Theatre Alliance Director Steps from Behind the Scenes and Onto the Stage for Flames
Loyal Theatre Alliance fans will be excited to hear that their very own director, Jamie Lawson, will make a semi-rare appearance on the stage later this month when he dual directs and stars in Flames by Stephen Dolginoff. The charismatic and warm-hearted director is the core of the theatre, and likely to draw overwhelming support in the area, as well as radiate good vibes from the stage.
“Honestly, it’s not that hard to pull double-duty,” said artistic director Jamie Lawson. “I’ve only done it three times. Flames and Thrill Me (my first dual performance) are three- and two-person shows, respectively, so it’s pretty easy to navigate the stage with that few actors. I am lucky to work with performers who have stage experience and are very intuitive, so they make good choices, so the directing part comes easy.”
For Lawson, it’s not the double duty that’s the most challenging part, but rather stepping back in the limelight.
“It’s extremely nerve-wracking,” Lawson said. “It’s one of the reasons I got into directing instead. Going onstage makes me nauseous just about every time, without fail. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, though.”
“I think it’s important to immerse myself in the experience I expect of my actors, every now and again, so I can empathize with them,” Lawson added. “One of the signs of an effective leader is getting into the trenches and getting dirty—not just sitting back and calling the shots from the safety and darkness of the audience.”
Of course, it’s notions of authenticity like this that has garnered Lawson respect and support in the community. In fact, YES! Weekly highlighted the theater’s remarkable supportive community and Lawson’s dedication in a cover story, The Heart of Theatre Alliance, just last summer.
Lawson also said that though appearing on stage makes him anxious, it’s something he takes on for the good of his crew—another distinction of a good leader.
“By performing in the show with Heather and Craig—who weren’t in the last show, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, or in the upcoming show, after Flames—it gives our other volunteer performers a little break,” Lawson said. “Many of them go show-to-show for several months on end, and everyone needs a breather now and again.”
The last time Lawson was onstage was in 2010’s Eating Raoul, the third show in which he directed and performed. “I had such a positive experience with Stephen Dolginoff’s Thrill Me—he also wrote Flames—that I wanted to have another small show experience,” he added.
Of course, the small-show experience, which is perfect for a dual acting and directing role, wasn’t the only reason that Lawson penciled Flames into Theatre Alliance’s 33rd season. Unfortunately, it’s also due to messy politics.
“We were producing Pippin, but Stephen Schwartz, the composer, wouldn’t allow any of his work to be produced in North Carolina until HB2 was lifted,” Lawson said. “Now that HB2 has been ‘adjusted,’ I’m not sure what his stance is on the matter. By the time that happened, though, I had to take other action, especially after a final direct plea with Mr. Schwartz was fruitless.
“I feel situations happen for reasons—call it Fate, Karma, what you will…we are disappointed, but there are a plethora of other shows waiting to be done. We will revisit Pippin down the road, when all the bathroom issues have been wiped clean and flushed.”
In the meantime, Lawson is excited to tackle the unusual musical thriller.
“Flames is a quirky, unique show and it fits into Theatre Alliance’s roots of performing lesser-known works that are edgy and unlikely to be performed by other groups in the area,” he said. “We’ve gone more mainstream for sheer reasons of remaining solvent, but when we can, we try to return to our roots to bring shows to the Triad other groups may not.”
The musical is a mysterious story woven around three seemingly innocuous characters. It’s set one year after the passing of a man who died in a horrible fire and took with him the secrets of his past. But on a stormy night at the cemetery where he rests, the secrets about his death and the terrible crime he committed resurface. The original, suspense-filled musical thriller has twists, turns and surprises that will keep the audience guessing up until the final shocking moments.
“You’ll almost definitely never see this show anywhere else,” said Flames actor Heather Levinson. “It will surprise and shock you, but it isn’t emotionally heavy, so it’s still a fun night of entertainment.”
Wanna go? Flames runs at Theatre Alliance, 1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem, April 21-30. Show is rated PG-13. Tickets are $18. For more information or tickets call Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or Theatre Alliance at (336) 723-7777, or visit wstheatrealliance.org.