Amy Driscoll is a familiar face to the Grand Forks theatre scene: she’s appeared at the Fire Hall Theatre in shows including The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Almost, Maine and productions at the UND Burtness Theatre including Eurydice, Comedy of Errors, and Scarcity. This spring she stepped off the stage to direct the Fire Hall’s season closer, Moon Over Buffalo. As Assistant Director for Moon, Miss Jaye has been spending a lot of time with Amy the last 6 weeks or so, but she took some special time to sit down with her and ask her a few questions to share you to help you get to know this bubbly theatre personality a little bit better.
Janessa: Girl, I can’t believe that Moon Over Buffalo is finally open! It’s been a wonderful process. But before we get to that show, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Amy: Well, I was born and raised in the booming metropolis of the Greater Grand Forks Area. I studied Theatre Arts at UND, where I graduated in August of 2011. Now I work full-time at the UND Bookstore to supplement my theatre habits.
Janessa: How did you first get involved with theatre?
Amy: I started theatre when I was 12 years old. I was staying with my best friend Kristen, who was going to audition for Pinocchio in Fertile MN, and I decided to tag along. I ended up getting a featured role, and from that moment I was hooked. I was involved in summer theatre throughout middle school as well as high school productions all the way up.
Janessa: Even though you are young, you’ve been in the world of local theatre for quite a while! Why do you enjoy doing theatre?
Amy: I enjoy theatre for many reasons. I love the character work that goes into a performance; building a human from the ground up so to speak. I’ve always enjoyed people watching, and it’s fun taking the quirks I’ve observed and putting them onstage. I also love theatre because it is a way for people to connect to one another. Actors connect to each other, the audience connects with the performance, and everyone walks away having gained something. It’s an experience you never have twice, and it’s something that I can’t get enough of.
Janessa: A lot of people are probably familiar with your face from having seen you on stage, but what kind of directing experience did you have before Moon Over Buffalo?
Amy: I took directing class as an independent study during school, so I had the unique opportunity to do more work in class than students usually do. I am also the Assistant Director for Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre in Bismarck, ND. Moon Over Buffalo is my first run as director of a main stage production though, and it has been an excellent learning experience for me.
Janessa: So, now that you’ve got experience on “both sides” of the stage, how is directing different from acting? Do you prefer one or the other?
Amy:I like to use the analogy that the actors are the writers and the director is the editor of a production. Being an actor is so narrow; you have your lines to memorize and your character to create. You build relationships with the others on stage, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. As a director, you are there to make sure everything makes sense as a whole, on top of making sure all the individual performances are on track. It’s also a little bit like being a parent. You do everything you can to make sure the show is successful, but ultimately, you step back and watch your “babies” learn to fly on their own.
I don’t know if I have a preference yet. I definitely still love to perform, there’s just something about doing live theatre that will never get old. Directing is a nice change of pace, even if it is about 200 times more stressful. It’s definitely more challenging, and I feel like I grow exponentially more as an artist when I direct. I guess I’m pretty content being a 50/50 actor director.
Janessa: This is always one of my favorite questions because the answers usually surprise me and it really lets us know more about who you are as a person: what is your dream show to direct, and what is your dream show to act in?
Amy: My dream show to direct is “Waiting for Godot,” by Samuel Beckett. I had to do a makeup design for it once, and from then on I have been sort of obsessed with it. I would take it out of the realm of reality and heighten everything with absurd makeup, costumes, lights and set. It would be wonderful, or at least it is in my head, Miss Jaye!
As far as acting goes, I definitely will play Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray before I die; I’m pretty sure that show was written for me. I also really love the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeny Todd, and Emma Goldman in Ragtime.
Janessa: And when you are playing Tracy, I will be right there as your mother – Edna Turnblad is definitely one of my dream roles! And I adore Emma Goldman. One of my favorite quotes by her is “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And that sort of brings us around to my next couple of questions. First, why do you think theatre is important?
Amy: Theatre is important because it forces us to connect with one another. When you go see a movie or watch a show on T.V. there’s not a lot of thinking involved, and there’s something that’s lost once it’s recorded. But to be in the audience of a live show, experiencing as the actors are experiencing, you become part of it – part of each other’s lives, if only for two hours. You have affected one another and that moment will never happen again.
Janessa: I totally agree. Related to the experience of theatre itself, why do you think community theatre is important?
Amy: Community theatre is important because it makes theatre accessible to anyone who wants to try it. It’s a way for people to build their resumes and gain experience in a safe environment. For example, as a first time director I was never alone. The Executive Director, Kathy Coudle King was always there with whatever I needed. I feel that sense of community can sometimes be missed in professional theatre.
Janessa: So after Moon Over Buffalo closes, what’s next for you?
Amy: My next adventure is heading out to Bismarck, ND for the summer season at Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre. I am the assistant director for the two main stage productions, Disney’s Little Mermaid Junior and Les Miserables, and the director of the Fairy Tale Theatre production of Cinderella. I am super excited to get to work; it’s my second summer with SHST, and last year I learned more about myself as a person and a director than I have ever before. I can’t wait to see what this summer has in store!
Janessa: Well, we’d better get back to work. Is there anything else you’d like our World of Champagne readers to know about you, your work, or this production before we “sign off”?
Amy: During this production, I had the most amazing assistant director a girl could ask for. The Lady herself, Miss Janessa Jaye Champagne was my tie to sanity. Every time I got close to going off the deep end, or killing someone, she was there keeping me sane.
Janessa: I didn’t pay her to say that, I swear!
Amy: I don’t know what I would have done without her and her creative input, encouragement, sass and confidence. Also, my cast is pretty incredible, and they’ve worked harder than I expected to put on a wonderful show. I don’t think I could have asked for anyone better, and I am so proud of them. So please, take the time to come see the show, it really is worth your while.
Janessa: Amy, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and answer all of these questions, and thanks for letting me be a part of Moon Over Buffalo – it’s been a really amazing experience!
Amy: You are most welcome, Nana!
Moon Over Buffalo has two weeks of performances left. This week there are 7:30 pm shows Thursday, May 2 through Saturday, May 4 with 2 pm matinees on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5. The Saturday 4 matinée ONLY has a special discounted rate of $10. The following week, there are 7:30 pm shows on Thursday and Friday, May 9 and 10. Regular ticket prices are $15 for Adults, $12 for Students/Seniors/Military. Tickets can be purchased at the Chester Fritz Box Office or at the door before showtime until sold out.
Tags: Amy Driscoll, Bismarck, Burtness Theater, Burtness Theatre, Edna Turnblad, Emma Goldman, Fire Hall Theater, Fire Hall Theatre, Firehall Theater, Firehall Theatre, Grand Forks, Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, Hairspray, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Kathy Coudle-King, Kathy King, Ken Ludwig, Moon Over Buffalo, Ragtime, Sleepy Hollow Summer Theater, Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre, Sweeny Todd, theater, theatre, Tracy Turnblad, Waiting For Godot