Interview with Peter Flynn – 5 November 2021
You will soon be leading the creative team of Calling Us Home here in South Africa. Are you excited to put your feet on our shores ?
I AM VERY EXCITED TO BE WORKING IN SOUTH AFRICA AND LEARN FROM YOUR CULTURAL EXPERIENCE. IT IS MY FIRST TIME VISITING YOUR COUNTRY, AND AM EAGER TO EXPLORE HOW YOUR PERSPECTIVE, TRADITIONS, AND COMMUNITY ARE ALL AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE CALLING US HOME NARRATIVE.
How long will you be out of your home country ?
I’LL BE VISITING FOR ABOUT TWO MONTHS, SO I’LL BE AWAY FROM MY WIFE AND SON THE LONGEST WE’VE EVER EXPERIENCED. WE’RE HAVING CONVERSATIONS NOW ABOUT WHAT THAT WILL BE LIKE AND HOW WE CAN SHIFT OUR FAMILY DYNAMIC TO ACCOMMODATE MY ABSENCE.
Will you make time to explore the amazingness that Cape Town has to offer between your breaks ?
YES, ABSOLUTELY. I’M AN AVID HIKER SO I’D LIKE TO VISIT TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK WHICH LOOKS STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL. I ALSO HAVE A DEEP CURIOSITY FOR DIFFERENT CULTURES’ HISTORY, SO I’D LIKE TO VISIT THE BO-KAAP MUSEUM, AND THE DISTRICT 6 MUSEUM – THEIR STORIES AND HISTORY ARE REMARKABLE; AND OF COURSE, I’D LIKE TO VISIT ROBBEN ISLAND TO VISIT SOMEWHERE I’VE READ ABOUT AND SEEN IN THE PRESS. TO ACTUALLY VISIT THERE WOULD BE HUMBLING AND MOVING, ESPECIALLY THAT THE SITE IS NOW A UNESCO LOCATION. I’M ALSO A BIG ART NERD, SO SEEING WHAT’S OFFERED AT THE MOCAA IS DEFINITELY ON MY PRIORITY LIST!
Calling Us Home lies close to your heart. Tell us a bit more on why you took up this opportunity without any hesitation ? Where did you hear about the show?
A MUTUAL FRIEND OF ALICE GILLHAM AND MINE INTRODUCED US TO ONE ANOTHER, AND I CAN HONESTLY SAY IT IS ALICE’S DEEP PASSION FOR HER PLAY’S STORY AS WELL AS THE STRUCTURE OF THE MUSICAL THAT CONTINUALLY INTEREST ME. TO BE ASKED TO TELL A STORY THAT IS EQUALLY UNFAMILIAR AND FAMILIAR TO ME IS A RARE OPPORTUNITY – I HAVE AS MUCH TO LEARN AS I HAVE TO GIVE, AND THAT’S THE KIND OF COLLABORATION FOR WHICH I’M ALWAYS LOOKING. ALICE’S CHARACTERS ARE BOTH VIVID AND AUTHENTIC, AND HER MUSICAL SCORE IS EXCITING AND MOVING. ULTIMATELY, THE MIX OF WORKING ON A TERRIFIC NEW MUSICAL AND LEARNING SO MUCH WAS AN OFFER I COULDN’T REFUSE.
What do you think about the incredible talent we have here in South Africa ?
THE RANGE OF TALENT AND LIFE EXPERIENCE I’VE WITNESSED SO FAR IS REALLY INSPIRING. THE COMBINATION OF SKILL, GENEROSITY, AND BRAVERY IS TREMENDOUS, AND SPEAKS TO THE COURAGE AND HEART INTRINSIC TO CALLING US HOME.
Tell us a bit more about your credits you have in the theatre world and also, difficult as this may be, what was your favorite production ?
I’M A NEW YORK BASED DIRECTOR WHO HAS WORKED ON BROADWAY, OFF-BROADWAY, AND AROUND THE COUNTRY AT MANY REGIONAL THEATERS. MY PASSION IS FOR CREATING NEW WORK (LIKE CALLING US HOME) AND TAKING A FRESH LOOK AT THE AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATRE CANON. IF I HAD TO CHOOSE, THERE ARE TWO PRODUCTIONS THAT REMAIN SUPERLATIVE EXPERIENCES. THE PRODUCTION OF WILLY HOLTZMAN’S NEW PLAY SMART BLONDE ABOUT MOVIE STAR JUDY HOLLIDAY WAS AN ENTIRELY EXHILARATING EXPERIENCE. A NEW PLAY, IN MY HOMETOWN, WORKING WITH ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLAYWRIGHTS; COMBINE THAT WITH GETTING TO WORK WITH MY WIFE, ANDREA BURNS, IN THE ROLE OF JUDY HOLLIDAY AND IT WAS ALL A DREAM COME TRUE. ANDREA IS ONE OF THE SMARTEST, MOST COLLABORATIVE ACTORS I KNOW, SO I’M ALWAYS GRATEFUL TO GET IN THE REHEARSAL ROOM WITH HER.
