Happy 20th Anniversary HPU Theatre — The Joyce Maltby Interview
|October 30, 2012||Posted by Troy M Apostol under Interviews|
Troy M. Apostol is Director for Hitting The Stage. He is a frequent contributor to Hawai‘i’s theatre scene, mainly in acting and directing.
I had the pleasure of being directed by Joyce Maltby two years ago in George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man. It was my first time performing at Hawaii Pacific University’s Paul and Vi Loo Theatre, getting to know Joyce and her loyal production team. The play was an endearing one about finding love and getting to know someone behind the facade. It remains one of my favorite theatre experiences for just those reasons amongst others. Kudos Joyce and the HPU crew for all you do. Happy 20th Anniversary!
JM: Aloha, Troy!
OK, I know that you come from a theatre or show biz family…
JM: My family was involved with a theatre company in Chicago called the Actors’ Company, so I was sort of born into this. My older sister was, as a child, with the company, and actually my father was the accountant for the company.
Chicago is now known for all these wonderful theatres but at that time—which was a long time ago because I’m very old—there wasn’t a lot going on. There was Goodman Theatre and the Actors’ Company.
When I was seven years old they started me acting there.
Did you want to act or were you forced or…?
JM: I wasn’t forced. I think I probably wanted to but I was shy, a very shy little girl. I know that it just seemed like something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t one of these kids who said, “I’ve got to be on the stage! I want to perform!”
And the thing about Actors’ Company was that they were not after getting you to be performers. It was really understanding the creative process. So I grew up learning that with the greatest teacher in the world. And I’ve said this many times but, “If Min taught cooking I’d probably be a chef today.”
I loved the process. I loved performing, too, but it was watching rehearsals, the adult shows I wasn’t in… I lived in the theatre there.
Carrying over that theatrical upbringing you certainly now have a great theatre family. How did that happen?
JM: Because both of my daughters from the time they were infants grew up with it. In fact, the first show I ever did in Hawai‘i was directed by Earle Ernst in Kennedy Theatre. Becky was seven months old. Melinda was about three.
I played Jocasta in Oedipus and Antigone in Oedipus at Colonus. I remember Melinda came backstage when I was playing Jocasta, her dad had to bring her back, because she was so worried [when] I [the character Jocasta] had died. (Laughs.)
(Laughs.) That is great!
JM: So my daughters just grew up with a love of being on the stage… in movies… everything!
And now of course your grandson Mickey is also proudly learning the trade of stage and screen. What are some of your favorite roles you’ve ever played?
JM: I got to play Amanda in Glass Menagerie. I got to play Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, directed by Glenn Cannon. I loved playing Jenny Diver in Three-Penny Opera. Oh gosh, I played Jean Brodie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. And at Manoa Valley Theatre twenty years ago, Shirley Valentine, which was a one-woman show and I loved playing her, she was a lovely character.
Impressive! I have great respect for those that can hold their own in a one-person show. What makes a good acting performance? What do you instill in the students?
JM: Truth. I think truth and passion. Focus on the story you’re going to be telling through your character and not on performing for an audience. Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in terms of the character that you’re playing! “Acting is believing.” I think Stanislavski said it, of course in Russian.
I’m always telling my actors and my students, “Raise the stakes! Make it more important!” If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing the audience isn’t going to be interested, they’re not going to care. And the passion in a character could be they “can’t find their keys” y’know?
It’s just how much we give. And that gives it that added… extra… what we call “larger than life.” What makes it larger than life is not overacting or big acting it’s just passionate acting.
Excellent. So, you acted. When did it start to shift over to directing?
JM: Well, acting was always there until rather recently in terms of the long life I’ve had thus far. I think I did my first directing as an undergraduate at Wisconsin. Then I got married and we lived in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and I directed for a community theatre there. So through the years I’ve been in various places, California, Missouri, and everywhere I been I’ve both acted and directed. But acting was always the major thing.
But then I moved away and when I came back in 1981 I was asked by Diamond Head Theatre—it was Honolulu Community Theatre at that time—to direct Neil Simon’s Chapter Two. So then from there I ended up just starting to do both directing and acting, and then at the same time I went back for my MFA in theatre at UH.
And then because I got the MFA and one thing lead to another and a job opened up at HPU, and here I am! They thought they were just hiring me for [the merger between Hawai‘i Loa College and Hawai‘i Pacific University] but they didn’t count on the fact that I was going to push for as much as I could get done here, and they were stuck with me! They have been stuck with me since 1992, and so this does become the 20th Anniversary of Hawai‘i Pacific University theatre.
Favorite show you’ve directed outside of HPU, and then for HPU?
JM: Whew, that’s hard! You know why it’s hard, Troy, because every show I direct has to become one I love.
Tintypes, that was one I did at Manoa Valley Theatre and then again here at HPU because I love musicals and I love that era of music, the late-nineteenth century-early twentieth century. That was a musical I particularly loved. Another musical I love that I directed for the [now defunct] Army Community Theatre was Fiddler on the Roof.
