The Direction of Social Creatures


We were fortunate to recently speak with Social Creatures' Director, Nathan Robbel.  Read below for some insights on what drew him to the piece, his favorite horror films, and why Social Creatures ain't your typical 'zombie' play: Tympanic: How long have you been directing and what's your directing style?


Nathan: I've been directing for the stage for about fifteen years. I hate saying that I have a specific style, as I'm drawn to many different scripts, and they dictate their style in their own way. However, I find that I generally gravitate towards pieces that can be staged intimately. I'm a pretty firm believer of keeping the actor and the audience close and nurturing that relationship. When the action is far away, it seems remote... I can watch a movie or television if I want that experience. There's something vibrant and alive about the connection between actors and the audience. It's communal, and I think if theatre is going to thrive as in art form, it needs to remember that immediacy that is found there, and needs to nurture it.




Tympanic: What initially drew you to direct Social Creatures?

Nathan: The first full length play I directed was Ira Levin's Veronica's Room. It's a great thriller/horror piece, and even though it had very little to say in terms of social issues, I remember the production and the audience's reaction very, very fondly. Since then, I haven't directed anything else with a strong element of horror. Horror plays can often be "fluff" with very little to offer beyond creepy things happening in the dark. When Dan sent me the script, I have to admit that I was a little reluctant, due to the surface subject matter. But the script was much smarter than a play about "zombies" had any right to be. Certainly, stories about zombies are, more often than not, making social and political statements, but they often wear that clearly on their sleeve. But it's rare to see a zombie story that hits so many issues, and has layers of social commentary happening all at the same time. Unfortunately, over the last couple of months, it has started to feel more relevant and timely than ever.

Tympanic: The play is set in present day in a theater, what challenges/advantages did that present with the staging of the show?

Nathan: I think this is one of the things that drew me to the script pretty immediately. The space is "real." What we see in front of us is what the characters see. The audience and the actors share the space and there is no fourth wall. While I love theatre magic, and a sense of make-believe, with this play, what you see is what you get. That's a great sandbox to play in. However, it also limits us in that it forces the stage conventions to stay a little more grounded than they may otherwise be. But that's where it forces us to be extra clever, which is a great challenge.

Tympanic: Are you a horror fan? Have any favorites?

Nathan: I rarely seek out horror for its own sake, but I don't avoid it either. I think I gravitate towards more abstract stories that convey dread and a sense of something not quite right with the world, rather than shocks, gore, and jump-scares. Those films and stories are interesting in their own right, but I wouldn't call myself a fan. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is definitely a favorite. I wouldn't call David Lynch's art horror, necessarily, but I especially find Eraserhead and Inland Empire pretty terrifying in their own right. Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom is pretty amazing television that literally kept me up at night. When it comes to the written word, Joyce Carol Oates has some wonderful short stories that have stuck with me.

Tympanic: What do you want people to take away from the show?

Nathan: I would never say. ;-)  I hope the production speaks for itself, and I hope every audience member takes something slightly different from the show. Unfortunately, I think the themes Drury is exploring are extremely relevant, and the play digs deeper than one may expect. I hope that audience members leave with plenty to talk about at the bar after the show. And I hope they seek out more of Jackie Sibblies Drury's work!



Social Creatures by Jackie Sibblies Drury

Directed by Nathan Robbel

Oct 31 – Nov 16 @ the Den Fri – Sat @ 7:30pm, Sun @ 3pm

Get tickets HERE!