Aspiring Directors will Reach Career Goals through Hard Work, says Travis Preston of CalArts

Whether the medium is film, television or stage performances, the vision of the director should shine through. This individual is at the helm of the production and will set the tone and spot opportunities to enhance the visual presentation. As an award-winning director, Travis Preston of CalArts has put his unique touch on dozens of stage adaptations. These plays have achieved global premiers and his progressive work has earned plenty of recognition for the CalArts Center for New Performance. This is the production house of California Institute of the Arts and was “established to provide a unique artist- and project-driven framework for the development and realization of original theater, music, dance, media, and interdisciplinary projects.” Travis Preston of CalArts is proud to have had the opportunity to work with such a prestigious outlet as artistic director. As he such, he’s able to share insight from his own personal experiences with aspiring directors.

Global reach: Buried Child is a Pulitzer-prize winning play by Sam Shepard and is set in rural Illinois. The dark themes within offered Travis Preston of CalArts an opportunity to share his own take with the audience. This is exactly what he did in 2017 when he directed Buried Child at the Hong Kong Repertory Theater. What came as a surprise – and what aspiring directors should note – is that an “Americana” play resonated with these audiences. Thanks to translation efforts from the artistic director and a performance in Cantonese with subtitles in English and Chinese, this was a truly special experience for all involved. Travis Preston of CalArts notes that it’s possible to touch many more lives than expected through something as simple as translation. What’s more, this was hardly Mr. Preston’s only overseas accomplishment. Fantômas: Revenge of the Image, which he directed, earned a world debut in 2017 at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival in China. Indeed, he has had numerous directing projects throughout the world.

Personal satisfaction: There’s no question that director roles offer a sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment. This was the case for Macbeth (A Modern Ecstasy) when Travis Preston of CalArts took a crack at it and achieved a career highlight in the process. Mr. Preston has previously said this production provided the opportunity to “explore the inner landscape of Macbeth’s tortured soul.” This long-standing career goal was aided by efforts from actors, set designers, lighting experts and musicians to deliver a minimalist production at REDCAT. Up-and-coming directors should pour their heart and soul into every opportunity that comes their way; the personal career goals will come along eventually as a result of hard work and a well-earned reputation.

Travis Preston, CalArts’ Artistic Director at Center for New Performance, Invites Listeners to Hear ‘Blue’ by Four-Time Tony Award Nominee and ‘Billions’ Star Condola Rashad

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is thrilled to announce the release of “Blue,” the first single from CalArts School of Theater alumna Condola “Dola” Rashad. The single — which Travis Preston of CalArts says will “serve as an introduction” to Rashad’s forthcoming E.P. “Space Daughter” — was produced in association with CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP) and filmed last summer on the CalArts campus.

“Dola,” who graduated from the CalArts in 2008, has pledged to donate 100 percent of her personal profits raised by the single to the Food Bank for New York City. What’s more, there is no time limitation on her donations and she’ll continue to make these contributions indefinitely. Travis Preston CalArts says this type of generosity is emblematic of graduates and he’s proud to see the tradition continue.

“I wanted to share my artwork at this time and also use it as a vehicle to facilitate funds back into the community, and I was looking for an organization that was going to be supporting those who would be hit first and hardest,” said Dola. The full “Space Daughter” E.P. from the four-time Tony Award nominee and “Billions” star on Showtime is slated for a late 2020 release. According to Playbill.com, Dola has described the album as a “vivacious ode to the Divine Feminine” and she is “grateful to be able to offer support to my NYC community and to our global community during this pandemic, and beyond.”

Travis Preston of CalArts asks those who have been inspired by Dola’s generosity to contribute to the school’s Emergency Fund and Emergency Scholarship Fund. These two programs, which have been designed to help CalArts students and families in need, provide direct assistance. In these uncertain times, Travis Preston of CalArts hopes that readers who are in a position to give will do so.


About Travis Preston, CalArts and the Center for New Performance (CNP): Travis Preston of CalArts is an award-winning director and has overseen the stage adaptations of dozens of plays, including the world-premier of Fantômas: Revenge of the Image at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival in China. CNP is the professional producing arm of CalArts and was established to provide a unique artist- and project-driven framework for the development and realization of original theater, music, dance, and interdisciplinary projects. Extending the progressive work carried out at CalArts into a direct dialogue with professional communities at the local, national and international levels, CNP offers an alternative model to support emerging directions in the performing arts. It also enables CalArts students to work shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrated artists and acquire a level of experience that goes beyond their curriculum.

A Look at What Travis Preston Learned While Directing Buried Child

While the Dean of the CalArts School of Theater, Travis Preston spent his 2017 summer directing Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-wininng play, Buried Child. The theater where Preston directed Buried Child was the Hong Kong Repertory Theater. The play offered Preston’s unique take on a classic work. Artistic Director Anthony Chan translated the play and it was performed in Cantonese with subtitles in both Chinese and English for those who needed it.

The experience of directing Buried Child was a special one for Travis Preston. Preston was already influenced by the incredible work of Shepard, but it wasn’t until he directed his play that he truly gained a sense of the depth of his vision, artistry and humanity. While the play was written in America by an American, Travis Preston learned that the story still resonated in Hong Kong.

