My parents used to take me to drive in movies, stuff like The Exorcist, The Shining, Animal House, they’d tell me to duck down and go to sleep but I’d be watching from the back. We also had HBO in the early days of cable, so I’d sneak downstairs at night and watch R-rated movies like ‘Escape from New York’, The Thing, Mad Max, Road Warrior. I thought they were the coolest movies in the world, I loved them.
At an early age, I realized movies were fantasy and make believe, so I got into stuff like comic books, Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games. We had this group of friends that would go straight home from school every day and play until dinner. Then on weekends we’d check out a room in the library and play from opening until close.
Coming out of high school, I thought I’d be a novelist or a short story writer. I was always kind of a black sheep in Wyoming where I grew up. I was politically more liberal, not interested in working at the ranch, not interested in doing labor. I was just more into artistic stuff. It wasn’t until I studied theater at the University of Wyoming that I started to take it seriously. Theater was always something I did on the side to get over my shyness. I think the first time I felt truly independent was when I left Wyoming and joined a theater company in Orlando, Florida. I stayed in Orlando for 5 years and then a girl I was dating moved to Austin, so I moved there. I fell in love with with city. There’s this air in Austin – all the music brings with it a lot of artists, there’s kind of a want or need for quirky stuff and offbeat theater goes over really well there.
When I started directing I realized pretty quickly that I had a knack for looking at a play in the big picture rather than through a single character. My role as a director is still performative though, I put on a mask of preparedness in a way. What I want is for actors to concentrate on themselves and on their characters; sometimes actors have the hardest time being vulnerable like that. It’s a comfort for them to know that someone is incharge, it just establishes trust right away.
I try to be as diplomatic about it as possible, but I always take control and leading actors in a certain direction. That’s the important thing about trust in rehearsals, it’s like a child trusting that someone who picks them up is going to hold them. If they trust me, they know I’m leading them in the right direction, and they’ll take more risks.
So far, I’ve been really lucky in Amsterdam, both the English language theaters have kept me busy. I directed Buried Cic‘Buried Child’ for the InPlayers last fall, and I just finished up ‘Pillowman’ at Orange Theatre Company. The amazing thing about the Inplayers and Orange Theater is that they just handed things over and let me do what I wanted, they trusted me.
I’ve been out of the United States for about a year now, and living in Amsterdam has made me wonder why I didn’t do this earlier. I wish I had taken the jump sooner. Living as an artist is about finding the discipline inside of yourself to do the things you want to do and trusting in that.
Right now, I’m working on developing a theater company and will probably start up acting classes this summer.
#EoA with Rocky Hopson
Interview and photo by Marilyn Volkman