Since its first mainstage production in the summer of 1983, Kincaid Regional Theatre (KRT) has called the rural town of Falmouth, Kentucky, home, and has produced professional musical theater that has delighted audiences with talent from across the country. Today, KRT has expanded to year-round programming, including educational and community-based theater.
This summer, Brett Price, KRT's artistic director, selected the smash hit musical Million Dollar Quartet for the nonprofit theater company's summer mainstage. The story tells the tale of the twist of fate that brought together Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley for one of music's greatest jam sessions. Price spoke proudly of the show and the talents behind the production.
"Million Dollar Quartet brings together legends of rock and roll music for an incredible jam session, with personal revelations and celebrations," Price said. "The story is set in Sun Records, a location that prior to being a recording studio, was an auto parts store. Seeing these incredible characters shine in what was once an everyday place reminds me of the spirit of KRT as we continue to grow and revitalize our theatre in our new home.”
CityBeat recently sat down with Katrina Ploof, a theater director from Florida who is currently directing Million Dollar Quartet at KRT.
Ploof grew up in a small town in Maine, acting in summer stock shows throughout her childhood. Given that her parents both have musical backgrounds (her father was a music teacher and her mother was a vocalist), Ploof says that being an actor just made sense to her. Ploof is pleased to make her debut as a director at KRT, coming all the way from Florida for their summer mainstage show.
Keep reading to learn more about Million Dollar Quartet and Ploof's vision for the show and directing process.
CityBeat: What made you want to begin directing?
Katrina Ploof: Well, I acted for 25 years professionally. I think I must have annoyed my director at the time so much when doing shows with them, because I just couldn’t stop talking about my visions for the show, and the relations between characters [laughs]. That director realized my gift, and encouraged me to take up directing. After that, I knew a couple of artistic directors who gave me a chance at directing, and the rest is history. In this business it’s about luck and talent, but mostly luck.
CB: Did you go to college?
KP: I did, but surprisingly not for anything theater-related! I majored in psychology. Which in turn benefited me greatly for my career in theater, since human connections and relationships are essential for it. I actually worked teaching the arts at a summer camp for neurologically divergent kids after graduation.
CB: What do you get out of directing, personally?
KP: It's your very own way of helping the world a little bit. It teaches you everything — to walk in someone else’s shoes, to practice empathy, to respect time. A show is just a snapshot of one moment in a character’s life. No matter what place you’re in, it’s just a snapshot. There’s a whole world behind you and a whole world in front of you. If I can direct plays that give others empathy, sympathy and help them to see the world through other people’s eyes, then I’m complete. Theater is eye- and heart-opening. Just by watching a show, it can find a way inside of us that we don’t even know. It can change us without realizing.
CB: What is your favorite part of directing?
KP: The collaboration. Working with other artists to “complete” the story. The director’s job is to know the show frontwards and backwards, better than anyone else involved. Each person in the cast and crew has their way of knowing the story. As the rehearsals continue, and the cast members truly become the character, then the actors soon develop a knowledge for the show even greater than the director. It is their job to take my vision and produce their interpretation from it. Every person brings something to the table from their minds. It’s that kind of beautiful collaboration that really does it for me.
CB: Are you using any specific inspiration from other shows for Million Dollar Quartet?
KP: This show was about Sam Phillips [an American record producer and the founder of Sun Records]. It’s about bringing young people to their fullest potential. Without that man, none of these men would have ever been anything. It’s about the skill that teachers have to recognize a student’s gift and give them a platform to reach their potential, and do something with it. Teachers are so important and necessary, and I don’t think many people realize it. That’s the inspiration I’m really pulling into this show that I want the audience to be impacted by.
CB: How much inspiration from the Broadway musical are you putting into the show?
KP: Well, the script will always be the same, so there’s that much. Other than that, there is a really special and important costuming choice that the Broadway musical included, that every theater includes in their production as well. How could you not? It’s just so impactful. It happens at the end of the show, but I can’t give it away to the audience yet. You’ll just have to come see it.
CB: What personal twists or signatures are you implementing into this show?
KP: There is a character named Dyanne, who is Elvis’s girlfriend. I have always felt that without Dyanne, the story would have ended very differently. She fixed all of these issues herself, and made them face the problems they had. I want to make it clear to the audience the impact and wisdom Dyanne had. Without her female presence, work and magic, these men wouldn’t have become what they did. I want the audience to know that. Because I’m a woman myself, I’m able to recognize and elevate Dyanne’s role and impact, in a way that a male director might overlook.
CB: How does your vision for a production begin?
KP: Well, I do a lot of reading [laughs]. I read the play 15-20 times before I talk to anyone in the cast and crew about it. I do one read-through where I research every word I don't know. I call it my “dictionary read-through”. It's to make sure I have all of the meanings and pronunciations correct. Then I do a read-through where I focus on each character at a time, and I read the script only thinking of that character. Why did they say the line like that? Why are they being so quiet? What are they thinking right now? Stuff like that. I do that for every single character. Then I do a read-through specially for blocking.
CB: What were you looking for in the casting process?
KP: Age was a big factor. In order to see what Sam Phillips sees (young people with gifts), age is crucial. I was looking for vulnerability that matches who I believe the historic figures were. And of course, I was also looking for things like height and looks. Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t looking for any impersonators, like other theaters might. I just want a genuine and vulnerable actor who’s reading to take on the character.
CB: What do you hope the audience pulls from this show?
KP: I want them to know that whatever great entertainer that they watch or listen to, that they weren’t always “great." Those entertainers were not born great or complete. It took the right mentors and teachers to first notice that in them and push them to be who they are now. And those entertainers pushed themselves and worked so hard to get where they are. I hope this show makes them realize that.
CB: Why should people come and see this show?
KP: This is American music. It’s the Fourth of July month, and this is American music. Let’s have a party. You come for the music, I’ll give you the story.
CB: Do you have somewhere where people can learn more about you? Like a website?
KP: I sure do! It’s brandnewfool.com.
CB: Anything else you want people to know about you or this production?
KP: You aren’t the slightest bit prepared by how talented these people are. They are going to blow you away.
Million Dollar Quartet runs July 14-30 at Kincaid Regional Theatre, 208 Memory Dr., Falmouth, Kentucky. Tickets and more information can be found by visiting krtshows.com.
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