The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 3: Director Nicole A. Watson on ‘World Builders’

This Special Edition of The Playwright’s Playground begins ‘The Playmaker Series: CATF 2015.’ In a series of in depth conversations, I speak with the artistic teams associated with the plays at this year’s Contemporary American Theater Festival. Playwrights, and the Directors share revealing behind the scene insights about their inspirations and the development of their new plays.

Meet World Builders‘ director Nicole A. Watson.

Director Nicole A. Watson. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.
Director Nicole A. Watson. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Johnna Adams’ latest play World Builders is debuting at CATF this year as a 90-minute National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins: Tell me about your approach to bringing to life this new play?

Nicole A. Watson: With any new play, the joy/dilemma is always figuring out how the thing that sounds really good in a reading, or in your own reading of it, works once it is up on its feet and being done. Reading the play and doing the play are not the same thing. What is the engine that will sustain the production for the actors and the audience? I don’t know if my approach to this new play is different than my approach to any other play. You have to figure it out. You ask a lot of questions. You try different things. You work with your collaborators to make it make sense.

How closely did you consult with Johnna Adams on this new reveal, and how integral have the actors and the play rehearsal process been to creating the play you envisioned when you first read this play?

Playwright Johnna Adams.
Playwright Johnna Adams.

Johnna and I met and spoke about the play earlier this year and she attended 3 rehearsals. It’s important to have the playwright available to answer questions. You really learn what the playwright knows about the play that may not necessarily be in the script and then it’s up to the playwright to decide if that information belongs somewhere in the script so that someone else can do a production of World Builders, down the road. I think Chris and Brenna are the first 2 actors to devote a substantial amount of time to discovering who Max and Whitney could be, and their input had been invaluable. The actors, designers, the stage managers, and I have had a wonderful time rehearsing and discovering the play.

Why are you a theater Director? Growing up when did you know a life in the theater arts was the life for you?

I’ve always loved theater. I suppose I’ve always known that I wanted to be in theater. I’ve done other things but I was never quite able to give up on the idea of being a theater artist. I performed for a while but once I started directing, I knew that that is what I really wanted to be doing and I am grateful that I get to do it. Still, I think you have to question if a life in the theater is the thing you want above everything else or how you will make a life in the theater work with the other things you may want in life. You make a lot of sacrifices for this, and you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

How did CATF find you to direct this? What has been your biggest surprise in the unlayering of this play?

I teach at NYU and one of my colleagues has worked at CATF several times. Therese introduced me to Ed and he sent me World Builders. We met and discussed the play and I was really drawn to it. Johnna and I met, and the rest, as they say “is history.”

Has there been an aspect to this play and the CATF experience that has been particularly challenging? What has been the most rewarding about all of this?

With a new play, there’s no precedent. You don’t have another production to fall back on so you really have to trust your gut and trust the instincts and ideas of your colleagues. CATF has been a wonderful place to work- idyllic almost. Unlike living in New York, where you are doing 10 things at ones, the only thing I had to think about was this play. It was liberating to have the time to focus on it and discuss it with the actors and designers.

What do you hope the audience takes away after 90 minutes with World Builders?

I hope that the audience, even if they might not initially relate to Max and Whitney, can grow to love them and their choices, even if it’s not the choices that you or I might make. We should all get to be advocates for our own happiness.


World Builders plays through August 2, 2015, at the Contemporary American Theater Festival performing in the Marinoff Theater – Center for Contemporary Arts/II – 62 West Campus Drive, in Shepherdstown, WV. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 876-3473/(800) 999-2283, or purchase them online.

The Playwright’s Playground: Playwright Johnna Adams Discusses Giving Herself Permission to Write and Reveals ‘Gidion’s Knot’ Challenges and the Gordian Knot Analogy.

The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 1: Playwright Barbara Hammond on ‘We Are Pussy Riot.’

The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 2: Director May Adrales on ‘Everything You Touch.”

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.

The Playwright’s Playground is a monthly in-depth conversation with local female playwrights and artists in the D.C. theatre community. Female theatre artists make up more than 50 percent of those involved in the theatre, yet the number of female playwrights being produced is dramatically lower. In this continuing Column, I will also interview and introduce DCMTA readers to the many talented playwrights in the DMV area to learn about their writing process, their inspirations, and their motivations.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.

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Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also serves as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA. Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best describe Sydney-Chanele's approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, 'Modern Love is Automatic' premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated - 'The Wonderful Woes of Marsh' - which is rounding the film festival circuit. In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit,Neil Simon's Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater, Her next producing effort in 2014 is Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky' for Port City Playhouse. Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival,and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She is active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions - [email protected] [Note: Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.]


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