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Kay, Oh!

Desperate Writers helmer Kay Cole shares her philosophy on directing.

Kay Cole
(© Michael Lamont)
Kay Cole made her Broadway debut in the original production of Bye Bye Birdie and was last seen on the Great White Way as Maggie in the original New York company of A Chorus Line. In recent years, Cole has successfully transitioned from being a performer to become a recognized director and choreographer, and is now making her Off-Broadway directorial debut with the zany comedy, Desperate Writers, now in previews at the Union Square Theatre.

"It is a fabulous, fun and wonderful show that is fast, creative, and a perfect evening of joy," she says. "It celebrates being able to laugh at the human condition and what it feels like to be at the end of your rope."

Desperate Writers started in Los Angeles -- where Cole lives with her husband, filmmaker Michael Lamont -- but she stresses things have changed for the Off-Broadway run. "The New York sensibility is different than L.A. The actors here have a different catch to it all; they have a different kind of thoughtfulness," she notes. "Plus, the design of the show is vastly different. The script, however, has remained basically unchanged."

As a director, Cole believes you must be available, have the courage to risk, and most importantly, care for your fellow artists with humanity and compassion. "If people do not get the chance to express the joy of where they live, you've destroyed an opportunity for the magic of theater to happen," she says. "Because I have a big heart, I try very hard to keep the heart of the piece alive as we tell the story. I am so much about feelings that I see the stories' larger picture by digging and unearthing that heart."

That commitment extends to the audition process, says Cole. "I strive to talk to the actors as a human being and to make a connection with that individual who has the most humanity and the most willingness to risk," she says.

She also believes the rehearsal room should be a collaborative place - but it is definitely a place for work. "I don't make rules, that not who I am," she says. "The other day I was giving notes and someone was using an electronic device. I asked the simple question are you writing notes or are you texting someone? They quietly put the device away and I got my answer. In the immediacy of how I choose to handle that, the individual realized how disrespectful it was to be doing that. It was empowering because I know I got my point across in what I hope was a kind way."

Her commitment to theater does not stop on the stage. She has teaching positions at Emerson College's Los Angeles Annex, UCLA's Musical Theatre Camp, and ARTreach in Los Angeles, and she believes that the arts create better human beings "We are all responsible for creating a new canvas in our community. And this cannot be driven by the money, it has to be driven by the art," she says.

When asked about what sort of legacy she would like to leave behind, Cole doesn't hesitate. "I don't want to sound like a pompous ass, but I have absolutely no fears about creating," she says. "I speak with my heart, I am happy in the world. I love myself in that world. I feel comfortable. My biggest goal is to inspire and nurture people so they are in turn inspired because if you inspire someone it is that connection that will continue long after."