By: T Kinkley, Red & Black Art and Culture Writer
Carley Lyons'15 is directing W&J's 2022 production of "Crimes of the Heart" (Photo Courtesy Regan Carlson)
NOV. 4 - Last year, the students in Washington & Jefferson College’s (W&J) theatre department met Carley Lyons, an alumna from the class of 2015. Carley was brought on as a guest director for the show Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Carley has also directed at local theatres, such as Little Lake Theatre in Canonsburg, PA. The show had an overwhelming amount of support from the Communication Arts department, as well as a good amount of audience support. Many actors in the show spoke of the good experiences they had with Carley as a director, so much so that Karin Maresh (the chair of the Communication Arts department) and Dan Shaw (both a faculty member of the Communication Arts department and the manager of Olin Fine Arts Center’s theatre) invited her back to direct a second show.
Crimes Of the Heart by Beth Henley is the show that Carley chose to put on for this year. The show only features two men out of the six total characters. Both men are only featured in two scenes.
The characters who are considered the lead characters are three sisters, all struggling through different experiences. Audiences get to see how each deal with their individual circumstances, along with one collective situation between the sisters. I had the opportunity to sit down with Carley for an interview to ask a few questions about her experience in directing, and other theatrical experiences, as well as some questions about W&J.
I posed this question: “How did you guys come about picking Crimes of The Heart of the show this year?” Guys were referring to Carley, Professor Shaw, and Dr. Maresh, as all three are involved in the show. Carley explained to me that it was a decision made because she wanted a show that featured strong female characters. She also spoke with Professor Shaw and Dr. Maresh about what the needs of the company were and what the student population was like so that she could get a feel for what stories needed to be told. W&J’s theatre program is primarily made up of people who identify as female, with a smaller mix of non-binary and male-identifying individuals. This made the show a good pick, as stated above how the characters are majority female-identifying individuals.
The next question that I asked was “Did you ever think that you would be back at W&J to be a guest director after you graduated?” Her short answer was no. She did not think that she would ever be a director, as when she was younger, she primarily acted in shows rather than directed them. Before she worked at Little Lake Theatre as a director, she auditioned for one of her favorite shows, Arcadia by Tom Stoppard and she did not get in; however, wanting to be involved with the show, she asked if she could be involved in some tech crew aspect. The director asked her to be an assistant director. She took on the challenge and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.
"[Choosing Crimes of the Heart] was a decision made because she [Lyons] wanted a show that featured strong female characters."