Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

Luke Yankee Wants Us to Pretend

October 10th, 2016

Luke Yankee

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment begins performances on Wednesday. They have been holding rehearsals for the last three weeks to make sure this technically difficult play is executed without error. This adventure tale of the high seas is being helmed under the direction of Luke Yankee. We asked him some questions about his work on this imaginatively staged show, and he was kind enough to respond. Enjoy!

1. Since you have directed at ICT before, what has your experience been like this time around?

Every cast has a unique energy and a very different set of dynamics. I can honestly say, the cast of Shipwrecked! is one of the kindest, most generous, loving, talented and respectful group of actors I have ever worked with.  And I have been doing this a LONG time! Jud Williford, Laurine Price and Nick Ley are extraordinary people AND brilliant actors. This play takes tremendous precision and teamwork and they are all there for one another. It is a pleasure to go to rehearsal every day! I know this strong feeling of community among them makes them into a stronger acting ensemble and will be reflected in their performances.

2. As someone who also is a playwright, how does that influence your approach as a director?

Obviously, I have tremendous respect for the written word. Donald Margulies’ script is so strong (and incredibly detailed), I have encouraged the actors to trust the text. Most of the answers they are looking for are right there on the page.

Jud Williford and Nick Ley in Shipwrecked! An Entertainment

Jud Williford, Laurine Price and Nick Ley in Shipwrecked!

3. What do you have to say about this style of theatre where actors play many roles between them? Is there something unique that this type of theatre offers audiences?

As a director, it is one of the most challenging pieces I have ever done. You have three actors who never leave the stage. They create all of the sound effects and play more than 40 characters. Thank goodness I am also a dialect coach! To make it look simple and easy, it takes incredible accuracy and concentration.  These actors truly have their work cut out for them. Shipwrecked! also has a tremendous sense of fun about it. It’s like the little boy standing on a kitchen chair and saying, “Look mommy! I’m a pirate on a ship!”  It speaks to the childlike innocence and sense of play in all of us.

4. Since he is one of the most celebrated playwrights of the modern era, what do you think makes Donald Margulies such a respected playwright?

I had the great pleasure of getting to know Donald when he was honored at the William Inge Theatre Festival, where I am on the advisory board. Aside from being a lovely man, he is a gifted writer. His work has great passion, great humanity and it reveals the human condition, our frailties and vulnerabilities in a very unique way. It is a pleasure to work on one of his plays.

5. What do you hope audiences take from seeing Shipwrecked!?

While most of the play is incredibly fun and lighthearted, it also makes a strong statement about how we treat celebrities in our culture. We build them up just to tear them down when they get too famous and powerful. It is a ‘message play”, but it speaks more to the world of “let’s pretend” and harkens back to a simpler time. Couldn’t we all use that in our lives?

Shipwrecked! runs October 12 through November 6. For more information or to purchase tickets: please visit or call 562.436.4610.

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