Clarissa Hurley is directing this year’s Mainstage production, Grace Notes, by Patrick Toner.
Clarissa Hurley is an award-winning actor, playwright, dramaturge and director, and has been directing with NotaBle Acts Theatre Company for the past several years.
Last year, Clarissa directed Grace Notes when it was presented as part of our Play Out Loud reading series. We’re happy to have her join us again this year directing the play’s Mainstage debut.
We reached out to Clarissa to learn more about her relationship with the story and what it’s been like watching this play grow from a reading to a fully produced production with a professional team of actors and designers.
Can you tell us a bit about what it’s been like bringing this show to the stage?
It has been challenging, bewildering at times, and ultimately exhilarating. The play has changed considerably since I directed an earlier version of it in 2016. The structure is complex, with many brief scenes that shift in time and location, gradually building the story incrementally. I am fortunate to have cast receptive, intuitive, and accomplished actors who were able to navigate the technical challenges while fully inhabiting the lives of these flawed and unpredictable characters. The creative team has enriched the play with their rich, original set, sound/music, and lighting designs. Really, all I have done is coordinate the work of some breathtakingly talented artists.
Grace Notes has been described as “a powerful, moving story about choosing sides — without knowing which side is which”. How does this angle play out from a directing standpoint?
The world of the play is indeed an intricate, morally ambiguous one. The characters struggle to reconnect with one another while remaining out of sync, each knowing something the other does not. But, while challenging, I have found that the essential questions of directing remain pretty much the same: What does the character want? How does s/he go about getting it? What are the obstacles? What is the scene about? It has been a pleasure to work with actors who are both intelligent and intuitive in exploring these questions.
Have you been working with the playwright at all and if so, how has that process been?
Yes. I worked with Patrick last year when I directed a staged reading of an earlier version of Grace Notes for NBActs. He has shown remarkable range as a playwright, the way he has reworked and reconceived this story. He participated in the early stages of our rehearsal process by answering questions, but he has also entrusted us with a good deal of discretion over bringing the script to the stage. He is a remarkably original playwright, who works according to his own instincts and method. This piece is a fascinating amalgam of a play of ideas in the form of a plot-driven political thriller, complete with love triangle. This is a playwright to watch.