With credits spanning the globe, director Lisa Steven’s latest project brings her to Philadelphia. Lisa was brought in by Walnut Street Theatre’s president and producing artistic director, Bernard Havard, to direct the Spring production of Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville. The Emmy award-nominated director talks with Phindie about the experience.
[Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St] March 28-April 30, 2023; walnutstreettheatre.org
Debra Danese: How did you get involved with Walnut Street Theatre?
Lisa Stevens: I got involved with the Walnut by complete surprise. I had always wanted to work there, so when my agent said there was an ‘availability check,’ I was surprised and flattered. I traveled to the theatre, met the team, dined with Bernard, and was treated to a show. THAT was a great day. The next day when the official ‘ask’ came in, I was overjoyed. Incidentally, I had asked Bernard what prompted them to ask me specifically to work on this show, as it’s underwritten in several places. Someone from their team had seen my production of Dolly Parton presents 9 to 5 in London’s West End and thought the work I had put into that production would translate well for this one.
DD: What was your approach in directing Escape to Margaritaville?
LS: My approach to directing was to check-off several boxes, three of which were- to fill out the characters by allowing the actors to create their own backstories; to embed little goodies for the Parrotheads within the design and scene work; and to find more ways to connect with the audience so the good times are reciprocal. I encourage the audience to partake in sipping a tasty pre-show slush-drink, found in the lobby, so they’re more apt to sing along with the cast!
DD: What drew you to taking on this production?
LS: The fun of it. This is a light-hearted, feel-good, entertaining show, which is just what folks need right now. There’s great music, comedic performances, and the potential for audience participation.
DD: Your credits are backed with awards and accolades. What has been a career highlight?
LS: I’d say the people I’ve met along the way. Some I’ve been star-struck by, some I’ve admired for their talent and body of work, and others have taught me valuable lessons by allowing me to watch them create. Graciella Danielle, Gwen Verdon and Ann Reinking are a few who have imparted words of encouragement throughout my career.
DD: You are also an intimacy coordinator. What does this entail?
LS: I am both an intimacy coordinator and director. Director relates to theater; while intimacy coordination relates to film and television. It all falls under the umbrella of an ‘Intimacy Professional,’ who is someone who is trained to support actors both physically and mentally during scenes of sensitive material. These are not only romantic scenes, or scenes of nudity, but also stories of non-consensual touch, assault, or trauma. One wouldn’t expect two actors to create their own fight scene. Here a fight director or stunt coordinator would be present. It’s the same with scenes that require emotional and/or physical vulnerability. I help create and support a consensual container for actors, and all departments, to work within so the director can best tell their story.
Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville is playing at Walnut Street Theatre now through April 30, 2023. walnutstreettheatre.org/season/show/jimmy-buffets-escape-to-margaritaville