Looking for trouble: Kevin Kittle likes plays that “shake up your values”

 
Kevin Kittle’s never taken the easy way out. The longtime theater director, also the head of BA acting, admits “there tends to be a kind of terror” in the plays he chooses to direct.
 
“As artists we’re supposed to shake up your values,” he says. Kittle attributes his attraction to “earthy, gritty” plays to his mom, Helen.
 
When Kittle was just a boy, she introduced him to Broadway—Godspell and the original production of Grease. She even bought him a TV.
 
That little TV is “not a big deal now, but back then it was,” Kittle says.
 
In fact, a nudge from Kittle’s mom made him believe a career in the theater might be possible. When she showed him a newspaper ad for an improv class, “That was the first time where I thought I could do this myself,” he recalls.
 
“I got from my mom a sense of humanity, arts, and culture,” Kittle adds. “It’s because of her that before I was 10 I knew who [Bobby] Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were.”
 
To that end, Kittle says, he doesn’t exactly go for “drawing-room comedies.”
 
Instead, Kittle looks for something more raw. Sometimes, he says, that means taking on “lyrical plays that explore the human condition”; other times it’s “nail-biters” that don’t “shy away from transgressive issues such as race and the American penal system.”
 
Ultimately, Kittle says, he hopes the audience will leave the theater feeling conflicted.
 
In January, he directed Immolation Twins, a play written by alumna Koryna Gesait that starred Gesait and fellow alum Caitlin Rigney. The show follows the divergent paths of two sisters: a shut-in painter whose alcoholism produces great art at great price, and a dancer whose inspiration dwindles when she discovers a life beyond her art.
 
Gesait says that Kittle, as always, challenged them to push the tension, to focus on the sensation of “teetering, not knowing the edge [but] stepping toward it” that the play inspires.
Alumnae Caitlin Rigney, from left, and Koryna Gesait in Gesait's play,
Immolation Twins. Kittle directed the show in New York City.
“Kevin is drawn to that boldness, [that] bravery,” Gesait says.
 
And Kittle’s not ready to quit pushing. After all, he is his mother’s son.
 
“The point of an artistic investigation is not to come to a conclusion like a scientific one,“ he says. ”It’s to ask the question.”
 
Posted April 2015