By James Manso
Meet Casey Whyland, the director and choreographer of Tisch New Theatre’s latest production, ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’
A few facts about Casey Whyland: she’s a senior in Gallatin, she’s the type of woman to thank one profusely if they pay for her iced latte (in the case of our chat, it was me), and she lives and breathes theatre the way most of us inhale oxygen.
Anyone who’s ever met Casey, or paid for her latte, can tell you these things: the self-evident actress-cum-director can now also add choreographer to her résumé, and it’s her first director/choreographer role to this scale. “I got involved with Tisch New Theatre (TNT) two years ago, when we did Hairspray. I became completely obsessed with TNT, then I became vice-president of the club,” she recounts. “And, through a lot of conversations and different drafts of different things and different productions, ended up directing and choreographing Little Shop.”
While she’s been with Tisch New Theatre for a few years now (she lived across the hall her freshman year from the ‘Little Shop’ producer, Daniel Unitas), she’s doing anything but resting on her laurels: her broadway debut occurred in 2008, when she played the ballet dancer in Billy Elliott. She even has directorial experience in her hometown of Syracuse. In a leap forward, her vision for ‘Little Shop’ pushes the envelope even further.
“There’s gonna be a new element to it because we’re all students and because we’re all so active in not only the University, but what’s going on around us. So, it brings a lot of interesting conversations to the table,” she said. “You have to think about what will resonate right now. In October of 2017, what is going to attract people? What musicals do people love, and what are we passionate about?”
Whyland is undeniably passionate about theatre, about acting, about directing, and about choreographing. But, she’s not just interested in convincing portrayals: she cares just as much about the characters themselves. “These characters are written so well and there’s so much depth to all of them,” she said. “I want to root them in the honesty of it, and the honesty of the situation, and of their positions.”
“Each character has power over their own positions and where they are, which depends on how they react to other people, and all of their interactions. So it’s finding where you, as a human, can relate to your character, and how we can translate that from stage-to-audience so that the audience can relate to the character.”
Because of this, Whyland regularly meets with actors one-on-one to talk about their visions for the role, and how those visions can manifest in the production. How would she describe such an undertaking? She ponders. “The best kind of stress.”
Tisch New Theatre‘s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors is playing at the Soho Playhouse from October 31st to November 5th.