Call Answered: Peter Dobbins: "The Rainmaker" at The Sheen Center
Last year I saw the Peter Dobbins directed show Death Comes For The War Poets. I was so impressed with his directing that I was very excited for this opportunity to interview Peter about directing The Rainmaker, which is being co-produced by Blackfriars Repertory Theatre & The Storm Theatre (which Peter is a co-founding member & Producing Artistic Director).
The Rainmaker is the story of a charismatic stranger who arrives in town on a hot summer day, bringing hope to a drought-stricken town as well as a lonely spinster in this deeply romantic fable of love, longing, hope, faith, and fulfillment set in the American West of the 1920s.
The Rainmaker will play at The Sheen Center in Black Box Theater (18 Bleecker Street) through May 20. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a director? I really never aspired to be a director. I was an actor. It began as almost an experiment. “Hmm what would happen if while directing a show, I directed actors the way I would want to be directed?” It just snowballed from there.
2. This May you are directing The Rainmaker, a co-production between Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company (which you are a co-founding member of). How did you decide to revive this play? Father Peter John Cameron, the Artistic Director of Blackfriars, had suggested I read the play several years ago. I was not very interested in doing so as I had seen the movie and had thought that had been pretty much a definitive treatment. It was fine but not for me. But I was blown away when I actually first read it and again when I did several readings with actors over the past years to hear the play out loud.
3. Before we get into The Rainmaker, let's talk briefly about The Storm Theatre. What made you want to start your own theatre company? When I moved to New York in the early 1990’s I did not find New York Theatre particularly inspiring. It pretty much seemed that the American Theatre had become a “directors theatre” and, unfortunately, most of the directors couldn’t direct. As an actor, the new work did not really speak to me and the re-staging of classics (that I could afford to see) were usually maddening in their gimmickry. I thought, “what the heck, I think I can do this as well or better than what I’m seeing. Why not try working on things that actually move and interest me as opposed to trying to squeeze myself into something that would not."
4. What do you get from running a theatre company that you don't get from directing? Nothing that I particularly like, other than being able to choose the projects and the people I work with, which is, of course, everything to me. It’s hard work that, I guess, forces me to behave like a grown up. So it’s good for me even if I don’t particularly love it.
5. In this day and age of many Off-Broadway theatre companies shutting it's doors, how do you continue to thrive? Thriving!!!???!!! Hmmm, so this is what thriving feels like :). Well I think we’ve managed to stay around mainly because we’ve always tried to produce theatre as if we are giving a gift. We want to surprise the audience with something that we love, that we think the audience will love. When you proceed in this fashion, you are already rewarding yourself in the doing of it. I think an emphasis on “getting somewhere” or pursuing “success” can sometimes lead to taking dangerous risks and overextension and that is what often leads companies to closing. And, of course, boredom.
6. Now, lets talk about The Rainmaker. What do you feel, as a director, you will bring to this revival that other directors in the past have not? I think the play is perceived as a great star vehicle for whoever plays "Starbuck" and "Lizzie," perhaps because of the movie with Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster or the Broadway revival with Woody Harrelson. It is actually a beautiful ensemble piece and will be presented as such.
7. The Rainmaker tells the story of a charismatic stranger who arrives in town on a hot summer day, bringing hope to a drought-stricken town as well as a lonely spinster in this deeply romantic fable of love, longing, hope, faith, and fulfillment set in the American West of the 1920s. When have you met a charismatic stranger who just turned your world around? I was thrown out of graduate school in my mid 20’s. It was a time of personal crisis. A stranger came into my life and transformed it. The transformation has been ongoing.
8. What gives you the most fulfillment today? The attempting to make something beautiful, in collaboration with both talented newcomers, and most especially, with those who I have repeatedly collaborated with over the past 21 years and who are most responsible for whatever success the theatre has had. That’s artistically, of course. Personally, its my marriage to an unbelievably beautiful woman.
9. What is something you still long for? A true diversity of ideas in the world of the arts.
10. In many ways, with the current administration in office, we are living in a drought-stricken town. How do you think we can bring the hope back that this person in charge has taken away from us? Well, The Rainmaker is about a loud mouth, seemingly delusional braggart that actually delivers a lot more than one would have initially thought, leading us to remember that God moves in very, very mysterious ways.
More on Peter:
Peter is a co-founder of The Storm Theatre, and has directed such Storm productions as T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughraun, John Regis’s Stavrogin’s Confession, Stewart Parker’s Spokesong, William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, Karol Wojtyla’s The Jeweler’s Shop, Job, Jeremiah, and Our God’s Brother, the North American Premiere of House of Desires by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and the world premieres of The Last Starfighter by Skip Kennon and Fred Landau and Linnea by John Regis. As an actor, he has been seen as "Alfred Evelyn" in Edward Bulwar Lytton’s Money and "Lolo" in Pirandello’s Henry IV and has played leading roles in various regional theatres.