Morgan Flynn’s theater career is just taking off

28Jul16

Morgan_Flynn

By MARK SARDELLA

Morgan Flynn is living her dream.

The 2012 Wakefield Memorial High School graduate is the Directing Apprentice for the current season at Gloucester Stage, where she is getting to work directly with a series of professional theater directors, a job that she aspires to.

“I went to school thinking I wanted to be an actor and then I sort of found directing about halfway through,” Flynn says. “Directing, I just feel really at home.”

Flynn holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Salem State University, where she graduated as a Commonwealth Honors Program Tsongas Scholar. She was a performance major with a focus on theater directing and a minor in dramatic literature. For her capstone Honors Thesis, she served as Peter Sampieri’s Assistant Director on Frank Galati’s adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

This past January she competed in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 1 Stage Directors and Choreographers fellowship program, where she was awarded the David Wheeler Award for Actor/Director communication. Last year, she directed Port by Simon Stephens for the Student Theatre Ensemble for which she received a KCACTF Merit Award for Excellent Student Direction.

Morgan_Flynn-performanceThe switch from performance to directing came when Flynn took her Directing I class in her sophomore year at SSU, a class that most students don’t take until they’re juniors. As part of the class, she got to direct two scenes of a play and was hooked.

“I loved it,” she says. “I loved coaching actors.”

Flynn says that she also loves all of the “bookish” aspects of directing, like character and script analysis and creating a prompt book.

Flynn started at Gloucester Stage as in intern last spring. About halfway through her internship, applications started coming in for the apprentice program. She applied and got the job.

The position of directing apprentice is a multifaceted one, according to Flynn. Her primary job is to assist the current show’s director. She takes notes during rehearsals and serves as a sounding board for the director. During the recent production of The Last Schwartz, she also functioned as dramaturg, researching and interpreting aspects of the script for director Paula Plum and the professional cast.

Another part of the directing apprentice’s job is to assist Gloucester Stage’s Artistic Director Robert Walsh with administrative work. She also serves as a casting associate for the theater’s Never Dark events – a series of staged readings of plays that the theater is considering for next season. In that capacity, Flynn reaches out to Boston area actors to get them to participate in the staged readings. She hopes to direct one of the staged readings in the current Never Dark series.

The apprentice program at Gloucester Stage is an immersive program, Flynn says. There are a total of seven apprentices, each with their own specialty, from directing to set construction. During the season, most of the apprentices live in a house in the Lanesville section of Gloucester. It’s a two minute walk to the beach.

“But we never have time to go to the beach,” Flynn laughs.

Morgan_Flynn-actingThere are a number of reasons that housing is provided for the apprentices, Flynn says. Some live out of state, but even for those who live closer, staying at the Gloucester house makes sense.

“We’re in the theater for very long hours,” she says, “sometimes getting out of meetings at midnight or later.” Plus, living within a few minutes of the theater means that an apprentice can be on call if needed on short notice.

“We are definitely treated as part of the company,” Flynn says. “It’s clear that we are integral to the functioning of a lot of the events.”

Flynn says that it’s been a great experience working with the professional directors of this season’s shows. Rick Lombardo directed Albatross, a one-man show based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Because Lombardo is also a professor of theater at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Flynn says that she found him to be a great teacher, continually checking in with her to see what she was learning.

“It was great to be able to chat with him on dinner breaks about the professional directing world,” Flynn says.

Flynn also appreciated the opportunity to work with Paula Plum, who directed The Last Schwartz. Plum is a well-known Boston actress/director, and Flynn notes that one of her own strengths is actor/director communication.

“It was cool to watch her communicate with the actors and work on each character’s back story,” Flynn said. “She encouraged me to send her my notes and offered feedback on how to give notes more effectively.”

Both Lombardo and Plum “were both great to get guidance from,” Flynn says.

She’s also excited to be working on the upcoming Songs for a New World, because she’s never directed a musical and because she’s looking forward to assisting director Robert Walsh, who she already knows in his role as Artistic Director.

Flynn says that her love of theater started at a very young age.

“My parents had the 25th anniversary Les Miserables CD,” Flynn says. “I would run around the house singing along with it.”

Morgan_Flynn-hs1At Wakefield Memorial High School, she says, her theater teacher Emily Holmes “gave me a lot of amazing parts that totally hooked me.”

During her high school years, she also participated in an intensive summer program with the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company for three years.

“That’s where it really clicked for me that I wanted more professional training,” she says.

And Flynn has a clear set of professional and artistic goals in mind.

“I would love to be a professional director,” she says, “and continue assisting in a professional theater setting.”

She might also like to move to California at some point and get to know the world of film directing, which she says is a “totally different animal” from theater directing.

Along the way, Flynn plans to further her education, get an MFA in directing and become a professor of theater.

Since she was a performance major and has most of her training in acting, she’s also open to other possibilities.

“Obviously, I would be happy to act professionally too,” she says.

Headshots by Ruby Wallace-Ewing.
Production photos by Alex Portenko.

[This story originally appeared in the July 25, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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