Robin Downward, artistic director of the Randall Theatre, will be singing and dancing the role of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly’s iconic role) in “Singing in the Rain,” directed by Livia Ginese, at the Randall Theatre’s Jacksonville location. Now going into its eighth season, with two theatrical venues, the Randall Theatre depends on ticket sales for 95 percent of its revenue. I met with Downward at Mellelo Coffee Roasters in Medford.
EH: What is unique about the Randall Theatre?
RD: We have combined the community spirit with the professional standard to create a hybrid-type theater. It’s that drive to make each individual, involved in the production, push to be the best that they can be, and to avoid ego that sometimes gets in the way. I want everyone on stage to shine.
There are cornerstones as to the things we pay attention to, which are important to me and the theater as a whole:
• Articulation: Can the audience understand what you’re saying and what you’re singing?
• Clarity of character: Are your characters clear enough? Has there been a deep enough understanding of these characters, so that the audience knows and understands what’s going on? Are they really going to understand the meaning and desires of the characters?
Rather than just having everything be surface acting, I concentrate more on table reads: As human beings we learn from an emotional standpoint. If you’re portraying a human being, then you should be learning the emotional aspects (the subtext of who your character is) before you get up and start walking around, because your movement can grow out from the things you know and realize about your character.
We try for enthusiasm and excitement: Especially from the musical comedy standpoint; you’ve got to give your 110 percent every single time you’re on stage, which includes rehearsals.
The last one is to realize that they are doing a job for the patrons. When people come and see our shows, and leave saying, “That was completely unexpected,” we’ve done our job.
Actors always strive to learn and to keep their minds open; and they always fight that ego that closes them off. They are no longer actors if they refuse to accept further information about who they are or what they can do. As soon as they do that, they stop being actors. An actor is too much of a creative being to stop the flow of being creative. Acting is easy; it’s the actor that makes it hard.
The success of the Randall Theatre is based on the fact that we really try hard to have that community feel environment, while also instilling a deeper professional attitude about how you can grow when you are really opening yourself up to that growth.
It’s having respect for your craft: You never stop learning what you have to do to be an actor or director, you can’t. The Randall Theatre is here to try and help people to grow outside of their comfort zone, to learn more, and to be open for that learning — to tear out that passion that is deeper under the outside layers, that passion that drives performers to do what they do, and to realize that there are multiple layers of greatness, and to try to push themselves as individuals — to be even better than they possibly thought they could be.
“Singin' in the Rain,” directed by Livia Genise, plays Jan. 19 through Feb. 11. Showtime is 7 p.m. Jan. 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 and Feb. 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10. Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m. Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4 and 11. Shows are at Randall Theatre's Jacksonville location in the Calvary Church building at 520 N. Fifth St. Purchase tickets online or call 541-632-3258. "Pay What You Want" tickets will be available at the door for any seats remaining unsold 30 minutes before show time.
—Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog at ashlandtheater.wordpress.com. Email her at email@example.com.