Meet the Staff
Rachel Alderman, Artistic Associate
By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
I’m originally from West Nyack, New York – not far from the heavily-trafficked Tappan Zee Bridge. Now I live in New Haven with my husband, son, and a wonderful community of artistic souls. In between, there was an energizing four years studying theater and history at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a post-college ritual hazing in New York City, and an all too short, but beloved, time in Chicago.
Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.
First show: Annie, in the round, at Westbury Music Hall on Long Island when I was three (still remember it vividly). Plus, repeated viewings of Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods and Pirates of Penzance on VHS taped off of PBS. I dove deep into the musicals alongside my brother and sister, and we never bothered to come up for air… we still haven’t. Lots of singing around the piano while my mom played from Broadway songbooks. Many shows performed in my basement with cousins and friends. And, an unfortunate Chanukah present for my parents in 1985 when I directed [re: forced down their throats] a concert version of Barbra Streisand’s newly released “Broadway Album,” in which my siblings (toddlers at the time) and I sang the entire album from start to finish. (Consequently, I’ve learned how to edit my ideas.) The impact of early immersion: knowing that I would be in theater for the rest of my life in some way or in any way. It is the lens through which I understand the world and the best tool I have to strengthen and build community.
You started out at Hartford Stage as an Artistic Apprentice (2010-11). How did your apprenticeship prepare you for your new role as Artistic Associate?
My year as an apprentice was a transformative experience. From producing to assistant directing to arts administration, the year was the perfect regional theater “boot camp” with amazing mentorship. All the things that I learned during that season have already given me a great foundation and have jumpstarted my ability to contribute to the theater this season.
You’ve worked with our former Artistic Director, Michael Wilson, on both Ether Dome and Dividing the Estate. What did you learn from working with Wilson, and how have you applied it to your own work?
Michael Wilson has a generosity of spirit that is infectious. He is also a deeply-detailed director with an incredible sense of rhythm and devotion to narrative. How much space do I have to write? It is hard to sum up what I have learned and continue to learn from him because every time I walk into a rehearsal room, I call up more lessons from my experiences travelling across the country with him. From a technical perspective, I believe that I have become more astute as a director. I see space, and actors in space, with a sharper eye after working with him. I have a stronger understanding of how to support actors in the rehearsal room. I carry all of that with me and apply it all the time.
You are also an ensemble member of A Broken Umbrella Theatre. Can you tell us about the company and its mission?
A Broken Umbrella Theatre is an award-winning ensemble theater based in New Haven. Each year, artists from all over Connecticut and beyond research, write, design, act and produce original site-specific theatre inspired by New Haven’s history and lore. My husband, Ian, is our Artistic Director. The company was founded in part because my husband and I, along with our friends, needed an artistic outlet and we thought our community would be excited for an opportunity to celebrate and investigate itself in unique ways and in unusual locations.
Our creation process is wonderfully messy, and everyone gets to cross over into areas of the arts that they might not get to work in during the day. All ensemble members are welcome to write, story-board, act, design, etc. The roles are blurred, and the outcomes are unexpected. The model for creation changes based on the historical topic that we are exploring, the site in which it will be performed, and talents of the artists involved. Our hope is that the audience will leave our shows aching to delve into Connecticut’s history and with a desire to contribute to making our cities stronger. Officially, our mission is: A Broken Umbrella Theatre is committed to enhancing the vitality of our community, supporting the creative growth of our ensemble and presenting compelling theatrical events that are inspired by the unique history of New Haven, Connecticut — all with a commitment to aesthetic rigor. A Broken Umbrella Theatre is the winner of a 2011 Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and a 2014 special award from the Connecticut Critics Circle. To play with us or see our work, visit facebook.com/brokenumbrella.
Your first big project back at Hartford Stage is the family favorite A Christmas Carol. Can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to this year?
This year, I’ll be learning the whole show from the current director, Max Williams, in an effort to maintain Michael Wilson’s vision going forward. I’m thrilled to work with everyone from the Equity artists to the Hartt Students to the Young Performers Company on what is a beautiful holiday event for not just our city – but our state. I love the layers of community that exist in this special theatrical tradition. It represents some of the best of what theater can be: stories performed by members of our community for families in our community. In 2010, I brought my niece to see the show. She was six at the time. Watching her watch the show was thrilling. And soon, when he’s old enough to sit still, I look forward to bringing my son to see the show.
What excites you the most about working with such a broad range of youth actors (ages 5-13) in A Christmas Carol?
I adore working with intergenerational groups of actors. Usually, there is something that everyone can teach each other. And, specifically with a wide age range of kids, the older ones tend to guide the little ones while the little ones help keep the “silly” alive night after night. Kids usually don’t have any trouble jumping right into an imaginary play-scape and believing in the given circumstances of a story. As adults, we are always trying to reconnect with our inner child and find our way back home (Just like Scrooge, right?!). It is fun having kids in the rehearsal room – they help us find our original joy.
Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?
Passions: My family. My friends. My neighborhood. My husband and I throw a lot of impromptu parties because cooking for people and gathering together (while eating) is just the best. If you’re not making a play, you should be making food. My son, who’s almost three, has clearly picked up on this trend in our house because the other night, a normal-run-of-the-mill-weeknight, he asked, “Who’s coming over for dinner, Mommy? Where is everybody?”
What is your personal motto in life?
My quote in my high school year book was from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George: “White. A blank page or canvas. So many possibilities.”
My grandma Sophie always said, “Beauty is as beauty does.”
However you want to mash those two philosophies up, I live in there somewhere.