Written by Blake Blackmon
I had the opportunity to sit down with Rebecca Gossett, a Columbus State Theater Department graduate and long-time employee of The Springer to discuss her second directorial project The Cake. Read on to learn more about the show, Gossett’s experience working with the cast and what she hopes each audience member takes away from the show.
How did you end up directing this particular show?
Paul Pierce chose the show. He read the script a couple years ago, and he's been saving it, because he knew it was a show that Columbus really needed. It's very much a reflection of Columbus, and when he asked me to direct it, I jumped at the chance.
I love the script; the writing is incredible. It's written by a playwright named Becca Brunstetter, who actually wrote for the show This Is Us which is a show I really love. It's such smart, thoughtful writing. We keep saying the show has a heart and a brain. It's just so quick, funny and thoughtful. The characters are very complex, lovable and complicated people. I really love scripts like that which don't just paint people with a broad brush, instead it’'s about finding the nuance of a person. When he asked me to do it, I was like, yes, absolutely.
That's so cool. When you said it reflects Columbus, what do you mean by that?
This story is about a conservative baker who is asked to make a wedding cake for a young lady who she thinks of like a daughter, but who's marrying a woman. So it's very much about that conflict I think a lot of people are facing. How do we accept these differing viewpoints in people that we love? Can we move forward with each other when this really vital part of our lives doesn't make sense together?
Columbus is definitely the kind of town that is facing this all the time because we have so many people with conservative values and strong religious beliefs. But, we also have a big community of people who are more on the liberal side, and lots of people who are in between, which is really what the show is about.
There's a character who the bride is struggling with in the sense of “Can I exist in both of these worlds?” For example, can I love sweet tea and eat at Chick-fil-A but also marry a woman? Can I live in Brooklyn, New York, but love my home in North Carolina? And the town it’s set in is almost exactly the same population as Columbus and also has the same religious demographic. It's really crazy how many parallels there are.
What was it like developing the set for the show?
When Matthew Swindell, the Director of Production, and I were talking about the set for the show, we wanted it to feel like you could walk into this bakery on Broadway or The Landings. There are elements of Columbus' favorite places built into the show, for example there are several chandeliers very much like you would see at Iron Bank. The color palette is also taken from The Landings. We wanted people to be able to feel like they could see this in their own backyard. I think Columbus will come into the show and really see themselves reflected.
Amazing. Is that also reflected in the costumes?
Yes, so the show is set in today’s time period. The fashion in the show is what you would see out on the street. Alex Allison, our Resident Costume Designer and Shop Manager, has done an incredible job of showing the juxtaposition between our character who is from Brooklyn, New York, who is coming into this town to meet these people in her fiance's life, and is very much out of place, but trying to make her way in this world. That's definitely reflected in her costume.
I'm curious, because I know you were a stage manager for a long time, what was it like transitioning from that to directing?
For both positions, it's so much about bringing all of the elements together and making a cohesive show. If anything, the difficult part was turning off some of the stage managing side of my brain and letting my incredible stage manager, Anna Hardy, handle some things that normally I would handle.
There were a lot of times that she had to be like, “okay, Rebecca, sit down. This is my job, I move the props.” I'm like, “Oh, you're right. Sorry, I will focus on my part.” But for years, I've really been wanting to do this, because I've worked with so many incredible directors as a stage manager and learned so, so much from them. I really wanted to finally put all of that knowledge to work.
We've really, I mean this whole team, have put everything into this show. There is such attention to detail to everything. I genuinely think it's some of the best acting we have ever had. This cast is unreal. They're going to break your heart, make you laugh and take you through all the different journeys of emotion throughout this show.
What’s it like directing in The Dorothy McClure Theatre as opposed to Emily Woodruff Hall?
That's really interesting because I have primarily worked on musicals. The idea of doing a straight play was a little scary to me. There's a real sense of vulnerability to doing a show like this where you only have four people on stage and a static set that doesn't move around. There's nothing to hide behind.
That was a little scary. But, the Dot is such a great space to do something a little different like this. It’s definitely not the kind of show you could see in Emily Woodruff Hall, and it's allowing us to explore ways to tell this story that we can't in that space.
We're focusing a lot on bringing in all of the senses, and because the show takes place in a bakery, it's going to smell like a bakery. Then after every show, the audience will get to walk away with a slice of cake as well. We've partnered with How Sweet It Is Cake Studio. It's on Veterans, and it's an incredible bakery owned by Chari Pitts. Their cake is so amazing, and it’s the perfect immersive theater experience for everyone to be able to walk away with a slice.
Is there anything else we need to know about the show?
I think Columbus needs to see this particular show. I'm not just saying that as a director, I'm saying that as a person who has lived in Columbus for a decade. This show is about us. It's for us. And it could be such an incredible healing piece of work. If people find the time in their life to come see this, they will walk away better people. I can say that with confidence.
If You Go
When: April 20-30 Where: McClure Theatre, Springer Opera House
More to Know: This show contains adult themes and language.
Purchase tickets here.