Directing Thesis Interview: Don Juan Comes Back from the War
February 27, 2018
The next Directing Thesis Production opens Wednesday, March 7th at Lenfest Center for the Arts. Don Juan Comes Back From the War, written by Ödön von Horváth is now presented in a new version by Duncan MacMillan under the direction of Kim Kerfoot '18.
"Don Juan is back from the War and Berlin is crumbling. After years of abstinence, the Don is ready for more of the debauchery that made his name, but amidst political and economic upheaval he finds himself increasingly at odds with the man he used to be" according to the play's description.
We talked with Kim about his upcoming thesis production.
Why this play and why now?
I was fascinated by what I see as the fundamental question of this play, which is whether someone can regain their humanity after trauma. In Don Juan’s case, after trauma he has inflicted on others as well as trauma he himself has suffered. All of the characters in the play, not just Don Juan, struggle to regain their humanity, and in this play, we see the experiences of women and some of the effects of war that are often in the shadows of the bigger conflict.
In terms of Don Juan, the crux of the play is how to redefine what it means to be a man in a world, in which the old rules no longer apply. He finds himself in a world where the mythical Don Juan doesn’t belong, with people who want him and the world to change.
The question of how we can positively redefine masculinity has always been relevant, but in the months since choosing to direct this play the question has really been vitally foregrounded by everything that led to the #MeToo Campaign. This play doesn’t offer easy answers. We see a man engaged in the struggle of redefining who he is in a world that he no longer belongs in. He is encouraged to see himself as he really is and to understand the consequences of his actions with the hope that he might be capable of change. Change is possible but uncertain.
The figure of Don Juan has always been controversial, but I believe Ödön von Horváth’s vision and Duncan MacMillan’s version of this play ask difficult questions of Don Juan to challenge the legacy of the character.
What vision did you bring to this story?
The vision for this story came from working very closely with my design team. Ödön von Horváth was profoundly interested in how individuals are changed by monumental socio-historical events. In Don Juan, he found a perfect subject for an exploration of this question: mythical character who never changes. So he dislocated him both in time and place, taking him out of the consistent story he had always inhabited and placing him into a shifting world in which he doesn’t belong.
This idea of dislocation was one of the primary lenses through which we looked at the play, and it guided our conception of Don Juan’s world. Duncan MacMillan’s version of the play, which is the one you’ll see staged, furthered this dislocation with his beautiful contemporary language. This, combined with a more classical structure, creates a tension with the historical setting and the mythical character that feels somewhat ‘out of time’ and anachronistic. Our vision embraces that anachronism in bringing to life the crumbling landscape of Don Juan’s home.
Is there a specific Faculty Member or peer that inspired you on this show? If so, who and how?
In a classic team effort, both of my supervisors were instrumental in the selection of this show. Anne Bogart’s advice led me to the play, and my work with Brian Kulick on Moliere’s Don Juan, as well as his passion for von Horváth’s work, gave me the experience and context with which to approach it.
Any projects after graduation?
Collaborating on a well-deserved break.
Kim Kerfoot is a South African director and co-founder of the award-winning Instant Arts Collective - which has produced seven plays at theatres in South Africa and abroad as well as at six national and international festivals. Kim’s award-winning production of Athol Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act transferred to The Fugard Theatre on Mr. Fugard’s recommendation, and was a part of the critically acclaimed Assembly South African Season in Edinburgh 2012. In 2017 Kim was Anne Bogart’s Assistant Director on Lost in the Stars, and directed Wrecked at the National Theatre of Croatia Ivan pl. Zajc. Most recently, Kim directed readings of Erica Murray’s All Mod Cons and Seamus Collins’s Away With The Fairies for Origin’s 1st Irish Festival Vital Voices, in partnership with the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.