Interview with Tony-winning Director Ivo van Hove
Ivo van Hove is a Belgian avant gardist director who has had a tremendous impact on the 2015-2016 Broadway and off-Broadway season. He is still represented on the Great White Way with his production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which is playing through to 17 July 2016 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
His interpretation of another Miller classic - A View from the Bridge (which played a limited engagement at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre from October 2015 through to February 2016) - has earned him Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as an Olivier Award in London last year.
We caught up with the much in-demand Director to talk about his overwhelming success this season...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Ivo, what a tremendous Broadway Season you’ve had! How are you feeling?
Ivo van Hove: Relieved… Not that it’s over, but that it went so well. I had four productions this year, here in New York, so I thought at least one of them would get slaughtered. But it didn’t happen. I think it didn’t happen because we had the opportunity to show four different visions on theatre. That’s what we do. We don’t develop one style of theatre. We develop different styles based on different projects. We had the opportunity to do that with commercial theatre on Broadway with two productions. Who could have thought that five years ago? Not me! I really thought that this would never happen. We attracted huge audiences with very serious plays, where the production was the ‘star’ and not star actors pretending to be the star.
THM: So, I saw ‘The Crucible’ last night here on Broadway and I saw ‘A View from the Bridge’ over in London and you are conquering both sides of the Atlantic, Ivo. You must be so in demand. How do you choose your projects? What makes you say yes to them?
IVH: Urgency… When I feel I can really make a difference. I’m not for hire, you know. I really want to go and work in houses and work with producers that care for the work – the way that Scott Rudin cared for the work we did. If I feel that, I say yes, otherwise not. It’s much easier when you have a lot of possibilities to make choices. That’s much easier than when you have no opportunities.
THM: One of your productions this season was the sold-out run of the David Bowie musical ‘Lazarus’ at New York Theatre Workshop. I hear that it may be headed to London. Is there anything more you can tell us about this?
IVH: I hear that too and I really hope it will happen. Robert Fox, who is the producer, he said right after the death of David Bowie that it would be a shame not to bring it to London somehow. I will support the idea, if it happens, and I will be there… the sooner the better!
THM: Yes please! Make haste! So, turning to your two Broadway productions this season, could you briefly tell us about what you were initially keen on exploring as a director in the two Arthur Miller classics, beginning with ‘The Crucible’?
IVH: Well, ‘The Crucible’ is a big monster of a production. There are always so many actors on stage. I wanted to bring that story away from the 17th century and from the 1950s with McCarthyism, because I think it is full of themes and characters that resonate today. I wanted to bring to the stage a society governed by fear and what that does to people. People start pin-pointing each other. They say: “I am unhappy and you are to blame!” When I look at the election here in America, it’s the same world.
THM: And ‘A View from the Bridge’?
IVH: Well, ‘A View from the Bridge,’ of course, we made it in London two years ago. At that moment, I took as a starting point the fact that there is a misunderstanding about this play – that it should be played in a naturalistic way about Italian immigrants in Brooklyn in the 40s or the 50s. Arthur Miller said himself that originally he wanted to make a contemporary tragedy… like a Greek tragedy, but for today. That’s what we did. We tried to really make it into a tragedy and not a naturalistic drama.
THM: Finally, you’ve pretty much swept the board this season, including winning the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award. As a director, are such awards really important to you or not?
IVH: Anybody that says he doesn’t care is a liar! So, I’m really happy and I’m very honoured to know that the work that we’re doing is so respected at the moment. It was the same in London and now here. I normally go to Paris for Les Molières Awards and I’m also nominated for Best Director there, so I feel really blessed. It feels like a momentum when things come together with my team and we are at the height of what we can do. We have great circumstances and great people to work with to make it a reality. So I’m really happy.