Most aspiring actors and directors believe they can only pursue their careers in New York or Los Angeles. Julia Katz, a senior theatre arts major, disagrees.
“I think that one of the benefits of taking creative ownership of your own work and working in a grassroots context of an ensemble is that you don’t have to work through any system,” Katz said. “I don’t think that I have to go to New York or LA in order to create theatre. If I get a dedicated group of artists that I respond to and we can collaborate together, there is beautiful theatre work everywhere.”
Katz is directing her original new show, “Blinded,” which is premiering at Virginia Tech.
“I coordinated it and put it together so I think that’s how my role as a director fits into my role as a writer,” Katz explained. “I think as a writer you’re a lot more defensive, a lot less of a leader; it’s more of a quiet activity. Then as a director, it’s the opposite; you’re just the boisterous decision making voice and I think that’s where it came into conflict most.”
“Blinded,” adds a 21st century twist to the classic, “Oedipus Rex.” In this new play the main character, Ed, is an executive of an electronics company, which is used as a tool to address issues of globalization and how our international economy relates from consumer to producer.
Katz generated this idea last spring when she took a class called human rights in the global market place. The course issued many different human rights issues regarding coffee, chocolate, electronics and other items we interact with on a daily scale.
“We buy these things and don’t really think about them,” Katz said. “That course challenged me as a consumer to think about where my stuff came from aside from just a general scale. One day I was actually just sitting in class and started writing down notes furiously about this play and how I could turn this into an idea and that’s (how it started).”
According to Katz, it has been a collaborative effort.
“I think that everyone in our ensemble is taking multiple roles,” Katz said. “We’re all seeing ourselves as creators of this piece as opposed to just an actor or a designer or a director, so we have several of our designers acting in the piece. We’re all seeing ourselves taking ownership of this work.”
While Katz feels this type of joint ownership may not occur in a traditional piece, they have much more flexibility with a newly created piece.
“With this (piece) you’re acting in it and you contributed to the making of it,” Katz said. “You’re a part of it in a stronger way, and I think that’s really useful for an actor or director. We all have a really strong tie to this.”
Katz has been performing since she was young and started doing theatre more seriously in high school. She began creating her own work in college.
Katz considers herself primarily a director, after getting her first opportunity as a choreographer in high school. That gave her the chance to see what directing is like, which she prefers to acting.
“I think too much while I act to really enjoy it,” Katz said. “I’m trying to process everything, and being a director I enjoy getting my voice out there and leading a group. You can just be honest. I enjoy that creative leadership.”