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South Salt Lake Journal

Director discusses philosophy behind production of Broadway-based play

Oct 12, 2023 02:25PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

A dreamlike shot from one of the scenes in “[Title of Show]” at the Grand Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Seth Miller/Grand Theatre)

An original, Broadway-based play took the stage at the Grand Theatre in South Salt Lake on Sept. 9. It was the show’s closing night—having been open since Aug. 17—and the cast and crew left it all out for the audience. “[Title of Show]” was originally presented at the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival and became an instant favorite among theatergoers.  

The Grand Theatre’s Artistic and Executive Director Seth Miller and Stage Director Latoya Cameron were excited to tackle the project written by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell.

“I was approached by Seth Miller, and he asked me if I was available,” Cameron said. “I loved ‘[Title of Show]’ since my college days. I wanted to focus in and do the best I can. I’m grateful to them that they thought of me to direct it.”

“[Title of Show]” centers around two aspiring playwrights, Jeff and Hunter, played by Utah actors Jacob Barnes and Caleb Collier, who begin working on a play (that is the play shown to audiences) for the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The two writers enlist the help of their friends, Heidi and Susan, played by Michelle Lynn Thompson and Vee Vargas, in the hope of winning and finding recognition so that all of their problems will cease and they will have finally “made it” only for them to realize that “making it” isn’t what they thought it would be.

“I like that it’s so original, you don’t see this type of musical out there—it’s very different so I’ve always liked that. It’s fun and kind of silly but there are also a lot of profound points that I think any artist or just any person really can sort of relate to,” Miller said. “It has meaning. The closer, ‘I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than 900 people’s ninth favorite thing.’ I think it does speak to me on a lot of different levels just about putting yourself out there and staying true to your vision and what you want to do. It’s a show I really love.” 

It was the third play that Cameron has directed, having directed her first play last year with “Rent” at the Ziegfield Theater in Ogden and the second production being “Sankofa, This Journey: Go Back and Get It” at the Salt Lake Acting Company in collaboration with the Utah Black Artists Collective. 

Cameron has been acting for well over a decade and considers her career an adventure.  “I was very shy; I still am. I was just very curious about acting so I stepped out of my comfort zone which kind of made people look at me strange because they were like, ‘You don’t talk, you won’t be able to do this,’ but it changed my life. 

“I went to school for it. My first professional gig was during college. I still do it around town and sometimes out of the state. ‘[Title of Show]’ is near and dear to my heart. I fell in love with it in college and actually it was my first big musical theater festival experience,” Cameron said.

Considering the play was written in 2004 and the amount of cultural changes that have transpired around the United States, Cameron felt that they needed to reassess the script. “With the perspective and the learning that we’ve done, especially after Covid and the murder of George Floyd and the continuation of people going after and murdering trans folk in our communities, there were some problematic stuff in the script that I feel like we needed to look at and change,” Cameron said.

Prior to making slight nuances to the script, Cameron reached out to the original writers, who also wrote themselves into the story as the two main characters of the play. “I actually wrote them and asked for their permission if we could make those changes to the script. The playwrights, the real Hunter and the real Jeff, were very accommodating and they gave us permission to adjust certain language that we wanted to change due to it being problematic.”

While some of the language in the play could be regarded as for mature audiences, the director thinks that is just part of artistic freedom. “Some people think that theater is only supposed to be one certain way. They [the writers] talk about how people want you to adjust your creative expression: you don’t sing enough, there’s too much language in the script so you need to change it to accommodate it to make it more family-friendly. You have to know as an audience what shows are for you,” Cameron said.

“I don’t want to ever get comfortable in my artistry. I want to figure out how to stay curious. I think that’s what a lot of actors or artists who we still want to listen to do,” Cameron said. “As musicians or even as directors, the more curious they are the more you’re going to see the different sides of who they are and that’s what keeps you excited, and that’s what keeps people coming back to see your work.”

With four weeks of rehearsals and over three weeks of live performances, “[Title of Show]” was at a close. The final night of any artistically consuming and successful production is a bittersweet and proud moment, but like all passionate creatives, there is always another project to work on. 

“This was a good show—the cast and everybody did a great job, the director and the whole production team did a great job. I’m really proud of it,” Miller said.

“From my understanding it was quite…a closing. Everyone went out with a bang and gave it everything they could. The cast and crew and everyone really liked each other and having to care for each other for the whole duration, from the rehearsal to the performance was really great to see. They really genuinely loved each other. It really affected the audience,” Cameron said. 

“We’re always sad to see them go but we’re already hip deep in getting ready for ‘Sweeney Todd’ which starts on rehearsals in two weeks. The ball just keeps rolling for us…I’m sad to see it go but we’re already on the next thing,” Miller said.

“I’m about to jump into my next rehearsal process. I’m going to be directing a play at the University of Utah. I’m excited for that journey and learning what that is going to be and I’m going to be auditioning for another play this week. I’m hoping that for the next year I can get back on stage because I’ve missed acting a lot,” Cameron said.

“Don’t lose track of why you’re doing what you’re doing. As long as you have true ones with you on your journey then you’re always going to be successful, as long as you know that and stay true to what you’re doing together, to find success and success can be whatever you want it to be,” Cameron said. “We see in ‘[Title of Show]’ that all four of them are on the way to success until other people start to come in and interject and take them away from what they were doing together and eventually they had to come back together.” λ