Hadden sees, hears direction for Hubbard Hall Theater

Wednesday November 30, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- The Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall new artistic director, John Hadden, has a long history with Shakespeare, including working with the Berkshire's venerable Shakespeare and Company, which means he has a ear for the stage.

He also has a long history of working with successful theater companies, which means he has plans to take the company to the next level of artistic development and financial stability.

"I like to downplay (his time at Shakespeare and Company), but it was my good fortunate to work with them," Hadden said in a recent interview. "People in the theater, when they have had the chance to do a lot of Shakespeare, it is hard for them to go back to contemporary plays because it is just so beautifully written, and the layers of psychological and emotional levels is great to work on for a actor -- every villain has a broken heart ..." But "Because of all that exposure, I think I have a really good ear. I am really interested in the sound of a play, in the thing that happens."

Hadden's "ear" for the play is currently on display at Hubbard Hall as the theater company will close "Thrills, Spills and Lonely Hearts: An Evening of One Act Plays," directed by Hadden, this weekend, with shows Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m.

The performance include one-act plays from familiar playwrights such as Beckett, Chekhov and Pinter, as well as original works from Hadden and Mary-Ann Greanier. This is the third Hubbard work he has directed; this last season he directed "Madwoman of Chaillot."

Before coming to Hubbard Hall, Hadden was a founding member and associate artistic director of Shakespeare & Company and artistic director/co-founder of Counterpoint Theater in Boston. He has a 30-year career as an actor, director, playwright and teacher of acting and theater. He holds a Theater Arts BFA from SUNY Purchase and a Writing MFA from Goddard College.

Hadden actually took over the Hubbard Hall company in April, but "I was happy not to have too much fanfare," he said. "I wanted to let the pieces speak for themselves."

Hadden also says the time has allowed him to learn more about the company -- and to come to some decisions on its future.

Hadden knows that in addition to picking the plays the Hubbard Hall company will do, he must also be aware of the bottom line. So, for all his love of Shakespeare, Hadden said this last summer's annual Shakespeare tour will likely be the last tour in its current form.

"It was mostly to spread the word" about the theater company, he said. But "because we operate on a shoestring, it becomes really important to control the expense side, and that is really expensive, on the expense side, that summer tour."

While he sees things that need to be changed at the Hubbard Hall, he sees himself building on the strengths established by Kevin Maguire, the company's founding artistic director, who left two years ago.

Maguire "laid this foundation which included building this audience, his audience has an appetite for unusual plays. People expect it, they want it."

And as artistic director, that makes his job much easier.

"Choosing the season is probably first on the list (of his duties with the Hubbard company)," he said, "keeping it affordable, keeping the budget, hiring the artists involved. ... This season we have fairly large cast plays, the (current) one acts has, I think, 14 involved. Next is ‘Night of the Iguana,' which is 11, I think. And then there is "Amadaus," which has a lot of people in it."

Hadden will direct "Night..." and play Salieri in "Amadaus." And he says both plays, while familiar, will offer the audience something new as well -- something that his Shakespeare experience has taught him to do.

"I have been doing Shakespeare for most of my career, and there is always some impression people have about those plays," he said. "I think it is my duty to break the (audience's idea of the play) ... What does everybody think about that and how can I break it apart? I want to use the text to show something different."

This season is really the kind of balance of contemporary and classic work he envisions the company presenting. "The idea is the classical work will give form to the contemporary work, and the contemporary work will give the classic work a sense of place," he said.

He also sees his job at Hubbard Hall as bringing the "craft" of acting to the theater company's actors.

"I have taught a lot," Hadden said. "I have worked with different kinds of people, I've worked with third and fourth graders, I have worked with professional actors, and I have worked with high schoolers ... I don't like the idea of a mentor relationship (with local actors) but I like the idea of showing them how to discover what the play is about, discovering what we can do that we do not usually do, as actors. ... discovery of craft and skill and self. All the years I have spent teaching, exactly in the middle of my professional work, it gives me a feeling of what I can get out of the text."

Hadden also says the people in the company, and the audience they bring in, are the strength of the company.

"The thing that (Hubbard Hall) does really well is that the people just keep giving, the actors and the staff ... that just allows for all this to happen. The mix (of professionals and those learning) is just perfect," he said. "The second thing is the audience, people here have connections to the community and the community have a connection to the people here ... they see people they know and when they see somebody they are comfortable with in a different setting, it changes their whole perception."

He also sees both strengths and needs in Hubbard Hall itself.

"We do want to improve the infrastructure, we want to improve the lighting system. We want to make our risers more flexible, to modernize, so just a few people can set up and take down. ... That is the beauty of this space, we can do stuff in the round, we can do stuff at both ends," he said.

"Mainly. I would like to see the seats filled, that is my goal. Right now we operate at about 50 percent capacity ... we need to create an experience the people want to experience ... I'd like to see Sunday talks with the audience, I'd like to see symposia. I want it to be an experience."

Hubbard Hall is located at 25 East Main Street. For information and tickets call 518-677-2495 or visit hubbardhall.org.


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