As well as teaching in the HSU Department of Theatre, Film & Dance, Jody Sekas has worked on more than 80 North Coast productions as scenic and lighting designer or technical director. But this is the first play he’s directed since his student days. There’s a certain symmetry in his choice of The Marriage of Bette and Boo. “This play has a special place in my heart because it is the first full-length show that I had ever designed as a student, many years ago.”
“It’s a dark comedy—my favorite style,” he said, “but it’s more than that. It’s also very powerful and human. For all their excesses, these are characters we know.”
“In working with the cast, we discovered that all the characters have the same dilemma: their lives haven’t measured up to their expectations. That presents two common problems. On the one hand, we get so fixated on what should be, that we lose sight of what is, and what we do have. On the other hand, we can get so fixated on what is, that we lose sight of how things could or should be, so instead of dealing with things that are wrong and moving forward, we get stuck.”
“ All the characters struggle through things that didn’t come out as they hoped or expected. Bette expected she would be the perfect 50s housewife, that it would be easy. Boo finds being married is not as easy as he may have thought.”
“Every one of the characters has a journey, and we try to show this. We’ve added some silent scenes to indicate that the characters had choices at certain points in their lives. They weren’t always the same as when we see them. Karl, Boo’s father, wasn’t born a jerk.”
As the pivotal character, Bette and Boo’s son Matt begins by simply telling the story. “He doesn’t tell it in strict chronological order. He tells it through his memories, including things he wished had happened.” As the play goes on, Matt’s role is more active, and there is a more of a sense that the story is about his life.
Acknowledging it absurdities and ironies, Sekas suggests that The Marriage of Bette and Boo is also “a comedy with significant ideas about everyday life.”
As for his maiden voyage as a director, he maintains that in a way, he’s been directing all along.
“Something I firmly believe and teach my design students is that designers are directors - going through the same process of research, script analysis, breaking down moments, establishing rhythms, supporting the arc of a piece, defining style, and creating an environment that defines the blocking and acting,” he commented.
“I believe that if designers do not understand directing, they cannot be good and effective designers. This belief, coupled with my schooling in acting and directing, as well as having worked on over 80 shows with over 50 different directors and gleaning their techniques really provides the backbone to my directing approach. A play is not about the acting or the design or the tech, it is about telling the story in the best possible way through a seamless unified vision of all of these elements.”