Spinning Tree Theatre's founders answer the Stage questionnaire 

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How and when did you begin to direct?

Grayman: My first directing gig was at McCarter Theatre. I directed for their Youth Ink Festival: a festival of one-act plays written by winning high school students in New Jersey.

Parkhurst: Several of the directors I choreographed for would remark that I worked "like a director." Some of them meant this as a compliment. Michael and I tend to co-direct musicals, although I would call myself his associate director. In general, where Michael's work ends, mine begins ... and vice versa. Motherhood Out Loud is my debut directing a play.

When did you begin to choreograph?

Parkhurst: The first "official" choreography project I can remember was the musical Oklahoma! at Grandview High School. The drama teacher was intent to cut the entire Act 1 ending, the dream ballet, and at age 16 I talked her out of that choice by persuading her that it furthers the action and is not "just dance." I got some professional opportunities while working in Vienna. I assisted Rob Ashford on Curtains on Broadway, then choreographed The Wild Party for Michael John LaChiusa and Columbia University. In choreographing musicals, I've often had that challenge of working with directors who are not Michael or who do not come from a place of understanding choreography. And I think most people don't. On one project, the director told me in preproduction, "I don't usually direct musicals because I don't like dance musicals."

How does the audience affect your performance or directing decisions?

Parkhurst: In theater, we're always aware of the audience throughout the decision-making process — from choosing titles to casting to preshow music to marketing. If it feels "right" in the rehearsal room, it tends to feel right with an audience added to the room. There are exceptions, and this is why we have preview performances.

What's the best part about what you do?

Grayman: I have been a member of Actors' Equity Association for almost 20 years. It is so rewarding as a theater producer to be able to employ members of my union.

Parkhurst: Employing and giving opportunities to artists, entertaining discerning Kansas City theatergoers.

What's the hardest part?

Grayman: Grant writing, but we are getting into the groove with this one.

Parkhurst: As a producer, worrying about ticket sales. That can keep me up at night.

What's the best thing that has happened during a performance?

Parkhurst: Laughter. And tears.

What's the worst thing?

Parkhurst: Having the feeling that, for usually unknown reasons, the piece isn't "landing" like it did the night before. The audience's collective mood, what was in the news that day, the weather ... these things can all affect audience members and actors alike.

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