People You Should Know . . . Rachel Levens

RACHEL LEVENS (Director) is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA where she received her BFA in Theater with an emphasis in Original Works. Rachel is a new play director, divisor, dramaturg, and teaching artist. In New York she directed Madigan and the Magic Box written and performed by Lindsey Leonard (Dixon Place) and served as an assistant director on various premiere productions including Selma ’65 by Catherine Filloux (La MaMa) and16 Words or less by Peggy Stafford (Clubbed Thumb). In Seattle she assistant directed with The Satori Group onreWilding and This Land is Always Known. Rachel served as the dramaturg for the literature performance piecePhiladelphia and Other Stories by writer Paul Rome and composer Roarke Menzies (The Bushwick Starr) and was the assistant dramaturg on the world premiere of Stuck (Washington Ensemble Theater). Currently, Rachel volunteers as a supporting artist at CO/LAB Theater Group.  

When did you know you wanted to be a director?

I knew I wanted to be a director while I was studying for my BFA. I don’t think there was particular moment when I knew, but I do feel gradually it just clicked. Directing allowed me to take all my seemingly disparate interests in dramaturgy, applied theatre, performance art, clown, and interdisciplinary arts into one role. I could apply everything I loved about all those other art forms and apply them to my work as a director.  

I wanted to have agency with the work I was creating. I am interested in developing, directing new plays and devising because I want to create communal and relevant experiences for an audience.

I also I love plays, playwrights, rehearsals, and collaboration. And, as a director you get the unique opportunity to be trusted with a playwright's words and create a concept with other artists in order to bring the characters and world to life. 

Tell me about HYENA.  What was the most challenging part of mounting this production? 

HYENA is an interactive solo performance that follows that trajectory of Hy as she examines her public and private self.

The most challenging part of mounting HYENA is that the play is interactive. In rehearsals you don't have an audience to interact with and that leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions and unknown factors about certain moments in the play. 

But, living in these unknowns is exciting because it means every show and audience member is going to have a different experience.

What do you love most about the play?

I love HYENA because the spoken text and stage directions are poetic. It allows me freedom to interpret the action of the play and create a unique vocabulary around the action of play.

What kind of writing inspires you?

I am inspired by writing that asks me to confront society and myself. When I read something I want my worldview to change be a more empathetic, knowledgeable, and understanding person. 

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work as a director thus far?

Visual art and going to museums has the biggest influence on my work as a director. I think the two mediums have a lot of similarities because both explore space, time, lines, color, shape and perspective. 

Visual art allows me to ground a production in a metaphorical way. It allows me to have something that tangible that helps me communicate how I see, think, and feel about the play.

What else are you working on right now?

I am a supporting artist at CO/LAB Theater Group. CO/LAB whose mission is to “provide individuals with developmental disabilities theater arts opportunities.” We have our performances at the PIT on June 11 and 12 at 1pm.

I am directing The Expulsion By: Mary Decarlo, which will have its premiere in the Thespis Theatre Festival on July 15-18. 

Posted by Zack Calhoon