5 Questions with Eileen Schuyler
Eileen Schuyler is one of the premiere actors of the Capital Region, from her 25 shows at the New York State Theatre Institute, to her great achievements at Capital Repertory Theatre in “4000 Miles,” “33 Variations” and others. She is also an invaluable supporter, marked by her frequent attendance at many Capital Region theater productions and her Artistic Direction of Theater Voices, which presents free staged readings of plays at Steamer 10 Theatre. She has also been building a stellar directing resume at Theatre Institute at Sage where her productions of “Our Town,” “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Laramie Project” were greatly enjoyed and esteemed by this writer. This weekend sees the opening of two productions she’s involved with: “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily,” which she directed at TIS, and “Ghost-Writer” by Michael Hollinger at Theater Voices, where she is the Artistic Director.
PW: You’re directing “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily,” your fourth show at TIS, which has casts drawing from the Russell Sage campus and the community. Can you talk about what it’s like introducing the students to a collaboration with artists from the community?
ES: Actors from the community bring experience—both in life and art—as well as a seriousness to their work that inspires students to approach rehearsal in that same dedicated way. It raises the bar for everyone. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to cast David Baecker and Shayne Cameris in TIS shows. For “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily” I’m bringing in local actors Michael Sinkora and David Quinones Jr., as well as Sage alumna Francesca Volpe to add to members of the Sage community. We are blessed with an extraordinary Stage Manager, Sage student Regina Desrosiers; graduate student Sound Designer Vincent Pruchnick, and professional designers Lynne Roblin (costumes), Eleah Peal (fight choreography), Alena Samoray (lights) and Jesse White (set). This hybrid of students and artists working in the field is gratifying and educational for all concerned.
PW: What do you love about working with students?
ES: Student actors and crew are eager, ambitious, and hopeful. They are not jaded, have tremendous energy, and are like sponges, soaking up the atmosphere, information, and ideas they encounter. And I confess that being maternal in nature, I embrace them as my family.
PW: You are also the Artistic Director of Theater Voices, which has a production of “Ghost-Writer” opening this weekend. What do you think about the wealth of opportunities in the Capital Region?
ES: The opportunities to see and participate in the incredible wealth of theater offerings in this region are boundless. And the various companies provide very different kinds of theater experiences. When Theater Voices (which offers free staged readings in a minimalist form that focuses on language, relationships and ideas) was established in 1989, there were only a handful of local theaters. It’s astonishing how much the artistic community of the Capital Region has grown since then.
PW: What’s the play that changed your life?
ES: Each play changes my life in a unique way, but if I had to pick one I’d have to say “Shirley Valentine,” a 90-page funny and human monologue play that provided me with my most fundamental theater education. If I can name others, I’d say “The Glass Menagerie” and “Death of a Salesman” (both at NYSTI) and “33 Variations” and “4000 Miles” (both at Capital Rep).
PW: What would you like to see in Capital Region theater?
ES: More opportunities for Equity actors to work at colleges and community theaters, for the benefit of all.
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily” by Katie Forgette, at Theatre Institute at Sage Feb. 9, 10, 15, 16 @ 10 am; Feb. 10, 11, 17, 18 @ 7:30 pm; Feb. 12, 19 @ 2 pm. theatre.sage.edu
“Ghost-Writer” by Michael Hollinger at Steamer No. 10 Theatre, 2/10, 2/11 at 7:30 pm and 2/11, 2/12 at 2:30 pm. Free.