Indiana Daily Student

M.F.A. directors focus on collaboration, cohesive storytelling

As the IU Theatre, Drama & Contemporary Dance season progresses to its fourth show of the season, second-year MFA director Katie Horwitz is in the midst of directing her first main stage production.

Each year, MFA directors submit a minimum of three plays to the committee that selects shows for the upcoming year. Her first choice, an updated version of “Antigone,” was chosen among the lineup.

The production opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Wells-Metz Theater.

Horwitz said she loves classical stories and mythology, which led her to this play. However, since this version was written in 1942, she said it’s more accessible to the audience, which is important to her in 
electing a show.

“It has to be something that you immediately connect with,” she said.

Third-year MFA director David Koté said he wants to create an immersive production with “Macbeth,” opening the second semester of the season.

Although none of his submitted plays were selected, Koté said he was drawn to directing “Macbeth” because of the challenge it presents.

“It’s a lot more to deal with than just a regular, contemporary play,” he said.

This production serves as Koté’s thesis, though he said he considers all his plays theses because they all must be good.

Koté said he taught and directed high school theater for 10 years before coming to IU to pursue his masters degree. He said directing is a different experience at the collegiate level because the people involved are invested in their part of the 

“They really bring all their genius to the table,” he said.

Collaboration is key in Koté’s directing style — he said his best work has come from his most fulfilling collaborations.

“It’s important to me to have a room that’s collaborative and open, ‘cause ideas are ideas and you don’t want to shut them down,” he said. “You want to invest in the people that you’re working with.”

First-year MFA acting student Abby Lee plays Lady Macbeth in the production. She said working with Koté is a collaborative experience, which is not always the case.

Koté has deadlines and goals but is fluid in the “how” of achieving those, she said. He is open to ideas but always has his vision in mind.

Even with collaboration, Koté said his job is to create a cohesive production at the end of the day and make sure all of the elements of the play exist in the same world.

Horwitz said this is the most collaborative production she has worked on. She has combined forces with director of contemporary dance at IU Liz Shea and the department’s assistant professor of movement and stage combat Adam McLean.

“I feel like we’ve all worked together as artists as opposed to one vision that everyone has to work towards,” 
Horwitz said.

Although MFA directors are still students, Koté said their productions do not differ from a faculty-directed 

“We all come in with this professional motto,” he said. “Everybody gets treated with the same kind of courtesy that you would in a professional situation.”

As a fellow MFA, Lee said she has the additional luxury of being able to discuss the show outside of rehearsals with Koté. However, she said their manner in rehearsal 
remains professional.

“When the director gives me a note I say ‘Thank you,’ and then take the note and I do it,” Lee said. “Even though he’s a student, (Koté is) very much in charge of the room.”

Although some of the artists involved in a production are fellow MFA students, Horwitz said her directing style remains the same among her peers.

Directing a main stage production allows MFA students to take risks and experiment while they can, she said.

“I get to explore more with what a larger production is,” she said. “Because I am a student, I am allowed to take risks, I’m allowed to try things and I’m allowed to fail, which is very different in the professional world where you really don’t ever want to fail.”

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