Actor, Director, Professor
Carol served as a lecturer in acting at the University of Iowa for several years. Before Iowa, she was Guest Artist Director at Princeton University, where she taught acting in the Program of Theatre and Dance; she also taught in the English Department and in the Humanities Program. While teaching there, she was profiled in Ken Macrorie's Twenty Great Teachers. She has been a Visiting Artist Scholar for the National Endowment for the Humanities and has conducted workshops throughout the U.S., Japan, Russia, and India. In 2001, she directed her translation of Chekov's The Seagull, and in spring 2002 toured Steven Dietz's Nina Variations in Moscow, in Melikhovo at the International Chekhov Festival, and in St. Petersburg at the Alexandrinsky Theatre. Her cast featured the first Americans to perform in Russia's oldest theatre. Since 1982, she has spent her summers teaching acting at Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, where in 2005 she was named the Eleanor and Frank Griffith Professor Literature. She also taught at the high school level for 9 years in New Hampshire where she was named Teacher of the Year. In 2006, she was a Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College where she taught and directed Dreaming Biloxi.
Her most recent project is a film adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull. Carol will introduce a screening of the film at The Mollie New Works Festival in May 2020.
What playwrights inspire you the most?
Caryl Churchill, Anton Chekhov, Shakespeare just to name a very few. It's a hard question to answer briefly because I've been inspired by so many playwrights. For instance I adore Molière, who risked his life to produce his plays. He was brave and audacious, and how can we not admire that? I love Beckett, especially Happy Days, which I keep by my bedside. I've worked with whipsmart emerging playwrights: Tory Stewart, Jen Silverman, Sam Hunter, Billy Aronson, and The Mollie's own Randy Noojin. I like all those ancient Greek plays: will Antigone ever be irrelevant? I almost peed in my pants watching a Feydeau farce. Irene Fornes is one of our great poets of the stage and oh – Tennessee Williams, that beautiful tender-hearted man who has given us Americans plays that line for line can outmatch volumes of others' dialogue in their poetry and truth. So many.
How did you become a theatre artist?
I came through the back door. I was an English major in college but was enamored with theatre ever since I played baby Jesus in a church play when I was 5. I still remember looking up at the lights and feeling the energy coming from the audience. I was an English teacher for several years, directing theatre as an extra-curricular activity but in a small rural ew Hampshire community, theatre had a huge impact on both the doers and the watchers. It was life-changing for them and for me. So I decided to focus on theatre and although I was initially interested in acting, I soon gravitated to directing, where I had more agency. I've been fortunate to work in academic theatre ( at Princeton and at the U of Iowa) where I could pick and choose the pieces I wanted to work on and had technical and financial support. Universities are a safe haven for producing works that matter.
Does directing (or writing, or acting) energize you? Exhaust you? Both? Some other reaction to it as a practice?
After a few years of directing nonstop, I took some time off to figure out if directing theatre was a passion or an addiction. Directing is all consuming and there is never enough time to get it all right. I abused my body - no sleep. bad eating habits - and handed over the lion's share of the house care and child rearing to my husband (he's a director too, so he understood). I was feverishly obsessed and thought about the production day and night for weeks ahead and weeks after, never feeling 100% satisfied. I concluded that theatre is a passion that turned into an addiction, but it's the best addiction one could have.
What is the most rewarding part of creative collaboration for you?
When an actor or a designer brings something new to the table - something that I could never have imagined - I'm over the moon and giddy with excitement. I also love stage managers who are gifted in keeping a very complex operation running smoothly and keeping everyone happy to be in that space. I've worked with talented playwrights on new works and putting our energies and talents together to realize a vision is an exhilarating feeling -- like giving birth, but without needing the epidural.
Do you see theatre as a tool for social progress? As entertainment? Both? Neither?
Both. I think Entertainment Value is crucial and yet it's hollow if that's all there is. For theatre to be a tool for social progress doesn't mean you're doing plays only about social justice per se. The work I did in that small New Hampshire rural school was the best way to enrich the lives of those students and engage their imaginations and sense of empathy. Because it was a very small school -- all grades 1-12 in one red brick building -- we developed a way for the older kids to write, adapt, and perform plays for the younger kids. We even developed a language arts curriculum based on theatre skills. And all the while we were having fun. I'm a fierce advocate for children's theatre. How can we expect to generate theatre-loving adult audiences if we don't give them a taste of it when they are young? I've also directed for Theatre of Ten Thousand Things which brings live theater to audiences who can't/don't go to traditional theatres -- mostly the disenfranchised and the poor. The point is to bring top notch quality theatre to audiences and let those great stories help them see our common humanity and perhaps navigate their own lives just a little bit more easily.
What are you working on now?
Now that I'm retired, I'm free to explore other art forms. I'm attending The Mollie not so much as a theater artist, but rather as a director and producer of a full-length film, an adaptation of a stage play I've had a love affair with for decades. It's a project of love that took 5 years to make and it's the most challenging artistic process of my artistic life. I'm in the process of peddling that film, The Seagull, to various film festivals around the country. I'm also writing and illustrating a book of stories for my granddaughter. Just for her. They are stories about her life and about my life as a young girl. I'm drawing a lot and want to return to that place we all had as children of creating something without worrying about pleasing anyone -- that's a form of freedom I'd like to get back in touch with again.