Rachel Klein is a theatre director, choreographer and costume/production designer, recently coined "The Mistress of the Macabre" by Flavorpill. Her production of Around the World in 80 Days received rave reviews for both the production and Rachel herself ("Endlessly clever" New York Post, "inventive" by TheaterMania and "a new generation’s Julie Taymor" by Woman Around Town) and is currently running Off-Broadway at the New Theater at 45th Street (354 West 45th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
Rachel's latest production, Dead Dream Machine by Jake Thomas is an interdisciplinary horror anthology. The debut production at La Luz Art Space in Brooklyn (135 Thames Street) through October 13, features frightening and fun fast-paced nightmare scenarios, aerial acrobatics, video art, puppetry, magic and a terrifying twist on classical ballet. Click here for tickets!
1. Let's start with Around the World in 80 Days. What made you want to direct this show? Around The World in 80 Days was a great opportunity to put an interpretive twist on classic inspired material. I was attracted to the project because of both the time period, which I had a lot of fun playing with and glamming up, as well as the action-adventure structure of the piece.
I was able to infuse the piece with a Neo-Victorian edge, larger than life staging, and the convention of the actors weaving in and out narrative and characterization.
2. What did you enjoy most about staging this show in the newly renovated The New Theater at 45th Street? Having a newly renovated space to play in is always exciting. The Around the World in 80 Days design team was given an extraordinary opportunity because we had a blank slate to create from. The space now has panoramic Victorian murals, LED lights, state of the art sound…it’s amazing what we were able to do to bring this show to life!
3. What attracted you to Dead Dream Machine? An omnibus horror anthology? What’s not to love? This show is a series of small plays and vignettes, held together by a nightmare ballerina and ghoulish aerial performances. It’s a hybrid of one act horror pieces and a variety show…pretty intense to put together, but a breath of fresh air to see come to life.
4. What did you enjoy most about working with the cast and creative team of both shows? Both pieces comprise of performers from a multitude of backgrounds. My cast on Around the World in 80 Days was balanced out by classical actors, and hilarious improv comedians. Our original "Phileas Fogg," played by Broadway veteran (and all around awesome guy!) Bryce Ryness, was the ultimate straight man alongside the gorgeous and talented Shrine Babb. The world of hysterical characters unfolds around the romantic leads, and we hired some of the funniest actors ever to create these roles—the boys from the Nuclear Family (Jimmy Ray Bennett, Stephen Guarino, and John Gregorio), a long lasting improv show with an enormous cult following, brought the comedic joy to the show.
With Dead Dream, we have actors, comedians, burlesque stars, a magician, aerialists, and a ballerina to bring Jake Thomas’s horror-scape to life. Each scene tells a different story, Tales from the Crypt style, and is threaded together using each performer’s various talents as the glue of the production.
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing both Around the World in 80 Days and Dead Dream Machine? I feel that both pieces have their own very distinctive artistic voice. Around the World in 80 Days is a comedic romp, where as Dead Dream Machine (although having comedic moments) is an homage to short-form horror. Both provide a lot of eye candy, which of course I hope audiences respond to, but both leave one with a very different feeling.
6. Dead Dream Machine is playing at Brooklyn's new space La Luz. What was it like to work in this new space? What does this space offer that another venue might not? The space is brand-spanking-new. The paint on the walls was still drying the night of our first preview. This space really upholds the Bushwick spirit of "we can do it!" which I really admire. The venue owners really believe in what they’re doing, and it’s incredibly refreshing.
7. Dead Dream Machine combines aerial acrobatics, video art, puppetry, magic & a terrifying twist on classical ballet. What's the best part about working with these different genres and make them work together? I love that there is always something to look at. It was a challenge to build it into a cohesive flow, but a joy to put together. I am so excited by the puppets—I had always wanted to work with puppets, and Elena Delgado’s creations have been a blast for us to breathe life into!
8. What is it like to watch your artistic vision come alive from concept to execution? Nerve-wracking! There is a lot of pushing to get a vision from the page to the stage, and sometimes things are altered in the process. I always believe in my performers, in their energy and talent, to interpret the staging in ways I hadn’t even foreseen.
9. How does it feel to adjust your artistic vision from time to time after it's execution? As with Around the World in 80 Days, when a show runs for a long time, it is inevitable that changes will occur. We have a new cast now (the wonderful James Seol, Guy LeMonnier, Matt Lutz, and Gary Littman) who have added their own touches and flourishes to the performance. It’s the same show, but a different show at the same time. I am proud of its continued energy, and am looking forward to seeing what’s next for it.
10. What other projects do you have on the horizon that you can talk about and get us excited about? I am working with the amazing Angela Harriell on a collaboration we have cooking, Carrie: Blood, Fire & Ballet, a sexy, dance interpretation of Carrie the novel, featuring the Love Show dancers. Stay tuned for details!
11. What is something most people don't know about you? That I was once working as a trade show model at a Halloween convention in Chicago, whereupon I was dressed as a pink fairy princess and then acted as arm-candy to Dee Snider (Yeah, that’s right, from Twisted Sister). When we went into the haunted house technology portion of the convention, my fairy wings got stuck to a wall of animatronic zombie arms and Dee’s two bouncers had to pry me free.
Recent credits include the Mondo Cane Dance Commission from Dixon Place to create her dance and circus nightmare-scape, Symphony of Shadows and the critically acclaimed morbid fantasia The Tragedy of Maria Macabre. Rachel is set to direct the Off-Broadway-bound rock ‘n roll musical Gay Bride of Frankenstein, which she directed at the inaugural iStar Theater Lab, followed by an industry reading. Her other productions include Go-Go Killers! a 1960’s retro-futuristic dance drama about gang debs on the loose, All Kinds of Shifty Villains, a pulp noir portrayal of a man losing his mind and a Neo-Victorian interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was nominated for an Innovative Theater Award for "Outstanding Director of a Play" and for "Outstanding Choreography/Movement," for the aerial musical spectacular, Circus of Circus at the House of Yes. Her choreographic work has been presented all over the city including at the Kitchen, La MaMa, Theater for the New City, DUMBO Dance Festival, Night of 1000 Stevies, legendary rock ‘n roll club Don Hill's, Galapagos Art Space, (le) Poisson Rouge, HOWL Festival and 45 Bleecker Street. Rachel holds a BA in theatrical directing from Columbia College, is the recipient of an Emerging Artist’s Residency from the Tides Foundation, is an alumnus of the International Director’s Symposium in Spoleto, Italy and is an Associate Member of the SDC.