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is the


art form



storm had hit yesterday. It was deeply emotional,” she said. “But theatre can

speak to people, and in the aftermath, there were manifestations of theatre

everywhere. You would see, for instance, a coffin labeled ‘New Orleans’ being

carried in a mock second line for the city, a dummy propped up in a front yard

with a ‘FEMA where are you?’ sign. These were popular displays, where people

were finding an outlet to express their sadness and rage through these natural


Like the improvisations of her hometown, Stanley’s own work in theatre

hews close to the bone. She has directed several plays written by Neil LaBute

-most recently last October, when she directed “The Distance from Here” at

the Welch-and published a scholarly article on his work. LaBute’s plays are

frequently controversial and part of the reason is that he has a penchant for

slipping a cold blade into the soft tissue of society. “It’s part of my makeup to

ruin a perfectly good day for people,” he once said.

“LaBute has absolutely fascinated me for more than a decade. His

willingness to attach himself to subjects we don’t want to talk about, his

obsession with exposing the dark side of human nature and the underbelly of

America are deeply powerful,” Stanley observed.

“Listen, I go to theatre to be moved,” she continued. “I’m personally

attracted to serious work that stimulates audiences to think and look at our

world in new ways. When I teach undergraduate theatre, I talk about Aristotle.

He was the first to analyze and examine what makes theatre tick. When

he discusses the great tragedies, he speaks of catharsis. The great buildup

of emotions that can happen in a play and the release- laughter, tears, the

purging of all that emotion.”

Speaking at an accelerating clip, Stanley’s voice rises as she rounds to her

own peroration. “I’m passionate about every play I direct, but I am totally

committed to the themes and messages of plays that have an impact like this

on everyone who sees them and performs them. Theatre is the closest art form

to reality. I’ve spent my whole life devoted to it, and found it to be the most

complete expression of humanity.”