Krystof Kage, director for “In the Heights,” considers himself an “actor’s director.” He aims to facilitate conversations between himself and his players in order to make organic choices for characters and onstage movement.
At the beginning of the process, Kage said he remains mostly laid-back, but has been known to exhibit more passionate practices as the process carries on — a method borrowed from a past director and mentor.
“I had a reputation where I’d take off my shoe and throw it at the stage,” laughed Kage, who said he would never hit anyone and hasn’t had to use the tactic in about five years.
“If I give you a note once, no big deal. If you repeat the same action and didn’t read your notes, I’m more forceful the next time. By the third time, it’s tough love and everyone knew I was serious when I threw a shoe.”
With both feet securely laced up, Kage has stepped into even bigger shoes as the artistic director for New Stage Theatreworks, which underwent a restructuring back in 2015. Since then, the musical theater company has produced a variety of shows including “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Murder Ballad” at Theatre Tallahassee.
“We do the theater that no one else has the guts to do,” remarks Kage of his goals with the company. “We want to do shows that are either forgotten or brand new out of the gate. I think the artistic value is important to us and to find that fine line between risk and reward.”
Kage, who began as an actor, is no stranger to onstage audacity. He fondly recalls his first audition for the musical “Scrooge” where, at his mother’s insistence, he “sang ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in the completely wrong tune” and yet was still cast as Peter Cratchit.
In transitioning from quixotic leads to character acting, some of his favorite roles have included playing Albert Peterson in “Bye Bye Birdie” and John Adams in “1776.” AlthoughKage has been cast in a few plays, he much prefers musicals with their infectious energy and grandiose mores.
“Most people think the material in musicals is fluff,” says Kage, “but if you can take something like that and make it relatable and not forced, it’s really fun to do. As performance
artists we have a limited amount of time to learn, perfect, and show off our craft, and the song I’m singing has a point, a plot, and a reason to sing it.”
As a student at both Pensacola State College and later Tallahassee Community College, professors Shaw Robinson and Stan Dean encouraged Kage to expand his horizons and delve into the realm of directing. At age 21, he started a murder mystery dinner theater group in which he wrote, cast, rehearsed, directed, and acted in productions every week.
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