As I looked at the sheet of paper in front of me — a sheet filled with my questions and All My Sons director Kimberly Senior’s answers — my eyes landed on the query, “What three words would you use to describe yourself?”
Kimberly had written: “Tenacious, passionate and enthusiastic.”
Why? I wondered. Why those three words? As I looked over the rest of the paper, I realized that Kimberly answered me without intending to. By answering the rest of the questions I asked her, she supported how those three words describe her perfectly. Plus, I also have the memory of my experience working with her about three or four years ago when she directed mini-plays for the Steppenwolf Cross-Town Ensemble (a group of young actors and playwrights who go through training and in the end create a production).
When one has a goal and wants to pursue it, one must keep a firm hold in order to accomplish it. When it comes to directing, Kimberly always sticks to something: “The text!”
At Steppenwolf, I remember the group of young artists looking over a draft of a play.
Kimberly’s job was to figure out with the young playwright which parts of the text were truly important (and not just extra words that didn’t hold a real use). I remember seeing them dissect the play and intensely create the final piece. Once the final draft of the play was done, Kimberly made sure that we actors succeeded in making the text become real by directing us in how to use our “active verbs,” which were supposed to be expressed verbally and most especially, physically.
Kimberly also sticks to the idea “that the playwright, at the time, wrote a play he considered contemporary, and that we should honor that and not present something that feels like a museum piece.” Since All My Sons is a play written and set in 1947, Kimberly makes sure that whatever she does holds true to that time. It is all about honoring the playwright, while creating a piece that is “moving, intelligent and thought-provoking.”
When people love the work they do and enjoy doing it, they are passionate about what they create. Kimberly is a perfect example because she pushes people to reach their true potential.
When I worked with her, I remember how she used to push us to try things over and over again if we didn’t succeed the first time. She took the time to work with us and never gave up. Because she is so passionate about what she does, she also takes rehearsals seriously. I remember the rule she expected all of us to obey: All cell phones must be turn off and put away. And if a phone went off during rehearsal, your punishment was to make homemade cupcakes for everyone (I had to make homemade cupcakes).
During the first rehearsal of All My Sons, Kimberly said that she has always wanted to direct All My Sons. I asked her why, and why at TimeLine.
She explained that she “loves the play — it tells a really moving, personal story in the middle of a larger story about war, the United States’ role on an international scale, and the huge story of accountability and responsibility in the face of a world growing morally bankrupt. TimeLine is perfect because the play must be contextualized through the lens of history to ask ourselves today these really important questions.”
The people who are involved in All My Sons are putting their full effort in creating something extraordinary. Kimberly wants “the audience to ask the important questions about responsibility to something larger than ourselves.”
The best type of person to work with is someone who is enthusiastic about the work that is being done. It motivates everyone else who is working with that person. Kimberly does that.
When working with the Cross-Town Ensemble, Kimberly used to join us in our group warming exercises. She was always so into them (really into them; she even participated when she became pregnant). There was one warm-up where we all had to rotate our waists, arms, shoulders, ankles, legs, and the funniest one, our hips. When we would rotate our hips, Kimberly would say, “Pretend you are wiping the peanut butter out the jar,” which used to make me laugh because we all looked pretty ridiculous sticking our butts out every time we rotated. It was great working with her because her enthusiasm, in even the smallest things, always worked us up to excel.
Why does she love directing? “I’m bossy (just kidding),” Kimberly said. “Because I love to create a space where talented people come together and excel at what they love. I like to foster environments of creativity and conversation — artists and audience alike.”
The All My Sons cast are talented people who are preparing themselves to do what they love on stage starting next week. For Kimberly, it is a perfect blend of actors and because of that she says that rehearsals have been “Awesome! The play has been revealing itself.”
Time is ticking and next week All My Sons will be ready for the audience’s eyes. From what Kimberly had to say about herself and about the play, I have a gut feeling it’s going to be remarkable to watch.