Q & A with The Neighborhood Director Lauren Moran Mills
We’re excited that The Neighborhood is a musical! We’ve seen the Dreamcatcher ensemble sing their hearts out at cabarets and variety shows, but not recently onstage in a scripted musical. What’s your experience working with this group of actors who normally appear in dramatic comedies?
Lauren: A tremendous experience; they are all pros! Musical theater or not, they give 100% to everything. I feel so honored to be working with all of them individually on this piece specifically.
A director’s vision for a show is formed from the playwright’s words. The Neighborhood’s playwright is Dreamcatcher’s artistic director, Laura Ekstrand. And Laura is also in the cast. What’s it like directing an actress who’s also the playwright?
Lauren: Laura is a generous playwright; “the play is the thing” so to say. She steps back and lets me create The Neighborhood, adding insight when needed to both me and the actors.
Once a script is published the words and stage directions are locked in place and the director crafts the show around them. In this case, with The Neighborhood being a new show, you have the playwright on set every day. Has the show evolved over the rehearsal process, and how has that affected your direction of it?
Lauren: I love working on new pieces because there is no pre-conceived notion about how the piece should be presented. Naturally during the rehearsal process things evolve and change; it’s part of the journey.
In stage plays the director calls all the shots. What’s it like directing a musical, where you’re also working with a music director and a choreographer?
Lauren: The collaboration with musical director Jack Bender has been inspiring. He has added so many layers to the score; I trust him completely. Generally speaking I choreograph my own shows since I am a choreographer as well.
Your name sounds familiar. Have you ever performed or directed at Dreamcatcher? Where else might we have seen you?
Lauren: The Neighborhood is my first mainstage production here at Dreamcatcher Rep, although I directed last season’s reading of Engagement Rules at Dreamcatcher’s Meet The Artist Series. In other NJ professional theaters I have been directing with The Women’s Theater Company for the past 10 years, and I also worked with 12 Miles West and The Growing Stage. I am also a teaching artist with Pushcart Players.
Is The Neighborhood appropriate for kids? What ages?
Lauren: While there’s nothing specifically INappropriate in The Neighborhood, the show was not specifically written with kids in mind. Your middle school and high school-aged kids should be entertained.
Director Lauren Moran Mills
Lauren directing on the set of The Neighborhood with Jack Bender (left) and Harry Patrick Christian