Thrasso Petras on the art of directing
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
Thrasso Petras, an instructor in the Douglas College theatre program, sat down with the Other Press to chat about his work with the student actors on their upcoming performance of John Murell’s World War 2 drama Waiting for the Parade.
When asked how he came to choose Waiting for the Parade, Petras confided that the program chooses their plays based on the students being cast. “We want strong characters; I was looking for things in the piece that the actors need to work on. Sometimes in plays for student productions you don’t always get what you want to do, you have to find the play that suits the students. Our class has lots of women. This one happens to have all female roles, so that’s good.”
Petras noted that many of the plays he’s directed at Douglas over the past few years have had similar themes. “It occurred to me that this is a play about women and war. Looking back at all the plays I’ve done here, Waiting for the Parade, Trojan Women, Unity 1918, Lysistrata, Jehanne of the Witches, Macbeth—which is all about Lady MacBeth, to me—out of the I think 10 plays I’ve directed here, 6 of the plays I’ve done in the last 9 years have been about women and war.”
The set design is one of the most interesting aspects of the show, and it’s shaping up to be a very unique visual style. “I frequently work with Amanda Larder, our resident set designer, and we are not fans of the literal,” Petras said. “I feel that film and TV does literal really well, and when I go to the theatre, I want to see something a little bit tweaked. Some shows can stand a great deal of tweaking, and others just need a little.
“Amanda came up with this vivid pastel color scheme, and a great many images to do with the theme,” Petras continued. “Since it takes place in Calgary, almost all these images are from Calgary buildings and posters. We wanted to have that sense of nostalgia, but we didn’t want to be literal. We work between the literal and the representative.”
Having worked as a professional director for a number of years, Petras noted that directing students is a much different process than working with professional actors. “You start out 60 to 80 per cent director,” he said. “As the process moves on, you start to balance the roles of teacher and director so you’re directing more than teaching. In the best case scenario, the students successfully integrate the skills you’re teaching into their performance. In the most ideal cases, by the end, I’m collaborating more than leading.
“Working with professional actors, there’s full collaboration,” Petras said. “I want to see what their brains are making, talk about what’s really working, reflect it back, and refine it even further.”
To see Petras’ work live on stage, catch the free preview of Waiting for the Parade in the Douglas College studio theatre on March 10 at 2:00 p.m. Performances run from March 11–18 at 7:30 p.m.