Porchside Ponderings: In Conversation with Thom Allison
Tis the season for patio weather, music playing on the breeze, and the anticipation of catching up and pondering with friends on a warm summer day. Welcome to the final post in our series; ‘Porchside Pondering‘ with the creatives of PORCHSIDE SONGS! We sat down with consulting director, Thom Allison, to get an inside look at his experience as consulting director on this year’s PORCHSIDE SONGS, marking his directorial debut with The Musical Stage Company.
What is it about PORCHSIDE SONGS you are most excited about?
I’m excited about the connection of the creation process to the audience experience; I’ve always loved being in a room with actors who are working out the “art” itself. How something works, why it doesn’t work, and what the focus of a moment is. When it all comes together, there is the moment you put it in front of an audience and see how they receive the outcome; it’s magical.
What was your directorial relationship like with each PORCHSIDE SONGS performing duo?
It has been different for each team. I am a sounding board; a dramaturg; assisting in releasing a block; or staging assistance, and can be any combination of these. I am whatever is needed
How do you find digital collaboration as a director?
In some ways it’s not different from the live experience; you can have the same conversations in terms of table work, shaping the piece, etc. The difference is, if the performers are not able to rehearse on their feet together, you can’t “run” the show in real time, which is trickier.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a consultant director leading up to this show?
Not having a regular rehearsal period; you work with someone and then it’s days or weeks between rehearsals or consulting. Then you have to catch up; you are trying to keep the thread of where the piece was going, and join it with where the piece and the artists are now, creatively.
If there was an entire musical you could direct for an outside performance, which one would you pick? Why?
INTO THE WOODS. First of all, it’s a great show. Second of all, the messages about the consequences of the choices we make and how our children are looking to us as adults to know how to be in the world could not be clearer or more poignant.
If you could choose any musical artist to put on a PORCHSIDE SONGS concert, who would you choose? Why?
That is a good, hard question. I would watch Jessie Mueller do anything. She seems like she would make it feel so intimate, you’d feel refreshed like you just had a good catch up with your best friend.
We have hope that these concerts can help bring some brightness to communities, and renew that hope for the future – what would you say your hopes are for the future of our theatre community?
My main hope is that theatre can come back soon, but I also hope we’ve realized theatre can be and do so much more than we thought. We can do PORCHSIDE SONGS. We can record a production and show it online after for those who would love to see theatre but can’t get out due to situation or finances. I hope we act on the fact that there are so many more stories that are worth telling that are not just the Eurocentric ones we’ve been told are the “best.” What a wealth of lore we have available to be explored. That is exciting.