Guest director Shakes(peares) it up

Adam Miller-Batteau collaborates with MacTheatre to stage ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’


Risa Darlington-Horta

The cast of Midsummer stands onstage practicing their final bow as director Adam Miller-Batteau stands in front of the stage applauding. Curtain opens in the Fine Arts Building Theater at 7 p.m. tonight. There are also 7 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday night and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Photos by Risa Darlington-Horta.

Jazzabelle Davishines, staff reporter

Adam Miller-Batteau is the guest director of MacTheatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is a director and fight director who works with Austin theatre companies at both the high school and collegiate level.

Kristen Tibbetts
During the second tech rehearsal of MacTheatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Oct. 30, director Adam Miller-Batteau assists the cast with staging.

MacTheatre’s director Joshua Denning has brought in guest directors several times to direct the straight (not a musical) plays at McCallum.

“It came about from my work with McCallum through my fight direction,” Miller-Batteau said. “I fight directed Cyrano: The Musical, Animal Farm, Starmites, and Robin Hood.”

Having other directors than Denning gives students the experience of working with different directional styles, a useful skill for those who plan to pursue professional theatre.

“Diversity is a virtue,” Miller-Batteau said. “There’s no right or wrong way of doing Shakespeare; there are just different ways. It is important to have a broad path of experience.”

In addition to offering MacTheatre students valuable perspective and experience, Miller-Batteau said he gets personal satisfaction from directing them.

“I really like working with these students,” Miller-Batteau said, “and I’ve always been interested in high school performance. It’s an age group that really interests me, the transition from high school to the collegiate level, where I also work.”

Miller-Batteau has worked on many Shakespeare productions in the past, both as an actor and as a director. He enjoys working with Shakespeare’s plays immensely.

“Shakespeare gives actors a way to fully express themselves,” Miller-Batteau said. “That body of work has had an indelible impact on the way we think.”

Miller-Batteau has a great deal of diversity in the content he works with, but he is truly passionate about sharing the stories of the Bard.

“I think Shakespeare’s theatre is more interesting than a lot of contemporary theatre,” Miller-Batteau said. “The way that Shakespeare plays with language, character and ideas; investing in those is a worthwhile endeavor.”

There’s no right or wrong way of doing Shakespeare; there are just different ways. It is important to have a broad path of experience.

— Guest director Adam Miller-Batteau

Miller-Batteau says that Shakespearean plays are incredibly well-known worldwide for a good reason: Shakespeare has written works that appeal to the human condition and stand the test of time.
“Great writers are able to contain deep ideas in marvelous words,” Miller-Batteau said. “Shakespeare is one of them.”

Though this play was written centuries ago, its story is still relevant to modern audiences as a form of escapism, a wonderful aspect of theatre.

“This show is kind of a descent into a dream world,” Miller-Batteau said. “And there is something transformative about dreams that take us to a different place. When we enter into the fairy world, that is when we just give ourselves over to the dream that is the theatre.”

Many young actors struggle to work with Shakespeare because it can appear complicated and far removed from contemporary works. Miller-Batteau, however, encourages young actors not to be deterred.

Kristen Tibbetts
Miller-Batteau works with senior Matthew Hernandez during tech rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Oct. 30.

“There’s no better training for young actors than Shakespeare,” Miller-Batteau said. “It requires your full capacity in vocal, character and physical work.”

He ensures that his students fully understand their text through individual directing sessions in which they review their lines and define words and phrases specifically.

“Shakespeare is not actually that foreign to us,” Miller-Batteau. said. “It can come off as almost a foreign language, but there is a lot of commonality with our own language; we know most of the words because they are still used.”

Though the difference in language may appear daunting to young students, Miller-Batteau is confident that it can be understood and communicated directly to a high-school audience.

“The language is not that hard, it just feels hard to us,” Miller-Batteau said. “With just a dictionary, and maybe a well-edited copy, we can understand this stuff. If we are going to say these words, we owe it to the language to speak it with truth, energy and conviction.”

He added that working together and helping one another are two of the most important things to do when taking on a complex, possibly intimidating piece with a large group of students.

A large part of ensuring success in this or any production is teamwork, and working together as an ensemble is a priority for Miller-Batteau.

“When I was in grad school I read Phil Jackson’s book about his time coaching Michael Jordan,” Miller-Batteau said. “He wrote about this Bantu term, ‘ubuntu,’ which translates to ‘I am who I am because of who we all are.’”

Miller-Batteau said he embraces “the idea that we are all connected, that we are defined by one another. We are in this together, whether we like it or not.”

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