Q&A with Elena Araoz

Elena Araoz is a stage director of theater and opera working internationally, Off-Broadway and across the country. She directed White Snake Projects’ I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams in 2019, and continues her work with WSP by directing Alice in the Pandemic. Read on to find out more about her approach to directing a new work, what it’s like to direct a remote cast, and more!

Elena Araoz

You’re directing the world premier of Alice. Do you frequently direct brand-new work? How is your approach for a new work different from something that’s been staged before?

I do a tremendous amount of new opera and theatre. With new work, I am invigorated by figuring out the puzzle pieces and how they fit together: the active drive of the piece, the emotional connective tissue for the audience, the sense of humor. In opera, unlike in theatre, you have two kinds of information that you start with – the text and the music  My job is to write the visual language and everything that the characters do not say. Characters come alive based on the secrets they never speak; those secrets are what draw in the audience. Directing new work allows for my tremendous curiosity.

How does your work change when every member of the team is in a different location? 

With every collaborator in a different location, rehearsal requires from me more care for each person and collaborative relationship. People are dealing with a lot right now as they try to stay physically, emotionally, and financially safe. It’s not always easy for everyone to be in rehearsal and leave their problems at the door; they might be sitting in the middle of their problems as they rehearse from their bedroom. I work extra hard to make this a joyous process, even with the moments of heaviness in the material.

How do you think Alice will change the face of live performance? 

If we can pull off Alice in the Pandemic, and I am feeling very hopeful we can, we will have forged a way for complicated live music to be synced live and streamed out to a public. Also, virtual theatre requires certain collaborators and personnel that you almost never encounter when making live in-person performance (though I will say that White Snake Projects is so innovative that they have often included collaborators from mediums such as CGI animation and gaming technology). I’m learning so much from our unique and varied team as we bridge divergent mediums, backgrounds, experiences, and vocabularies for this opera.

What do you think of White Snake Projects commitment to being an “activist opera company”?

White Snake is committed to making operas which speak to the current moment, White Snake works fast and they are committed to wrestling with the challenge of working fast. I hope for a future in this country when audiences go to the opera or other live performance not just for entertainment but for political and social discourse – that they see the arts as a place to invigorate their activists sensibilities.  White Snake is on the cutting edge of that kind of work.