Q&A with Andrew Botsford, Director of ‘Heroes’ in Quogue

The Hampton Theatre Company’s latest production, Heroes, a comedy by Gerald Sibleyras translated by Tom Stoppard, is an important project for longtime member Andrew Botsford, as it is his first time directing one of the Quogue-based company’s full-length plays.

Dan’s Papers spoke with Botsford about the play, his history with Hampton Theatre Company and what’s next.

Is Heroes your directorial debut at Hampton Theatre Company?

We did an evening of one-acts by Tennessee Williams called The Long Goodbye. I directed [one of the one-acts]; it was a frustrating experience because I couldn’t cast it, so I had to take a part in it…. It was a good experience, though.

I studied directing through the MFA in Theater and Film at Stony Brook Southampton. I took some great master classes, with Kathleen Marshall and Austin Pendleton, Tony Walton—I was actually in Tony’s production at Guild Hall over the summer, Tonight at 8:30.

I’ve also directed for the Young Artists and Writers Program at the campus. The [teachers in the program] work with high schools and middle schools and teach them how to write plays from each class and put them on at the theater in Southampton. It’s been a great experience.

Tell us about Heroes.

It’s been great. Tom Stoppard won the Olivier Award when he brought it to London. He translated the play The Wind in the Poplars, which won a bunch of Molière nominations, so Stoppard brought his translation. It’s a nice little play; three actors, one set. It’s very, very funny, but it’s very touching. It’s about these guys facing their limitations. It’s got a really nice flow.

Some of it leans toward [playwright Samuel Beckett, who wrote the absurdist classic Waiting for Godot] but it also has a touch of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They complain about all the other loonies, and there’s an administrator we never see, a sort of Nurse Ratched figure. In Jaws, she’s the shark you never see [laughs].

Have you worked with the actors before?

It’s also been a joy for me—I’ve worked with them as an actor before. I was onstage with George Loizides, who plays Philippe, in Glengarry Glen Ross. I was also onstage with him in Cuckoo’s Nest. He was another inmate, and then he directed me in William Inge’s Bus Stop. Tom Gustin, who plays Gustave… I was onstage with him in Art. Cyrus Newitt, who plays Henri, was the ghost of my father in Black Tie, where I played a man whose son is about to get married and the ghost of my father appears. I know a lot about how they work, and they’re all very gifted, and I know what they respond to and what makes their thoughts tick. It’s great to have that familiarity together so we’re all on the same page.

It sounds like the Hampton Theatre Company is a tight-knit group.

I’m a person who likes to work with the same actors. As much as we can, we draw from our local talent pool, but we don’t always have ready casts available to us. We do sort of open calls for most productions. Some roles are precast, sometimes none; Sarah Hunnewell, our executive director, prefers not to precast anything. My ideal way of working would be to identify people I want and set it up in advance as much as I can, which is why it’s a huge advantage to have this cast. Maybe I’ll have a better chance of them listening to me [laughs]!

The company is a hybrid. It’s a professional company, but it’s not-for-profit, and we don’t have a stock pool of performers.

What is it about Hampton Theatre Company that you love?

It’s my homebase company. I had acted a lot when I was in school, all the way up through 12th grade, and then I went to college and worked for newspapers and did charter fishing and other things. I studied at HB Studios in New York, and Hampton Theatre Company got started around that same time. In 1985 I was in one of their first productions, The Long Christmas Dinner and A Christmas Carol. We did those two together, and I was in those productions. And I’ve been acting with them ever since.

While working and living in the Hamptons, it gave me the opportunity to do my theater in my “off hours.” I’ve done work with other companies, but for a long time I was very loyal to them because they’ve been very loyal to me. There was a time on the East End when there were a few community theater companies. People would be amazed by HTC’s professionalism; it was sort of a cut above. That was the efforts of everyone who’s been involved over the years. We draw people from all over to Quogue because of the reputation is so good.

What’s next for you?

For directing, it would have to be another piece that spoke to me like this one did, but I think it’s going to be a great show. I’m primarily an actor. I enjoy this particular process, but in my bones I like to act, the process has been a lifelong thing.

In the spring we’re doing God of Carnage; I’m bound to be in that if all goes well. And for next season is our 30th anniversary season, and we’re trying to pick the season, trying to make it special, as a gift to the audience for everything they’ve given us for the past 30 years.

Heroes runs from January 9 to 26 at Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Avenue, Quogue. For tickets and more information on Heroes and the Hampton Theatre Company, go to hamptontheatre.org.

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