Garbed in a ruby-red waistcoat with a tiny charcoal black umbrella in one hand and an over-sized gold pocket watch in the other, Lewis Carrollâ€™s White Rabbit scurries down the dirt road into the mind of award-winning Director Andrew Rothkin, inspiring new theatrical adventures for his audiences to embark upon. It’s no coincidence that Rothkinâ€™s theatre company is called, â€œWhite Rabbit.â€
Rothkinâ€™s latest exploit â€œDanny,â€ is about a group of old college friends, who gather every year on the same day by the grave of their late friend, Danny, to reminisce about the past. Unable to move forward from things that no longer suit them, but rather settle for the familiar, one character bravely cuts all ties with everyone in order to break free.
This is the third run on stage for the 10-year-old play, making its first appearance at the Planet Connections Theatre Festival. Undergone many changes, but keeping the same concept, this is the first time Rothkin is directing the play as opposed to previous times when he acted in it.
â€œThis is a piece I both wrote and directed. A lot of people are anti-directing their own work. I can understand that, but I always have an assistant director. Another thing, is the way I work with actors, which I think is my strongest point. I like to have an organic process, itâ€™s not like I have these set ideas of what these characters should be like. Aside from directing my own work, I enjoy good writing,â€ he said.
Although â€œDannyâ€ is a fiction piece, the characters are composites of people Rothkin went to school with. Having a special place for all his characters, Rothkin, however, finds Marco the â€œOscar Wildeâ€ of the bunch to be his favorite, possessing the wittiest lines.
Regardless, he played John, the intense character who chooses to free himself from his old habits.
â€œThey [the other characters] talk about how John was going to be this great actor and he announces heâ€™s giving it up to be a lawyer. I would say heâ€™s the neediest role. He has the most internal struggles,â€ he said.
Getting involved with Planet Connections Theatre through friend Glory Cadigan, executive director, the festivity caters itself to being Eco-Friendly. Since White Rabbit Theatre does not a nonprofit status yet, the go green suggestion made it easier to gather materials and recyclables to make the stage scenery, benefiting both the environment and the theatreâ€™s pocket.
â€œI initially wanted to have a basic set, have it almost a bare stage. But the space created problems so we really couldnâ€™t do that. I had to fire two designers and the third one was the charm. Iâ€™m so happy with the setting. On a very small budget, I think itâ€™s our most beautiful set in the three productions weâ€™ve had,â€ said Rothkin.
Not only does the Planet Connections Festival help the environment, but every play featured at the show represents a charity of their choice. Some donate a portion of their proceeds to the charity, while others get creative. Rothkinâ€™s charity is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Tying into the deceased character of Danny, the other characters mention him being an animal lover and vegetarian.
â€œWe are having a benefit and asking for donations. With all our programs we are giving people literature about their organization and how they can give and help animals. It’s up to each and every group how theyâ€™re going to support their charity,â€ Rothkin said.
Pursuing an acting career in the early â€˜90s, Rothkin needed a way to be creative in between auditions. Other aspiring actors started their own theatre groups while Rothkin turned to writing and more recently, directing.
Interested in directing good literature such as Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare or even Lewis Carroll, Rothkin would jump at the opportunity, desiring a two month rehearsal period and a large amount of funding, he would rather one great show than many mediocre ones.
â€œAny time I think of Shakespeare, Iâ€™ve always wanted to act in it. Now Iâ€™m starting to think of doing some directing of Shakespeare. Iâ€™m most excited about MacBeth. I might want to do something thatâ€™s done less often though,â€ he said. I do have an adoption I wrote of Alice in Wonderland. That’s what I thought would get my name off the ground, but this is a piece that would need space, money and time. For festivals, you make a lot of short cuts and this is the one piece I really want to be ahead so Iâ€™m going to wait.â€
Besides theatre work, Rothkin spent over a decade teaching art education in grades k-12, teaching acting, improvisation and writing. Though teaching was rewarding, feeling he was making a difference in his studentâ€™s lives, it took a toll on his artistic nature, now preferring to conveniently work from home for a law firm.
â€œNot that I wasnâ€™t doing theater work on top of it, but it just took a lot of my creative energy and for right now I would rather do a job thats not fun, but I can make my own schedule and spend my creative energy making theater. I thought it [teaching] was a very noble thing; It just wasnâ€™t what I wanted to do with my life. I will eventually go back and do teaching again, â€ he said.
An homage to his love of theatre, â€œDannyâ€ is a piece bearing Rothkinâ€™s strong efforts. Hoping to take his vocation to greater heights, being experienced in many aspects of theatre, including acting, producing, writing and directing, he will soon be directing â€œFace Book,â€ by Mery Wallace and playing the role of the devil in â€œHarley and Laylaâ€ by Jonathan Wallace.
Taking into account his theatreâ€™s mission, Rothkin aims to guide audiences through an unforgettable voyage with every play performance and production, acting as the White Rabbit, Aliceâ€™s catalyst of adventure.
â€œIt has more of myself, more of my heart in it. It’s in a lot of ways my sweat and blood out on that stage. Some of my other pieces whether theyâ€™re dramas or comic, I just donâ€™t feel as naked out on the stage as I do with this play,â€ he said. â€œAt this point, Iâ€™m ready for my career to take off. I want to get paid for doing great theatre. Like most of us in the business I would like to get some recognition and go to the next stage in my career whether it’s for acting, writing or directing. I just want to do great theatre.â€
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