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Nov 28, 2011

I Interview Artistic Directors Part 2: Mimi O'Donnell

Mimi O'Donnell

Hometown: Philadelphia

Current Town: Manhattan

Q:  Tell me about LAByrinth.

A:  Labyrinth is a diverse group of actors, playwrights, directors and designers. As an ensemble we support and push each other to test our artistic limits. As an organization we have been producing ground breaking new plays for 20 years. Personally it has been my artistic home. I came into the company as a costume designer but have been given opportunities to direct readings, workshops and a full production. Now I'm one of the co artistic directors with Stephen Adly Guirgis and Yul Vazquez. I credit Lab for giving me the space to take risks that I would not have been able to do on my own. There are many members with this similar unique experience.

Q:  How do you create your season?

A:  Our season comes from the plays we read at our annual Summer Intensive. We head upstate for 2 weeks and read up to 40 plays with our company and invited guests. Members weigh in with their thoughts on the plays. The artistic directors create a season based on the company's feedback and what is right for the organization at that time both financially and artistically.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as an artist or as a person.

A:  When I was 10 years old I had a paper route. I think it was the only legal way a 5th grader could make some cash. There wasn't much about it that I liked but my parents made it clear if I wanted something I had to earn it myself. In this case the money I made from delivering papers paid for my high school tuition, clothes and pretty much anything else I wanted. I wasn't happy about it as a kid but it was my first lesson on what working hard can accomplish. Doing theater or being an artist is hard work. I see it again and again the actors or writers who blow me away don't just wake up awesome they work incredibly hard. A small percent of what I have accomplished may be "talent" but the majority has been a lot of hard work.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  There isn't anything I would change. It's the best messiest, most unpredictable, flawed, beautiful thing.

Q:  If you could change one thing about your theater, what would it be?

A:  Any change that happens I hope is growth and movement forward. Labyrinth has the unique situation of having been together as a group of artists for a long time. So we are asking ourselves what it means to be this company now 20 years later and where are we headed. It's an exciting time.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  It's all really exciting. Everyone is risking something when a play is produced. I'm so grateful that we (meaning everyone not just Lab) keeps doing it. I saw "Follies" a few weeks ago and Bernadette Peters hits a note in her final song that just killed me. The following week I was at "Cino Nights" that Rising Phoenix presents at the Seventh Street Small Stage hearing a new play by Megan Mostyn Brown the actors basically performing in your lap and I was just thrilled to be there.

Q:  What do you aspire to in your work?

A:  To knock your socks off and have you keep coming back for more!

Q:  What advice do you have for theater artists wishing to work at your theater?

A:  Come by introduce yourself and hang out.

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