John W. Bateman
1. What brought you to work for Starkville Community Theatre?
I'd been a volunteer and performer for more than a decade, so I had the passion for it built into who I am. At a time, I was looking to make a change professionally and SCT decided to hire its first employee. The clouds parted, and the timing was a miracle.
2. What does a day in the life of the CAO entail?
Flexible and ever-changing, which is part of the fun of it. It could be a long day in front of a computer screen, cleaning our auditorium, reading plays, representing us at a community event, or teetering on a ladder to reach some high light bulbs.
3. I'm sure everything is perfect in your job. But if it wasn't, what would be your biggest challenge?
It's easy to get so swept up in the daily trees, that you sometimes miss the year-round forest. Because we're always producing new shows, with different volunteers each time, the ticking-clock nature of the next opening can steer my brain away from long-term things I know need doing.
4. What's been your biggest adventure in theatre (whether or not SCT)?
It's this job. Every show is its own pocket universe, its own short adventure. But then it's over. You drop it and move on to the next, whenever that is. For me, it doesn't drop. My job allows me to keep the story going year-round.
5. You're currently directing The Laramie Project. What have you enjoyed most about this particular play?
My cast and crew - all talented, lovely people, all open to challenge, all ready to work. Though we all recognize the importance of the play, I've enjoyed the warmth of the rehearsal process and the emphasis we've placed on lightness and humanity instead of the heaviness of the issues.
6. Who is your favorite stage character?
I've always been drawn to the larger-than-life losers and pipe dreamers of Eugene O'Neill. I have a great, strange affinity for Jamie in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and Hickey in "The Iceman Cometh." Failure and bottomless tragedy under mountains of rusting bravado.
7. What is your "lottery" role, and where would you play that character?
Hickey in "Iceman" or his musical-comedy equivalent Max Bialystock in "The Producers": I love the too-loud lions with permanent thorns in their paws. I'd play both in an expanded SCT dream space, with top-of-the-line tech and doubled seating capacity.
8. What actor/actress/director/writer do you admire?
Lately, two of my favorite playwrights to read are Craig Wright and Annie Baker, both telling small-scale human stories in different ways. Baker strips things down to absolute basics of conversation and behavior, while Wright experiments with structure, time, and myth. Both connect to me at the bone marrow level.
9. What role does theatre have in a world that has become more and more virtual?
The thrill of theatre done well lingers with you - the smell of the paint, the glare of the lights. There will always be immediacy and authenticity to a performer, feet away from you, vulnerable, sweating, singing, doing everything possible to connect with you, that screens and recorded media can't replicate.
10. Finally, tell us about the ghost at The Playhouse on Main.
If we have one, which I will neither confirm nor deny, he or she has been having a field day lately with small leaks, blown bulbs, and creaky doors. And with moving around my phone charger so I can never seem to find it.
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