As a director, Jennings won the T.O.R. award for Best Director for the Off-Broadway play The Holy Junkie by John Quinn. He also won the Jean Dalrymple Award for Best Director of the play Blood Money starring Dan Lauria, and he directed Celeste Holme on Broadway in Salute to Clinton. He’s also directed Harvey Keitel in The Funeral at the Actors Studio and his own play, My Fathers House, was produced Off-Broadway starring Henderson Forsythe and was highly acclaimed. He is a member of the Actors Studio Director/Playwright Unit and worked with Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman.
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Review Fix: What inspired this production?
James Jennings: I wanted to see younger actors in the Lead roles. What can they bring to the characters we don’t usually see? Ambition, social climbing, it happens early in life. I’m also inspired by my daughter and directing her in challenging roles. She’s wanted to do this role for a long time. She wasn’t ready before. Now she’s had a child she has that world of experience to draw from and fuel ‘Lady Macbeth.’
Review Fix: Who do you think will enjoy it the most?
Jennings: Shakespeare enthusiasts. Everyone! I’ve presented the classics in many ways; the audience always enjoys being brought back in time and will enjoy this 10th Century rendition.
Review Fix: How do you want this production to affect people?
Jennings: The Macbeths are full of passion, deeply in love, have been parents and lost their children. I don’t think that’s usually brought out – but if it’s not the audience can’t empathize. I want the audience to realize that ambition to rise to the top is in all of us, and unbridled ambition can lead to disastrous results. This is the same all over the world. This is terrorism: people doing insane acts in the name of love, recognition, and God.
Review Fix: What have you learned about yourself through this production?
Jennings: That I’m still as eager to do the works of Shakespeare as I was when I was 35. Though I’m slower I’m more thorough. I’m highly independent but learn with each production, as I age, I have to be more team oriented and depend on others. I hate it. I don’t like needing help. I argue with my wife, but she’s the only one I trust to co-direct with. I’m not comfortable with technology but the business demands it – so I get help from my family. My light booth is 20 feet strait up on a ladder. I climb it often but at 74 years old it wears on my body – now I ask others to do the climbing at the end of the night and shut down the lights.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Jennings: I’ve done the complete canon including the rare and controversial works, and some more than twice. I’d like to revisit Antony & Cleopatra and/or Henry VI pt. III. Of course ATA operates three stages year round, and focuses equally on New Works. I read every play mailed in to us – and that’s hundreds each year – and I’ll continue presenting those Dramas and Comedies, One Acts and Full Lengths, giving opportunity to new playwrights, new directors, and new actors. This Fall three of new full-length plays we’ll present are: “The Man Who Found Troy” by Joe Krawczyk, “Direction” by James Crafford, and “Ticket” by Meny Beriro.