‘Homecoming’ director is no stage rookie

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Jack Wann moved from New York and has extensive training and experience.

By The Staff

Jack Wann is making his directorial debut at Shelby County Community Theater with The Homecoming, which opens Dec. 2, but he is no rookie. Wann, 76, moved to Shelby County last year from New York City, where he had retired after 40-plus years of university teaching and administration. In NYC, I was acting, directing (mostly off-Broadway and Fringe events) and teaching (at AADA – The American Academy of Dramatic Arts). He is originally from this region, and when his brother, who is in a nursing home near Louisville, took a downward turn, he looked to move back. His daughter, Regan, also lives in Shelby County. Wann received his doctorate in dramatic theory at LSU and also attended Indiana and Louisville. He has worked in stage, film and print and has authored books on Shakespeare. He took a few minutes to respond to questions from The Sentinel-News.


The Sentinel-News: This is your first directorial role at the SCCT. What attracted you to the theater and this production?

Jack Wann: Of course, wherever I am...I want to immerse myself in the area theater. SCCT had a good word-of-mouth reputation, and so I got to know some of the folks by attending productions and then offered my services. I am delighted that it has worked out. The production is attractive to me because it is an "upper," and we certainly need that these days.


S-N: Will we see you as an actor at SCCT?

Wann:Probably not. I can legally (a la the unions I'm in) direct, but I am only allowed professional (union-regulated) acting jobs. But the directing, consulting and workshopping should provide a lot of outlets. The theater and I are already talking about future work on their main stage and on the new 801 second season in their wonderful upstairs venue.


S-N: How have you found the talent pool in Shelby County?
Wann:The talent pool proved quite good. I was, of course, worried going in; but all the roles are filled by enthusiastic, talented and "wired" actors.

S-N: The Homecoming comes from Earl Hamner's great narrative work. Have you been involved with it before?

Wann:I had never been involved with Hamner or The Homecomingbefore. I found the novel, the film, the TV version (with Patricia Neal) and the spin-off WaltonsTV series all born in the same place but quite different from one another.


S-N: Does this provide any special challenges for a director?
Wann:Kids onstage are always a challenge, but a real joy when they are working as well and as hard as these kids are. I think audiences will find the Spencer Family of Spencer's Mountain a group they'd like to know better. The form of the play is similar to Tennessee Williams' Glass Menageriein that it is a "memory play" with Clay-Boy Spencer, who will later become the writer of the story, re-living events that were hallmarks of one particular Christmas in the 1930s in the depths of the Depression. This movement  in and out of Clay- Boy's recollections and having him enter into the past situations even while recalling them, made for an interesting take on the staging (with the home residing on half the stage and various parts of the boy's imagination living on the other half. I hope it works.


S-N: Your cast is a mixture of adults and children in this show. How do you blend them into a stage family?
Wann:Blending kids and adults is always fun. The adult cast has to a person taken a paternal attitude toward the kids, and the kids seem to have
found an additional family at the theater.


S-N: What holiday message will the audience take from this show?

Wann:I guess simply that the miracle that is Christmas (even in the toughest of times) is an accumulation of little miracles of day to day existence and that it is the love of family and friends that serves to kindle that series of miracles. The SCCT has already become like family to me, and I look forward to a long and productive association.