Director Eleanor Holdridge has worked at theaters throughout the DC area, including Round House Theater, Theater J, Folger Theatre, and the Kennedy Center, and An Act of God is her Signature debut. Learn more about Eleanor’s career, her teaching and mentoring, and why An Act of God is the perfect show for right now in the interview below.
You’re the head of the MFA Directing program at Catholic University in addition to directing shows all over the DC area. How do you balance a show schedule with your time in the classroom?
It’s a difficult yet fun balance. But teaching and production work together seem to pave a way between the past and the present. I find the directing work I do in town is a great entry-way for the students to see and question how professional theatre works and begin to find their own identity as theatre artists within the artistic community around them. I’m able to talk about the challenges of each production and invite them to see the result and sometimes even the process. Further, I can act as a conduit between my graduating students (both MFA and BA) and potential internships. Due to a very supportive faculty at Catholic University’s Department of Drama, I can hold morning classes and then go to rehearsal in the afternoons and evenings. When I work out of town, I make use of the traditional Monday day-off in professional theater teaching then using online sessions to fill in. It’s certainly a challenge, but I find my professional work is made stronger by my teaching work and vice versa.
What made you want to direct An Act of God, and what do you think makes it a good fit for DC audiences?
An Act of God sparkles with humor and wit and has an absolute finger on the pulse of today’s America. It is insidiously funny, making us think about who we are and our relationship to religion and to God even as we laugh, examining our biases, our knee-jerk assumptions of how belief and society work together. I’m finding that the humor of The Daily Show goes deeper within the live medium of theater, as the brilliant Tom Story and talented Evan Casey and Jamie Smithson bring the jokes and conundrums. DC’s audiences are literate, liberal, compassionate and hungry for dialog and laughs. I can’t imagine a better play for today or this audience.
I’m really interested in your teaching career – why did you decide to teach and mentor students in addition to working as a director?
After grad school, I went from from town to town across the country working in regional theatre as a freelance director. I glimpsed many vital communities and worked on many stunning projects. However, what I began to miss in my life was a sense of community—a sense of paying back and finding a way to strengthen the future of American Theatre. I’m not sure if that can be attained through the life of an itinerant director. So I started looking at teaching possibilities. When I took a one-year gig at Catholic University in DC, I found a vital theater scene teaming with life, filled with a wide variety of theaters and dedicated and immensely talented theater artists. I found that as a director and teacher I could become a conduit before and not only take my part in, but foster students to the professional theatrical world and find themselves as artists. And so I stayed.