Friday, May 8, 2009

Wildcat Director Kalon Thibodeaux on Oilbums and Old Souls

When I met Kalon Thibodeaux at the first Wildcat rehearsal, I was impressed by his extensive work with the Moon and his enthusiasm about the upcoming production (not to mention his general friendliness and big welcome to a new fan of the theater). The San Franciscan acted in Flora the Red Menace, Minnie’s Boys (for which he received a Bay Area Critics Circle Award nomination), and other Moon productions before directing Oh, Lady Lady. He told me about his passion for theater, his staging style, and the myriad reasons he finds joy in the work.

EG: What drew you to direct Wildcat?

KT: When I sat down to read through it, what I loved about it instantly was its power. When the show was developed, it featured the work of Lucille Ball (has there ever been a more gutsy comedienne?) and choreographer Michael Kidd. And although Wildcat was his Broadway debut as a composer, Cy Coleman was obviously capable of creating a full, powerful sound that’s evident in songs like "Corduroy Road" and "Hey, Look Me Over." All of this is perfectly fitting for a show about getting your hands dirty to chase your dream, a theme that's manifested through things like hard hitting, big singing "oilbums" and the onstage building of an oil rig. It's a big musical with a big heart and I like that kind of theater.

What types of shows or themes are you most intrigued by?

I've been involved in theater for about 20 years now. I think the main reason I've stuck with it so long is that I like variety. I like being able to research and create in a specific period or environment intensely for a few months and then get to move on to a completely different style of theater. I find it liberating and a wonderful opportunity to learn about things that I probably wouldn't have had the time or energy to look into on my own.

The last Moon show I directed, for example, was set in 1912 (like Wildcat), but it was much more of a New York society farce than the Wild West, rugged feel of Wildcat. Hardly any elements of design have been used in both. I like to let the theater take me on the ride according to the task at hand.

What was your reaction to finding the Moon after moving to San Francisco?

It was wonderful. I, in a way, bumped into it. I was just auditioning wherever I could and the Moon happened to be looking for someone to play Harpo Marx in their production of Minnie's Boys. Stephanie saw me at a general audition and they had me come in and read. I fell in love instantly. I guess you could say I'm sort of an "old soul" and, especially as a performer, I absolutely love the classical musical theater style. It's probably because a lot of it is so heavily influenced by old vaudeville acts. I found myself playing roles at the Moon that were originated by people like Jimmy Durante and Willie Howard. Where else do you get to have that much fun?

Not many places, I’d say. You can read more of Kalon’s joyous takes on musical theater on his personal blog and see it on stage when Wildcat opens on May 7.

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