As February gallops to an end, Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) is hard at work, preparing a local production of the classic musical THE MAN OF LA MANCHA. With a score by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, and a book by Dale Wasserman, the acclaimed musical is inspired by Dale Wasserman's teleplay I, Don Quixote and Miguel de Cervantes classic novel Don Quixote. Last week, I got to sit down with Bruce Lumpkin, TUTS' new Artistic Director and director of MAN OF LA MANCHA, and his wife Michelle Gaudette, choreographer of MAN OF LA MANCHA, to discuss their upcoming production.
Me: You were named Artistic Director of Theatre Under the Stars in July 2011. What was that like for you?
Bruce Lumpkin: First of all, I grew up in Houston. I was born and raised here, and this theatre was the very first theatre I worked at as a young actor and as a young director before I moved to New York City. So, to come back here, to go full circle, life was pretty cool. I'm not going to lie. It's a really great feeling to come back to my hometown and take what I learned here from Frank Young and this wonderful organization, then took it to New York City, and spent 25 years there-almost 25 years-and then bring that knowledge back home and help this theatre grown to the 21st century. I mean it's a dream come true. I'm very excited to be here.
Me: MAN OF LA MANCHA is your first time to direct at TUTS after being named Artistic Director. You're also getting to share the spotlight with your wife, Michelle Gaudette, who is choreographing the show. What is the experience like for both of you?
Bruce Lumpkin: Well, it's not the first time we've worked together. We've been doing this together for many years. Before we got married and since we've been married. [Looks at Michelle Gaudette] I want to share this with you. What's this like for you? For you to be here choreographing, with me in a new position, do you find a different kind of feeling for you? Or is the same mode?
Michelle Gaudette: It's different and the same. It's different in the way that Bruce has so many more responsibilities other than just his director hat, so that plays a factor in here because there's other aspects of the production that he's a part of as well as what we're doing on the stage. I think it's the same in that we have been working together as team in this respect for seven, eight years now.
Bruce Lumpkin: About eight years, yeah.
Michelle Gaudette: Yeah. So, we've grown in such a way of how we work. It's almost like one in the same. Our work blends together a lot, so it's kind of like a well-oiled machine now. We both worked together on some stuff, but then we also work separately, but then we also intertwine everything together, so it moves smoothly. We're really big on the story telling. That's one of our bigger things.
Bruce Lumpkin: It's also very exciting to get a chance in this business to work with your life partner too because it doesn't happen all the time. You know, many times she'll have jobs other places and I'll have jobs other places, and we'll come together for opening night. To actually get to experience the whole thing together, again, we're very lucky we get to do that quite a lot in our careers.
Me: You worked together on MAN OF LA MANCHA at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre. How does doing the show for TUTS compare to your previous experience?
Bruce Lumpkin: It's pretty much like starting over again. We didn't even really realize that until we got into the process last week. We have a different set. We have a different set of actors. Some of them are the same as we worked with before. But, when we do a show together, we like to go for the truth of the piece. First and foremost, what is going to make it honest and truthful? And just because we know the show-we've done it before-we're not going in trying to recreate what we did at Walnut Street. We're coming here to reintroduce ourselves to and re-experience the material with the group of people we have as actors. So far, it's been pretty rewarding, I think.