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Interview with DNA director Molly Karrasch

16 January 2015

molly-karrasch-DNA

Why did you chose to direct DNA?

There were so many things that excited me about this show. I love dark and tragic stories that are told with humor and DNA is exactly that. In some ways it is such a bare bones script. The playwright states that the genders and names of all the characters are flexible which is another thing I absolutely loved. At the same time, it moves so quickly and there is so much plot packed into this tight script but the playwright has also left space for more metaphysical musing and wonderment than you usually see in a play like this. It’s a philosophical comedic thriller. What more could I have hoped for?

When was the moment you got bit by the theatre bug?

While watching my dad rehearse musicals like Camelot, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Godspell. The rehearsal process is still one of my very favorite things about theatre. Rehearsal is my home and my church.  Also, in second grade, I got my first adrenaline rush playing a character named Mr. Frog in our class play. My line was: “It’s going to rain, I can feel it in my bones.” I was very committed. That’s probably the moment I knew I wouldn’t turn back.

Who are some playwrights that you admire?

I absolutely love Greg Pierce who wrote SLOWGIRL, my favorite play. It has a tragedy very similar to the one in DNA, but is the story of just one high school girl processing her role in that tragedy and its consequences while her estranged uncle tries his best to keep up with her frenetic teenage mind and motor mouth. Working on FOOL FOR LOVE this year renewed my appreciation for Sam Shepard and his complex relationships. I also really love the British playwright Willy Russell, I think his stuff is hilarious and so poignant. And I very much admire Lauren Gunderson for what she’s doing with science and history and badass female characters.

Can you tell us a little about your background and studies?

I’ve been acting professionally in Austin for almost 10 years, I moved here shortly after college. I have a BFA in Theatre from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Stephens is a small, liberal arts, women’s college with a huge theatre department where I did almost exclusively musical theatre. I mostly stopped doing musicals awhile after I moved to town, started doing mostly contemporary plays and have finally found my niche in the dead teenager genre.

What has the transition from actor to director been like for you?

It’s been very exciting, a little scary and very much worth the anxiety. I’ve been secretly wanting to direct for about 4 years so I had lots of time to think about what kind of director I wanted to be, but as soon as the process started all that was pretty much out the window. Casting was my first clue that this wasn’t going to be how I had imagined. I assumed my first directing gig would be a small show with actors I knew and just asked to act in it. Auditioning 90 actors in 4 hours was the opposite of that. Once rehearsal started though, it felt like a natural transition. I’m the kind of actor who can’t help but think about the play and the character I’m working on from the moment I wake up. I didn’t know that would multiply by 10,000.

What has it been like to work with these 11 actors?

It has been like a dream. No exaggeration. This is such a large cast and it’s actually 12 actors because we have a fantastic understudy who has been working alongside us the whole time. A couple of the cast members will be familiar to Austin audiences, but most of them are students and most of them are making their Austin debut. Odds were good that at least one of these kids was going to be less talented and/or less charming than they seemed in auditions. Nope. They are all tremendously talented and outrageously charming. I wish I could keep them all together as an acting company and produce plays with them forever. If there is a follow up program to New Directions that involves that scenario, I would be interested.

If you could direct any show here in Austin what show would you love to share with the Austin community?

I have a slight obsession with Keely and Du, so probably that. Or maybe one of those dark musicals like Assassins.

What has surprised you most about working on this play?

How much I love all these characters who are doing all these horrible things and how obsessed I became with the sound cues.

What’s next for Molly Karrasch?

I’ll be acting in the feature film MUSTANG ISLAND which is an expansion of the short film MOLLY that premiered at SXSW and played about 40 other film festivals last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if I acted in a play or two this year, but no firm plans.

What do you hope the audience is talking about when they leave DNA?

I hope they are talking about the outstanding performances from all this fresh talent and I hope they are a little shocked or stunned by the story.