Director Beth Lopes.
Beth Lopes returns to South Coast Repertory after directing last season’s Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook. She is known all over the Los Angeles area for her imaginative productions—from the works of Shakespeare to new plays. Before rehearsals began for The Velveteen Rabbit (May 24-June 9, Argyros Stage)—which she is directing—Lopes took some time to answer a few questions about how a director brings a play to life.
What does a director do?
My go-to explanation for the role of the director is “the guide from page to stage.” Essentially, it is the director’s job to take the story of the script and translate it to a living, breathing onstage event.
What was your path to becoming a director?
I was a part of a spectacular drama program in high school that facilitated the upperclassmen directing one-acts with the freshmen. I knew then that directing was something I really loved doing, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized I wanted to do it as a career. I liked being an actor but I realized that I wasn't getting the same satisfaction at the end of a process as I did when I was directing. I loved being a part of the entire storytelling process.
What drew you to The Velveteen Rabbit?
The Velveteen Rabbit is actually one of my very favorite stories from childhood. My sister and I each had our own Velveteen Rabbit stuffed animal because we were incapable of sharing such a special friend. And then, only a few years ago, my husband and I were asked to read a section of the story at our dear friend’s wedding. I think The Velveteen Rabbit is so timeless because of the truly complex themes it examines. It’s definitely a story about friendship, but it’s also a story about growing up and loss and first love. And it isn’t always happy or funny but it’s hopefully one that sticks with you long after you experience it. The Velveteen Rabbit definitely stuck with me and remains near and dear to my heart.
Can you describe a typical rehearsal day?
On a normal day, I’ve planned out in advance the scenes on which we’ll be working. Sometimes we’ll need to figure out where the actors are moving in space. Sometimes we’ll be playing with a new costume or sound cue. And sometimes we’ll be running through what we’ve done thus far. Usually, I have a specific idea of the work I’d like to get done that day and a general idea of how we’ll accomplish that work. I say general because I always want to leave space for spontaneity with the collaborators in the room. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from and you have to be open to it popping up!
Can you describe how a tech rehearsal brings the whole show together?
Tech rehearsals are when the magic of the rehearsal room is combined with the magic of our incredible designers. The world that the actors are imagining in rehearsal is fully realized in the form of lights, sound, costume and scenery. Of course, it takes time to make sure that the pieces are working together seamlessly, which is what tech rehearsals are all about!
What is the difference between directing a children’s play and a play aimed at adults? Do you approach them any differently?
Fundamentally, no, I don’t approach them differently. I’m always trying to tell the story of the script in a way that will have the most resonance with the audience. That being said, when your audience is largely young people, you should take that into consideration. What I love about children is their willingness to imagine and participate in the world of theatre. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to engage with our audiences in a more direct way than might be possible with another kind of show.
Do you have a favorite character or scene in The Velveteen Rabbit?
This is cheating, but my favorites are the scenes surrounding the boy’s illness. Sometimes scary things happen in life and I think it’s incredibly brave to include those events in stories intended for children. I’m challenged and energized by the responsibility of presenting them in a way that’s truthful to the severity of the situation. By doing so, we can be that much more relieved on the other end. My hope is that by learning about pain, we’re all able to feel joy much more acutely.
Learn more about The Velveteen Rabbit and buy tickets.