An Interview with Director Courtney O’Connor

by W. Vickroy, Marketing Assistant.

In light of Lyric’s opening of Stones in His Pockets tonight, we wanted to hear more from director Courtney O’Connor both about her thoughts on the show, as well as to get to know more about her broader theater ambitions!

photo of Donmar Warehouse
Inside Lonodon’s Donmar Warehouse

Q. What’s been most challenging about directing Lyric’s production of Stones in His Pockets? 
Working with the actors to come up with clear and specific choices for each of the 15 characters, while also trying to keep them from simply being stereotypes and caricatures. Layered on top of that is the different accents they each have. And figuring how to do this with two actors. All of these added together made this a very challenging task for the actors and very complex to stage. We needed to figure out how they would transform from character to character to character. And then there was a blizzard….

Q. What attracts you to direct this production?
A. I love how Marie Jones tells her story: it begins with a laugh, keeps you guessing for a bit, and then suddenly you find yourself somewhere you never expected to go. For me, this is a very personal play. I see my family members in these characters, as well as myself.

Q. If you could direct any play, anywhere, what would it be?
A. Really? Any play? Anywhere? Okay – Long Days Journey Into Night at the Donmar Warehouse in London. It’s actually a three-quarter thrust space, like the Lyric, but more narrow so that the audience is even closer and it’s even more intimate. Or maybe Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?or Mother Courage and her Children. Actually, Stones would work quite nicely in that space. Oh, who am I kidding: I would direct anything at all, really, at the Donmar.

Q. Do you have a favorite play?
A. That’s a bit like picking a favorite child, isn’t it? It just feels wrong! Of course there are the titles and playwrights you keep coming back to, but then you read or see a new title, and it just clings onto you. Right now, a play I keep coming back to is Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling, a lovely play exploring several generations of two families, and how how secrets and disappointments carry on much further than they might be expected to. I read it with a class I taught at Emerson while we were working on NicholasNickleby, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Q. Which directors, playwrights, or actors inspire you?
A. Robert Lepage’s work inspires me. His plays (especially his solo-performance pieces, like Far Side of the Moon and The Andersen Project) push through boundaries, and he is able to simultaneously explore new and intricate technologies and simple and straight-forward storytelling techniques. I also find much inspiration in Thornton Wilder. His writing has such elegance and heart in its simplicity. There’s a quote from a letter he wrote to his sister after she had her heart broken: “We’re all People, before we’re anything else. People, even before we’re artists. The role of being a Person is sufficient to have lived and died for.” Then he added, “Better take a trip to Europe. There’s plenty of money.” This dichotomy yet harmony of the poetic and the practical fascinate me.

black and white photo of Courtney O'Connor

Courtney O’Connor returns to The Lyric Stage having been the associate director on the Elliot Norton Award-winning production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. She has also directed The Lyric Stage productions of Red Herring and The Miracle Worker. In addition to her theatre career, Courtney is an adjunct faculty member at Emerson College, where she teaches directing and a service-learning courses, that connect Emerson students with 4th and 5th grade students, teaching them the fundamentals of playwriting.