Q&A with Faedra Chatard Carpenter, PhD of Center Stage’s Skeleton Crew Production
How long have you been in Theatre production? For over 23 years
What brought you to this career? I was an English major in college, but I was always drawn to dramatic literature. When I was working on my MA degree at Washington University, I worked on several projects led by two of my mentors—a playwriting professor and a directing professor. I didn’t know that there was a name for what I was doing at the time (“dramaturgy”), but before graduating these professors—Philip Boehm and James Nicholson—encouraged me to apply to Arena Stage’s Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship Program in Literary Management/Dramaturgy. I got the fellowship and learned, hands-on, how exciting dramaturgy can be—and I’ve been working as a dramaturg ever since!
What do you enjoy most about what you do? What I enjoy the most are those moments when I know that I have truly been helpful to the artistic process, whether that is determined by sharing some useful insight or information with the director or acting ensemble and/or when I have been able to serve as a useful conduit for others to gain a greater understanding of the given production.
What about this particular play most inspires you? One of the things I find most inspiring in Skeleton Crew is the thematic notion of resilience, an idea and conceptual mantra best embodied by the character of Faye. Faye keeps confronting obstacles with a sense of fierce pliability; she confronts challenges and remains faithful in her ability to “find a way out of no way.” There is something about that faithful certainty—despite harrowing realities—that I deeply appreciate; it is that attitude that enables those we label as “survivors” to survive—that is, the determination to find an alternative route out of seemingly impossible terrain.
How do you deal with challenges at work? For me, whether it’s challenges working as a freelance dramaturg or challenges working as a full-time professor, there is one thing that remains central to my ability to deal with challenges at work: I try to always keep in mind that my job titles do not define me; the projects I have worked on or the materials I have published are not measurements of my value as a person. My life is complex and deliciously full of a lot of things and a lot of people—my family and friends being paramount—and so keeping my personal priorities in mind is how I manage to maneuver the challenges and frustrations I may experience at work.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given and why? In a nutshell: to fully understand and recognize my own worth and to not settle for less.
What do you think people don’t realize about Theatre that you wish you could tell them? I’m in a fortunate position, as a teacher, to frequently underscore the fact that theatre is not only a part of our daily lives, but it offers us innumerable ways of strengthening our intellectual and social reasoning, as well as emboldens us with real applicable skills. As an interdisciplinary art, both the practice and exposure to theatre stretches our capacity to understand, analyze, communicate, and empathize, as well as master skills ranging from the artistic to the technological.
Why do you think the THEATRE is important as an arts medium? Theatre, in particular, demands a certain degree of “liveness” as well as ensemble activities—it demands human interaction, which is particularly important in terms of creating civic-minded communities.
When you are not working, how do you like to spend your time? It’s all about spending time with family and friends.
What causes, are important to you and how do you support them? Investing in young people is of the utmost importance to me. I do that by serving as a mentor and advisor, both formally (through my titular positions at the University of Maryland) as well as informally through the relationships I have made with young people who seek me out. re the ways in which I try to serve that interest.
What is your favorite thing to eat and why? What a funny question! I love BBQ and Italian food because it’s savory; I love savory!
What are four of your favorite things about Baltimore? Baltimore never ceases to surprise me. That same resilient spirit I was praising in Skeleton Crew’s character Faye, is something I can see in Baltimore: it always finds ways to shine. Among the highlights: it has a rich theatre community, comprised of established theatres as well as grass-root theatres and collections of burgeoning young artists. It has fantastic food, from top-rated restaurants and unbeatable food trucks. During summer, my family and I love spending time at the harbor, and—of course—the people of Baltimore are one-of-a-kind!
What is your definition of success? Autonomy and happiness.