A frequently credited directorial name in the Los Angeles Theatre community, Jules Aaron graciously stepped in at the eleventh hour to direct TWO FISTED LOVE, already in previews opening February 10, 2018 at the Odyssey Theatre. We got the chance to chat with Jules on his backstory with David Sessions‘ TWO FISTED LOVE and his long relationship with the Los Angeles theatre community.
Thank you, Jules, for taking the time for this interview!
What cosmic forces propelled you to step in to direct TWO FISTED LOVE?
I’ve known David’s play for two years. I worked dramaturgically on it with him. I originally was set to direct it, but a New York project got in the way. So, when David asked me to come aboard about ten days before opening, I took a look at the wonderful cast, remembered why I love the play, and was on board. I was both scared and excited about doing a play I thought was beautifully written, and though it’s set in 2008, it’s unfortunately very important in the current political maelstrom.
TWO FISTED LOVE is a director’s dream because of the combination of comedy of manners, fantasy and very dark drama. They comprise the unique world of the play. Hopefully, the personal and political fall from grace in 2008 has resonance in the horrific fall from grace that permeates the White House today.
Was CLOUD 9 the first play you directed (South Coast Rep in 1986) in the Los Angeles area?
I had directed at least twenty shows in N.Y. and L.A., but SHE ALSO DANCES at South Coast was my first Equity show. CLOUD 9 at SCR came later.
What brought you to Los Angeles from New York?
Since I have a Ph.D. at NYU in theatre and dramaturgy, I’ve not surprisingly worked on at least 80 premieres over the years, starting in N.Y. in my twenties with plays by Genet and Ionesco and new one-act plays by John Guare, Lanford Wilson and Leonard Melfi. I came out here to head the MFA Directing program at CalArts. In L.A., I did new shows at the Cast, Circle at the Cast, Smitty’s, LATC., etc.
What major changes in the Los Angeles Theatre community have you seen from back in the mid-1980s to present day?
I was proud being a part of a great L.A. community which developed new directors, new designers, new tech people and NEW PLAYWRIGHTS. It was better than N.Y. I believe Equity has single-handedly done their best too emasculate the creative flow of what made L.A. a great theatre town. No one else in L.A. wanted this. (Why have their members vote?!) Future artists will suffer through their stupidity.
You’ve directed shows in cities between the two coasts, right?
As far as working all around the country, I’ve been in pretty extraordinary companies, many who did great new work: the Public theatre in New York, the Humana festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Utah Shakespeare Festival. But there was a spirit of adventure in the 200 small theaters that was exhilarating. I will miss it.
There’s an old adage “Those who don’t act, teach.” This definitely doesn’t apply to you as you do both prolifically. Can you delineate the satisfaction you get from teaching as separate and distinct from your high from directing?
I teach now at American Academy of Dramatic Art, which gets some very gifted students. My directing there has a special adrenaline from dealing with young students. It only informs on my professional work. In the past few tears I decided not to commute, so I only work in local theaters on plays I really care about.
Would you concur that teaching and directing are both methods of promoting better communications?
By “better communication,” I think you mean reaching out in a live situation that changes night-to-night to tell better stories.
As a director of more than 250 stage and television productions, you have been part of many, many auditions. What’s your advice to an auditioning neophyte in a first audition?
Auditions are like doing stand-up. It’s scary. You better have a great picture to get you in. Look right for the audition as part of your prep. Make friends with the assistant casting director. Make strong choices and be ready for adjustments. Your audition starts as you enter the room, and ends when you close the door. PREPARE. It’s not about you. It’s about what actors the director feels will make the play work.
You’re directed big names and unknowns. Any ‘unknown’s you’re directed that eventually became big names?
I directed Don Cheadle at CalArts (in STRIDER) and Julianne Moore at ATL (in THE BUG). They haven’t done badly.
What’s the most unexpected audience reaction to one of your directed plays that you has ever received?
Every audience reaction is unexpected because every night is different.
What post-show reactions from the Odyssey audience would please you the most from seeing TWO FISTED LOVE?
I hope the audience is startled by the play’s turns, that they care about people who can be very dark, and that they learn something about how we live our lives under adversity. Something I think we can relate to in 2018
Thank you again, Jules! I look forward to seeing your latest directorial creation.
For ticket availability and show schedule through March 11, 2018, log onto OdysseyTheatre.com