things easier on Marsh? She has hired new collaborators to help keep Actor Marsh and Director Marsh straight: Directing Consultant Ryan Underbakke will check in on the production a couple times a week as it moves toward a Jan. 25 opening. And assistant director Michaela Johnson -- who will be performing the same role for Jungle Theater's "The Wolves" later this year -- will be another set of eyes.
"I would not have chosen my first time to direct myself," said Marsh, hours before the first rehearsal. But she had been thinking of directing at some juncture and, as it turns out, that juncture is now.
Marsh's directing hat on "The Maids" joins quite a few others: She also is the producer of the show and its press contact and, as perhaps befits the director/star/producer of a play called "The Maids," she's the person who tidied up the rehearsal room before the actors showed up to dive into their work on the play.