Alison Vasquez: Guest Artist Q&A

“We do better together.” -Alison

Alison Vasquez, the director of Angel Street, graduated from UNC as an acting major in 2009. We are so thrilled to have her back in Colorado directing this beautiful LTR production and cannot wait for audiences to see the final product! Alison is from San Antonio, Texas and is an instructor of theatre at San Antonio College. She completed her Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Theatre at The Ohio State University, and her Bachelor’s in theatre from the University of Northern Colorado. She trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company and their Stand Up for Shakespeare pedagogy. She performed as company member and director with CP Repertory Theater Company for seven years, performing in North America and seven countries in South America. Alison is celebrating her forteenth year of marriage with her husband Rene, and their three-year old daughter, Paloma. Directing: La Pastorela, Panza Monologues (Teatro Audaz San Antonio); Zoot Suit, Early Music & Shakespeare (San Antonio College); ¡Luchadora!, Zoot, This Above All, The Comedy of Errors (Palo Alto College); La Flor de La Canela, This Above All (The Ohio State University); The Alabaster Jar, Look Ma No Mirrors, Anybody Know the Way?, The Assay, Died October 20th (CP Repertory Theater Company), Simply Simone (Little Theatre of the Rockies). Playwriting: La Flor de La Canela, A Tejano Pastorela, Mommy Manifesto In Haiku, This Above All, and The Camouflage Project. Acting: ¡Luchadora! (Austin Latino New Play Festival); La Flor de La Canela (The Wexner Center; BAAD Ass Women’s Festival NYC; Tobin Hill Festival; World Theatre Day SA 2014); House of Flesh (Yoma Productions); Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont As Told By Himself (Whistling in the Dark Theatre Company); The Sunshine Boy’s, Forever Plaid and Picnic (Little Theatre of the Rockies); Othello (Alison Bomber, Director, OSU/RSC Collaboration).

Q: You are an alumni of UNC’s School of Theatre Arts and Dance. What are you excited about being back at the school to direct LTR’s production of Angel Street?

A: What I’m really excited about returning to UNC is the caliber of students and guests that I get to work with. That’s always something I enjoy. As a professor, it’s great to come into a setting where students and professionals can come together and learn together. I can count on a high caliber at UNC, as it was a competitive and professional school when I attended. I am always impressed with the growth the school has made since I graduated and look forward to working with such a professional group of people.

Q: What do you love about Angel Street and what do you hope audiences will take away from it?

A: Last year the play, Simply Simone, was politically driven. I’m excited to say, “let’s have fun!” I love that Angel Street is a play that reminds us of our humanity. It reminds us of our ability to empathize and help others, because, sometimes, in the world of clickbait, it’s nice to sit back, relax, and be reminded that we can help each other. It’s good to know that there will always be adversity, but there will always be someone there that you can help or can help you if you need it. Two of my favorite characters are Mrs. Manningham, who does help, and Rough who can come in and help her because she knows something’s missing but isn’t sure what. It’s also set in England in the 1880s-1890s which is one of my favorite places and favorite eras. In a nutshell, the shows that I love to do are the ones that speak to the human condition. No one lives in a box, but even if you do, you can’t live in that box forever. That’s what it is to be human, once you find one other person to connect with, life is better. We do better together.

Q: You are a performer as well as a director. How do you feel like being a performer has helped you with directing?

A: I never set out to be a director. I majored and got my Masters of Fine Arts in acting, which is the highest you can go academically with acting. I took one directing for film class, and I fell in love with the medium. Actors do their own character work, but directors do the work for all the characters. So, acting helped me understand character analysis, but directing helped me go deeper. Simon Stephens, one of my favorite playwrights, said “a play is a little turtle on its back, sometimes all you have to do is flip it over and it scuttles on its way.” And that’s what a director does, they give the little living being a way to its feet. As humans, we often focus on our own journeys, but how great does it feel when we help others on their journey? I get to help bring each character to life, have their own story and their own life, which is amazing. I don’t think I would have that appreciation if I hadn’t been an actor first.

Q: What is the best experience you have had as an actor?

A: As an actor, the most incredible experience was working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was cast as Emilia in Othello. I was cast by Alison Bomber, who is a vocal coach as well as a director, and made an amazing connection with her. Working with RSC was, obviously, a wonderful experience. Performing Shakespeare with the company that does it best gave me the chance to perform in front of scholars and people who know Shakespeare, which was nerve wrecking, but I got to learn so much. Being Amelia, who is a plot character, gave me a chance to reach a level of experience I never would have been able to reach without the RSC.

Q: What is the best experience you’ve had as a director?

A: As a director, the best thing I’ve ever done was directing a show that I co-wrote called This Above All which is about the status of education in our country—teaching to the test—and how we’re failing our students. It was challenging because of the political divisiveness, but teaching the actors that it’s not about their viewpoint, but the character’s view point, was a big learning experience. As an actor, you have to play the character truthfully. We named the show off the Shakespeare quote, “this above all: to thine own self be true.”

Q: What is some advice you could give to aspiring artists looking to perform or direct?

A: The truth is, work hard, and then work hard, and work harder than you’ve ever worked, then don’t stop. Don’t work without a goal. It’s like someone who wants to lose 50 pounds, but never does anything to get there. Never stop training. Don’t stop training no matter what. There’s still so much to learn, it will always be a process. The other thing is knowing your craft. The truth is, unless you know how to memorize really well, you won’t make it as a tv actor, they don’t have the time to wait around for you to memorize lines. Excellence is expected in all aspects of this industry. That simply means knowing your stuff. Finally, there is no shame in changing what you do. You can utilize all the techniques you learn in everything you do. Nothing you do is set in stone, but nothing you do is wasted either.