From The Director’s Chair: Tony Taccone and "A Shot Rang Out"

Brian Robin
 | Oct 20, 2021
Tony Taccone
Director Tony Taccone. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs
David Ivers
​David Ivers in A Shot Rang Out. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Along with being one of the most acclaimed theatre directors in the country, Tony Taccone is renowned for his work with one-person plays. For reference, see Latin History for Morons with John Leguizamo, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, Sarah Jones’ Bridge & Tunnel and Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, which Taccone co-wrote. During his acclaimed 33-year-tenure as the artistic director of Berkeley Repertory, Taccone oversaw more than 70 world, American and West Coast premieres. He sent 24 shows to New York and two to London.

Yes, it was Taccone who commissioned and co-directed Tony Kushner’s pioneering Angels in America.

Taccone was set to make his South Coast Repertory directorial debut in the spring of 2020 with Caroline V. McGraw’s I Get Restless. But the pandemic shelved those plans, postponing Taccone’s SCR debut to A Shot Rang Out, which welcomed audiences back to live theatre. Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain) wrote A Shot Rang Out specifically for SCR Artistic Director David Ivers to perform. And the A-list trio of Greenberg, Taccone and Ivers creates a dynamic play that already has audiences enraptured.

Taccone sat down last month and talked about what went into bringing A Shot Rang Out to audiences and why it’s the perfect vehicle for the times we live in.

What makes A Shot Rang Out such a poignant and timely play?
“Well, it doesn’t get any more topical. It’s about a guy who’s emerging from a pandemic. A guy who’s emerging from a place of great isolation for a very long time. A person who’s emerging from a place where his habits have been broken and new ones have had to take their place. … There are beautiful, long passages in this play where the character articulates his experience in a way that feels existentially, very, very immediate and relatable to everybody. Everybody. We’ve all gone through this thing for better and for worse. This struggle, which has brought up different things for different folks. But the struggle is there for everybody.”

What are the directorial challenges and nuances in directing a one-man play?
“Directing a solo show is different than directing a multi-cast play. The relationship with the actor is different. It’s more intimate. You’re more privy to a single individual’s personal habits, nuances, behaviors, defense mechanisms and strengths. You get a front-row seat to this person and you are the audience. You’re sort of sitting in for another character in the play. … One person shows in general tend to be more intense. You have to understand who the individual is and what they need. ... What David (Ivers) needs isn’t what John Leguizamo needs and what John Leguizamo needs isn’t what Sarah Jones needs and certainly not what Carrie Fisher needed. There’s a very wide range of adaptive mechanisms that come into play when you engage with a particular person and the story they’re trying to tell.”

Let’s take this another step. Tell us about the experience of directing ‘A Shot Rang Out’.
“It’s a particularly unique challenge. The piece doesn’t have a lot of physical fireworks. It doesn’t have a lot of magic tricks. It doesn’t have a lot of aces up its sleeve. It’s going to mean the act of watching this guy process the material, process his story and be both courageous and vulnerable enough to tell it. That’s the event. … This is one of the few solo shows I’ve done, maybe the only one, where the performer did not write the material. David is an actor, but he’s still interpreting Richard’s work. That’s fun, because there’s a distance mechanism that we can both analyze and address. But he’s creating a character and that character has to appear to be him.”

Talk about your relationship with David Ivers and what he brings to this challenging role:
“It feels special because (he) is a longtime colleague and pal and associate. That feels like a really solid foundation to re-emerge into something approaching normalcy, if you can use that word anymore. … David has a long and illustrious and rich career as an actor. He came at this from the opposite way (I did). He was an actor for many years and then started to direct. … For him, this is about actually using muscles crying to be used.

How do you think audiences will respond to such a powerful, engaging work?
“That’s a big question mark. Nobody knows what people are used to now. Are they so used to Netflix melodramas that they won’t have the nervous system to sit back and watch this thing roll out? Watching David, it’s going to be pretty impressive. It’s going to be pretty impressive. There won’t be any doubt when he opens this about his ability, his talent or his desire. I think that will be on full display and I think that will be exciting.”

Learn more and buy tickets to A Shot Rang Out.