But plays? Oh gosh, well, Arthur Miller’s are my favorite so I love Death of a Salesman that I directed here. All My Sons, A View from the Bridge, those would be among my favorites. But then there are the delightful like You Can’t Take It with You and The Importance of Being Earnest.
There’s so many I can’t—in twenty years here [at HPU] I’ve done over forty shows, two a year.
Amazing. Have you ever calculated how many shows you’ve done in your lifetime?
JM: No, but I could say you could add to that forty, cause I’ve done some winter shows too. So, you’d say forty-five plus probably another twenty. About sixty-five shows I’ve directed. I think I’ve acted, if you count going back to my youth, probably I’ve done over a hundred roles.
I miss acting, though, haven’t done it in a while.
When’s the last time you acted?
JM: The Gin Game, here. We did that a few years ago, two-person play, with Don Pomes.
If you were given the opportunity to do a role, or if someone were directing something good would you act again?
JM: Time is the problem, because here at HPU a show involves the whole semester. We have auditions, and then rehearsals, and then the show opens, and then I also serve as the House Manager when the show opens. And then of course I’m teaching, too, so that when the summer comes I don’t feel like doing very much more.
But it would have to come at the right time, and someone would have to offer me a really juicy role. I’m up for the challenge if I have enough time to work on it.
Well, going back to 20 years of HPU theatre, congratulations again on such a wonderful accomplishment. How does it feel?
JM: Well, I think the one thing I feel really good about is that we have grown. When I started here there was the Hawai‘i Loa theatre program but it was very small. I think there might have been about five or six students. It was really hard to find enough students to make that kind of commitment to the kind of way I knew how to work.
So after the second year I started the theatre as we know it now: bringing in actors from the community to supplement actors from HPU. Every single show we’ve done here, except for The Gin Game because I was in it, every show we’ve done here, and people don’t realize it, has had at least one HPU student in it and [others] often working back stage.
We have grown this theater program from a handful to now I think we have over a hundred students in our classes. But it’s still small in terms of the numbers of students we have available for productions.
But our current show, The Good Doctor [Joyce speaks directly into the recorder], which opens November second (Laughs.), has four students in a cast of twelve, plus I think three students working on crew, we’ve had several students helping to build the set. And we now have a theatre club here that just started this year and they have sixty members.
JM: So we’ve grown in numbers in terms of our students. And we have a student production every semester, and a lot of people don’t realize that. [It’s] our Theatre Performance class, which is taught by Larry Bialock, who is one of our adjuncts [speaks into recorder], and is also in The Good Doctor, directs.
And now we’ve added to it, my directing students also present their directing projects at these performances.
I didn’t know you were teaching directing!
JM: Yes, I do! One of our actresses in [The Good Doctor], Sara Cate Langham—who won a Po‘okela [Award] last year for a show she did at TAG—she’s one of my directing students, and she is directing an Albee play, Finding the Sun, for part of our student performance night.
HPU certainly has a lot to offer as far as theatre education goes.
JM: We cover everything. I do all of the upper division courses [and] the two technical theatre upper division courses Janine Myers does, and Janine is our Theatre Manager, and she and I together we really make the theatre program here with two adjuncts Larry Bialock and Stacy Ray.
You’ve directed a lot of great shows here at HPU. Are there any genres or authors you prefer over others? I know you said you like Arthur Miller…
JM: Oh, yeah, but I can only do so many Miller. Everybody who knows me knows how much I sweat the decision making on the season. Because I want to have shows that have possibilities for roles for our students, and I want good quality shows because we do serve the community.
I also want to do things that I think are worthy of a university, but are things that I like, that are possible to stage in our theatre. Even though we have done big musicals like Kiss Me, Kate, which people thought we could never do here and we did a great production of that. Even got Cathy Foy in that production.
Was Steve [HTS News Editor Steve Wagenseller] in that?
JM: Steve Wagenseller, right, right.
So it’s a combination of things but I think I really want to do quality material. It’s comedies, and it’s current shows, and it’s classics like this year in the spring I’m doing Hedda Gabler. Somebody should do Hedda Gabler and I don’t think it’s been done in Hawai‘i since the 60s!
What makes a good show?
JM: What make a good show is that they’re telling their story clearly and that they’re all telling the same story. They have to play it with passion so I’m interested. I don’t think everything has to be wonderful it just has to fit.
I think that trite thing, trite because I’m always saying it, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and so I do believe that when it all comes together and if it fits, and it interests me, and it doesn’t bore me. (Laughs.) For me that’s a good show.
What’s the last good show you saw?
JM: Oh, wow, you’re putting me on the spot here because I don’t get out to see much!
You know I think I’m going to have to say I enjoyed the Shakespeare Festival this summer. I certainly enjoyed Richard III. And I enjoyed the show you and my grandson were in.
(Laughs.) You have to say that! “My grandson was in.”
JM: (Laughs.) No, I did, though. I did. It was wonderful. I’d never seen a production of Cymbeline.
Plans for the future?
JM: To do the same for as long as I can do it and for as long as the university will hire me to do it. When that’s through and I leave the university I certainly don’t want to leave theatre so I hope that every once in a while I’ll be able to direct at another theatre, and I hope to maybe every once in a while act!
We hope so, too!