SPOTLIGHT: Rory McGregor ('17) Presents 'Ward Six'

BY Alix Sobler, November 12, 2015

MFA candidate Rory McGregor (Directing ’17) likes to ask questions with his theater, but he’s not as concerned with providing answers. “When choosing a project, the most important thing for me is how it speaks to our current culture,” said McGregor. “Our professors are constantly pushing us to answer the question of 'what is the necessity of this piece of theatre I am putting into the world,' and I think this is really the core question that guides my work. I want to make theater which speaks to today, that asks hard questions but doesn't necessarily pose an answer.”

His new play, Ward Six, uses Chekhov's short story by the same name as a jumping-off point. “Chekhov really digs into a very timeless argument about the nature of sanity and about living in theory rather than practice,” said McGregor. He was also very influenced by The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, a book that shines a light on the fragility and vagueness of our diagnoses of mental disorders. “The vitality of this project is that the play has melded text from Anton Chekhov's original story with ideas from Jon Ronson's book to create something new.”

McGregor was born in London, and spent his formative years in Portugal. When he was 18 he moved back to the UK and worked as an assistant to a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. “I think this deeply informs my work,” said McGregor. “I think that political background is at the core of every project I do. Before I even consider directing or writing something, I have to have a sense what I want to explore politically. I came to theater because it was the medium I felt I could best express and explore these questions.”

Writing a new play is a feat in itself, but McGregor is currently in his second year of the MFA directing program, and is presenting Ward Six as a directing project. He approached the play as an exercise in collaboration, and brought an outline into the rehearsal room, allowing the actors to have input in the shaping of the story. “We would often do improvisational exercises to generate text, and then I would go home and write the play and then come back and rehearse the scene again,” said McGregor, acknowledging how challenging that method of creation can be. “It's an exhausting process, and how do you know that the scene is done?” McGregor continued to write and rehearse the work until his instincts took over, and he decided the work was ready. “You reach a point where you just have to trust your gut and say — ‘right, this scene is finished, we are moving on.’”

McGregor enjoys working with actors and says that taking the longer, more difficult road can be worth it. “This show has definitely, 100% been about process, it has been a great experience to have actors so engaged and into the show you are making. The rehearsals have always been alive with ideas.”

Ward Six is playing in the Schapiro Studio for five performances, November 12 to 15. Tickets are free and can be reserved here.