EQUAL TO SMART BLONDE IS OUR PRODUCTION OF INTO THE WOODS AT FORD’S THEATRE IN WASHINGTON, D.C. STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S SCORE AND JAMES LAPINE’S BOOK ARE BOTH COMPELLING AND INCREDIBLY MOVING. OUR CAST WAS SO OPEN TO TRYING EVERYTHING: REMARKABLY FUNNY MOMENTS THAT THEN TURN INTO SOME OF THE MOST VULNERABLE AND POIGNANT SCENES IN THE PLAY. HERE AGAIN – THE HOLISTIC EXPERIENCE OF PLAY AND COMPANY MADE IT AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME.
Is this the first time you will be working with Shy Music ?
YES, IT’S MY FIRST TIME WORKING WITH ALICE AND SHY MUSIC – BUT I HOPE WE FIND OTHER PROJECTS TOGETHER!
What can SA Theatre goers expect from Calling Us Home ? How will that differ from audiences on the International Tour? Will the tour be traveling to your home town?
AUDIENCES IN SOUTH AFRICA CAN HOPEFULLY EXPECT MUSIC AND CHARACTERS THEY RECOGNIZE WHO MEET MUSIC AND CHARACTERS THAT ARE COMPLETELY NEW AND UNFAMILIAR – THAT’S THE FOCUS OF OUR STORY. ALICE’S SCORE IS SO CAPTIVATING IN ITS BEAUTY AND SPECIFICITY, THAT THE STORY ALWAYS COMPELS THE AUDIENCE TO LEAN FORWARD. AUDIENCES WILL BE WELCOMED INTO A FULLY REALIZED WORLD OF BEAUTIFUL SETS, DYNAMIC CHOREOGRAPHY, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – A TALENTED COMPANY OF ACTORS ALL WORKING TOGETHER TO TELL A VERY PERSONAL STORY.
AS FAR AS THE NEXT ITERATIONS OF THE SHOW IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD, OUR HOPE IS THAT THE STORY GETS CLEARER, MORE VIVID, AND THEREFORE MORE COMPELLING. EACH STEP OF THE WAY ALLOWS US AS A CREATIVE TEAM TO LEARN WHAT RESONATES WITH EACH AUDIENCE, AND REFINE THE WAY WE TELL THE STORY FROM THAT INFORMATION.
YES – ULTIMATELY OUR GOAL IS TO BRING CALLING US HOME TO NEW YORK CITY, WHICH I’VE HAPPILY CALLED HOME FOR 35 YEARS.
Have you directed any Hollywood movies as yet, and if so, please tell us a bit more about it ?
I HAVEN’T DIRECTED A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE YET; BUT THE FEATURE FILM, CALLING US HOME, SOUNDS APPEALING, DOESN’T IT…?
A Bit More about Peter Flynn :
Peter is a New York based director, writer and teacher who works both in new work development, as well as staging classic American musicals in New York and for some of the most notable regional theatres.
His New York directing credits include the off-Broadway premiere of Smart Blonde by Willy Holtzman starring Andréa Burns; the off-Broadway premiere of Curvy Widow by Bobby Goldman & Drew Brody; Rhapsody in Seth starring Seth Rudetsky; Lee Blessing’s Two Rooms; the 75th Anniversary performance of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town with Adriane Lenox, B.D. Wong, S. Epatha Merkerson; On the 20th Century with Douglas Sills & Marin Mazzie; Chess with Josh Groban & Julia Murney; Funny Girl with Bebe Neuwirth, Whoopi Goldberg, & Andrea Martin; Skippyjon Jones, and Junie B. Jones (nominated for two Lucille Lortel Awards including Best Musical).
Other credits include Andrea Martin’s one woman show, Andrea Martin: Final Days Everything Must Go; Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop; Gypsy at the St. Louis MUNY; Kiss Me, Kate for the Maltz-Jupiter Theatre where he has directed productions of Man of LaMancha (Carbonell Award, Best Director & Best Musical), Sleuth, & Other Desert Cities; and Into the Woods & Ragtime (Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Direction for both productions) for Ford’s Theatre where he is an Associate Artist.
As a writer, Peter is currently under commission to create the book for two new musicals: Lily, a musical adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, and Love of the Game, an adaptation of the Michael Shaara novella. Both are written with composer/lyricist Brooks Ashmanskas. Love of the Game is receiving its first workshop in New York, spring of 2020. He has also written the scripts for the Drama Desk Awards, the Second Stage Theatre Annual Gala, the Guthrie Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Performance, and for industrials including Aztra-Seneca Pharmaceuticals.
Peter was the Artistic Director of the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York for five seasons, overseeing a variety of large scale productions, intimate plays, and the development of new work. He is also the Founding Artistic Director of the Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Peter also creates and directs award-winning entertainment for Carnival Cruise Lines, with music ranging from Motown, rock, disco, and Cuban/Miami fusion. He is currently creating his latest show with Carnival to debut on a new vessel in the fall of 2020.
For Peter’s teaching experience, please visit the “Teaching” page on his Website.
Peter is a graduate of Northwestern University, and a member of SDC.