Tommy Riordon is one of those guys. He’s that over-achieving student working on two senior projects, his history thesis and his senior studio, in a single semester. If you have been to previous University of Dallas main-stage performances, you surely saw Tommy shine in such shows as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Playboy of the Western World,” or “The Wakefield Cycle” – just to name a few. This semester Tommy has been taking on the role of director with his senior studio “The Pregnant Pause.” Taking a break from his fast and furious schedule, Tommy shares his experience about the particulars of directing, acting and the UD drama department.
MC: How would you describe your directing process?
TR: It’s revolutionary, naturally. No, but really I would say that, at this point, my preferred style of directing is based on the process of figuring out the entities of speech and act and how they are melding with – or creating – tension with a particular text. Every actor speaks and acts differently and in their own specific way.
Not unlike when you have those good old “read alouds” from the “Iliad” in Lit Trad I, you notice that every person’s cadence, demeanor and physical life completely fill in the “gaps” between what you hear and think about something on a textual level, and then what you think when you build on it with actual physical perception and emotional connection. My job is to discover how the actors, with their amazing, natural, God-given talent, can best fill in those gaps with their human emotion. That’s my job. That, and also trying to appear like I know what the heck I’m doing at any given moment.
MC: What is your philosophy on the profession of directing?
TR: I must say, however, that only last year did I begin to seriously consider directing as something I might want to actually do. This year I’ve begun my first attempt at directing. I think what I am starting to get about the philosophy of directing are these three things:
1) Be over-prepared. Like, seriously.
2) Really trust you actors in rehearsal. Their intuition is far better than your over-thinking of everything.
3) You really need people skills. The theater world – and much of the art world, I think – is all about the “who you know” and “what you know” that will impress them.
Impress people. A lot.
See how there was four there when I only said three? I am over-prepared now.
MC: Describe UD drama in three words.
TR: Powerful. Emotional. Truth.
MC: What is your favorite part about directing? What is the most challenging aspect?
TR: My favorite aspect of directing is knowing that I am always right on the cusp of making great art, and when I get there, it will be life-changing. It’s always exciting. I feel more mentally exhausted – in that strange, good, accomplished, UD-academic way – and proud after fleshing out the meaning of a scene and directing something well than after working out some conundrum in an excellent paper.
MC: Can you tell me a bit about your studio?
TR: My studio is a caustic French domestic farce by Georges Feydeau in which a recently married man, with a baby on the way, tries to preserve his status and uphold his ideal belief that he can be the perfect head of the household amidst the chaos of his parturient wife and his snide in-laws. Oh, and there’s also a crazed German midwife who oversees the delivery. Hilarity ensues.
Feydeau wrote the “The Pregnant Pause” between 1905 and 1907 toward the end of France’s Belle Epoch. Feydeau, however, has a distinct sense of humor that transcends time and is very relevant and resonant today especially in this play. That being said, I have chosen to place the play in a contemporary setting and let the ubiquitous and ever-hilarious struggles of young married couples still figuring one another out bring humor, harmony and insight to the UD community.
MC: What do many UD students not realize about drama majors at UD?
TR: Sadly, there are two heart-rending things that many UD students do not realize about drama majors:
1) We can actually manage to complete a senior studio project without overwhelming whining and moaning. This is our fault for our past senior classes presenting themselves in such a way far too many times on the Cap Bar patio. I defy you students this year to hear a lick of such nonsense, however. There is a marked change in this year’s senior class. We will work hard. We will complain less. We will make good art.
2) This being said, one thing people don’t realize about senior drama majors is that we do have feelings, and it hurts when you leave at the intermission between two studios, skipping the second one simply because your friend was only in the first one. Please stay! We want you to see a complete night of theater. If there are two shows, then stay and become twice as cultured!
MC: What distinguishes UD drama majors from the average theater major?
TR: We have an inculcated respect for text. This is gained from being at UD. We also have an unparalleled articulateness present in our art. This is gained by following a process set up by Patrick Kelly, the early drama department head and continued, with various innovations, by our excellent professors Kyle Lemieux and Stefan Novinski. These qualities are ones which (almost) every other theater program in the country lack.
MC: What other projects are you and the senior drama majors up to at this time?
TR: Phil Cerroni and I are writing an adaptation of “Oedipus Rex” to be performed “after hours” in the Spring. It will be mind-blowing. There will be zombies.