Emerging female directors take center stage


We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

“The physical manifestation of Lydia’s midlife crisis is submerged in the sink-a $300 wine-stained silk blouse. Topless and trapped in a public restroom, she can’t embrace her future until she finds cover in the present.” 

If not, perhaps we’ll relate to the blind date gone “horribly, horribly wrong.”

Those are the setups of two of the one-act plays world-premiering at Minneapolis’ Bedlam Theatre January 8-23. Dubbed “The Fresh Five,” the event is mounted by 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities. Three of the plays are by local playwrights, and all five are directed by emerging women directors.

Among them is Leah Adcock-Starr, 25. Though she has many productions under her belt as an actor, educator, assistant director or director- for Children’s Thea-tre Company, CLIMB Theatre, Stages Thea- tre Company, Upright Egg, 20% and others-she embraces the word “emerging” and the potential it suggests.

“I like the idea that we’re all in process-we’re all constantly developing,” she said.

According to 20% Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director and Founder Claire Avitabile, over 20 local directors applied to be among the Fresh Five. The level of interest shows a shortage of opportunities for up-and-coming female artists, she said-something 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities wants to change.

Adcock-Starr came to St. Paul from Wisconsin to attend Hamline University, planning on a law degree there after college. But she also took theater and religion classes-and “it wasn’t hard to tell what really captured me and ignited my interest.” She switched to theater arts and religious studies.

Though she’d planned a law career, Adcock-Starr was no theater virgin: She’d directed a play in high school. The play, “Bang Bang You’re Dead,” was about a school shooting.

“It was a little controversial,” she said.

It fell to Adcock-Starr to convince nervous school administrators to let the student-organized play proceed. Her young troupe rehearsed in backyards and garages rather than at school.

“I think I’ve always been bossy,” she said, but that project brought it to the fore.

Stories change the world
As a student, Adcock-Starr had envisioned practicing law for the benefit of children. But at some point she realized that “theater can also change the world,” she said. “Telling stories is very important.”

Adcock-Starr’s most recent project was directing “Alice in Wonderland” at Stages. After that “incredibly physical, rambunctious” production with a 23-member cast, the director eagerly anticipates the intimacy of her Fresh Five assignment.

“This is a real change of pace for me,” she said. “Two people sitting at a table, having a conversation.” She won’t reveal much more about “Perfect Match,” the bad-date play, calling it “funny, awkward, and familiar-with a surprising, somewhat dark twist.”

Her next project, though, has an element of déjà vu. Adcock-Starr will direct teen actors in Children’s Theatre Company’s Theatre Arts Training program in “columbinus,” about the Columbine school shootings. She was in high school herself when that massacre occurred.

“It’s interesting that I’m coming back to that subject,” she mused. She looks forward to “finding the hope and light in that story… and why we need to keep telling it.”

Asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Adcock-Starr noted that both she and her husband “dream of grad school” (in her case, an M.F.A.), and she’d “love to teach at the college level at some point”-while also directing as often as possible.

“I would love to be living in a city, working in theater, and telling great stories,” she said.