Catching Up with James McBride
“I have to say that running lines with (Mikhail) Baryshnikov was an experience I’ll never forget.” –James McBride
By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
James McBride served as Artistic Apprentice for Hartford Stage’s 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 seasons. The Loyola University graduate, who now resides in New York City, has returned to Hartford Stage as an Assistant Director on Anastasia. McBride recently took some time to chat with Hartford Stage about Anastasia, his time at Hartford Stage, and life after apprenticeship.
What initially attracted you to seek an apprenticeship at Hartford Stage?
I will never forget the moment I decided I would apply for the Hartford Stage Apprenticeship Program. It was my senior year of college. I was sitting in a class called “Faith, Science, and Religion,” which was taught by an intimidatingly intelligent and unbearably boring Jesuit priest. To pass the time, I was researching directing fellowships and residencies. Something deep down in my belly said, “Check out Hartford Stage’s website.” As soon as the page loaded, I knew it was a perfect fit. I’m from the Houston area, and I sort of grew up at the Alley Theatre, where Michael Wilson had been the Associate Artistic Director before moving to Hartford Stage. So, the theatres have a very close relationship. In fact, the Alley and Hartford Stage do the same production of A Christmas Carol, so I grew up seeing (and auditioning for, but never getting) the same production that I worked on in Hartford. After I interviewed with Darko, I was convinced that Hartford Stage was going to be the right place for me. I made a very risky Jessica Tandy joke, and he laughed! It seemed like a match.
How did your apprenticeship prepare you for working in the arts?
The thing that I’m most thankful for from my time at Hartford Stage is the connections I walked away with. So many people took me under their wings while I was in Hartford – both folks at the theatre and in the community. Pretty much every job I’ve had since leaving Hartford Stage has been thanks to relationships I built while working at Hartford Stage.
What are your fondest memories from your apprenticeship? Any favorite shows that you worked on?
I have so many fond memories at Hartford Stage, and I got to work on so many projects I cared deeply about –the classical rep, Matthew Lopez’s Somewhere, the world premiere of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and the list goes on. But I have to say that running lines with (Mikhail) Baryshnikov was an experience I’ll never forget. He’s the very definition of discipline and professionalism and is a funny, warm human being on top of that.
Tell us about “life after apprenticeship.” Where did your journey take you, and what have you been doing?
Life after apprenticeship has been great! I moved to New York City a week before Gentleman’s Guide won the Tony, so that was a pretty great start to my stay in the City. With the exception of a very brief detour into human resources at a computational chemistry software company, I’ve made a living as a theatre artist. I’m with a guy I’m crazy about, Joshua Morgan, who’s a super talented actor, musician and director. He and I have worked on a few projects that have been super rewarding, including our little apartment in Astoria.
How does it feel to be back at Hartford Stage?
It feels like coming home! For all intents and purposes, I lived at Hartford Stage for two years. It’s so nice that people (at least act like they) are excited to have me back. I’m thrilled to be back!
What’s it been like to reconnect with the Artistic team here and working on a brand new musical?
Well, I’ve been involved with Anastasia for a year or so. It’s thrilling to see a new piece through to a production. There are so many people working on this show that I’ve admired for as long as I can remember. Eight-year-old James would not have believed that he’d be working with the people who wrote Once on This Island and Ragtime. I sort of have to pinch myself sometimes.
What will be next for you after Anastasia?
There are several projects I’m working on right now, but the thing I’m most excited about is the New York City premiere of a Naomi Wallace play that I’m directing. It’s a play called The War Boys. She wrote it in 1992, but it feels very relevant to things going on in our country today. I’m even more excited because she’s revisiting the script and making some minor adjustments. Joshua, my boyfriend, and I are producing variety late-night shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City. Those are a lot of fun and give us a chance to work with folks we like and admire.
What advice would you give to individuals seeking a career in theatre?
Read everything you can get your hands on. See everything you can get a ticket for. Be nice to everyone!
For more information on James and his work, visit http://www.jameswillmcbride.com/.