For those who don’t know the plot of Buried Child, it unfolds in a small farmhouse in Illinois. It debuted in 1978 and won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Travis Preston explains that the play is broken down in three different acts. The first of which introduces Dodge and Halie, an elderly married couple living in an old farmhouse. As Dodge sneaks shots from a flask in the couch cushions, it becomes clear that he battles alcoholism. He and his wife discuss their deceased son who was murdered by his wife on his wedding night. They also discuss another son named Bradley, an amputee who forcefully cuts Dodge’s hair while he sleeps. Finally, as Halie leaves for church, the audience is introduced to their oldest son Tilden. Tilden is clearly mentally unstable, and the audience learns that he has a troubling past in New Mexico.

In act two, the audience is introduced to Vince and Shelly. Vince is Tilden’s son. Shelley is Vince’s girlfriend. They travel to Vince’s grandparents only to be unrecognized by every family member.  While Vince runs an errand to get his grandfather alcohol, Shelly tries to remind Tilden of his son Vince. Tilden says he looks familiar and explains that he had a son a long time ago with his mother, Haile, but the baby was killed by Dodge and buried in the backyard.

The chilling twists and turns continue in act three. Vince is restless and angry. Shelly is exhausted by the family and during her frustration throws Bradley’s wooden leg into the barren corn fields. Haile and Dodge finally recognize Vince and decide to give him ownership of the house and the land. When Vince decides to stay amongst the disfunction, Shelly leaves. Soon after, Dodge passes away and when Tilden walks in with a corpse of a baby in his hands, it’s revealed that the corn has once again bloomed in the backyard.

Travis Preston Provides Information on His Experience Directing Macbeth

Travis Preston’s “Macbeth (A Modern Ecstasy)” performed at REDCAT is one of his career highlights in terms of directional quality and cast performances. Many interested in theater have a profound interest in understanding how directors feel about the work that goes into their plays and, in the interest of sharing with enthusiasts, Travis Preston CalArts director recalls the performance and the thought processes that went into making it such a success.

When inquired about his rendition, Travis Preston has said that he wished to “explore the inner landscape of Macbeth’s tortured soul”. In a stark contrast to other performances with massive effects budgets, Preston instead elected to strip down the accompaniment and set design for Macbeth. In Preston’s view, by providing only three jazz musicians as accompaniment and fostering Christopher Barreca’s minimalist set design, actor Stephen Dillane was able to work his magic and provide the critically acclaimed performance that he did with the spotlight rightfully on him.

Travis Preston CalArts esteemed director is well known amongst the theater community for his intuitive directing approach. For example, Preston believes that his job as a director is to trust the people that he is collaborating with. In his experience, creating an environment where the cast and crew are encouraged and empowered to flex their creativity is an important facet of directing expertise. This creates an artistic back and forth in which the entire cast feels as though they can be free to perform to the highest of their abilities which, as it was with the Macbeth performance, can be beyond the scope of anyone’s imagination. Travis Preston CalArts Artistic Director notes that a successful performance is the result of multiple talents working to inspire each other and, in this case; Christopher Barreca’s minimalist set design choices, Benoit Beauchamp’s impeccable use of lighting, a jazz team led by Vinny Golia, and Dillane’s pure acting endurance worked in tandem to provide the audience with a powerful performance.

Theater Students have Expert Guidance from Travis Preston CalArts during his Term as Dean

A theater school’s ability to stage inspiring productions is only as good as its dean. Without the credentials, real-world experience and vision, the enthralling art that we know as “theater” can’t thrive. It’s no wonder then that the School of Theater at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) chose in 2010 Travis Preston CalArts as its dean. The honor came a little more than a decade after Preston first came to the Valencia, California-based school in 1999 as the theater school’s new directing program head. He would soon go on to earn the role of performance and artistic director for the Center for New Performance (CNP) in 2003.

According to Stage-Directions.com, Travis Preston CalArts was selected “from a strong and diverse applicant pool” but his “remarkable breadth of experience, personal artistic abilities and achievements of the highest distinction” made him a prime candidate for the role of dean. “Over the past decade at CalArts, Travis Preston enunciated and helped enact a vision of the School of Theater as actively engaged with the broadest range of collaborations, on and off campus,” CalArts’ president said at the time of Preston’s appointment.

Preston was no stranger to the higher learning environment, either, as previous roles include the Yale Repertory Theater, Center Stage in Baltimore, Columbia School of the Arts, New York University and Harvard University among other prestigious institutions. At the time of his appointment to dean, which was nearly a decade ago at this point, Travis Preston CalArts was a director with international accolades. His version of King Lear was presented in France and Fantômas: Revenge of the Image earned a world premier staging in China in 2017. The latter would be marked by sold-out showings and positive reviews.

To students who are considering studying at CalArts, the above information about Preston can serve as proof that you’ll be learning from those who’ve already accumulated plenty of accolades. Given the film, television and media industry that calls Los Angeles home – and the fact that the multidisciplinary CalArts opened in 1969 and is headquartered in L.A. – it’s no wonder that so many pupils make the move out west. Once this decision is made, classes and projects will begin to transform students of theater into young adults capable of transforming the entire field as they take on real-world roles. It’s a point of pride for Travis Preston CalArts — and any other staff and faculty member, for that matter 00 to see graduates go on and launch careers in the industry they studied during college.

“Fantômas” by Travis Preston of CalArts Earned Sold-Out Showings During China Debut

Travis Preston CalArts

It would be inaccurate to simply call “Fantômas: Revenge of the Image” avant-garde or surrealist. Rather, this work from director Travis Preston of CalArts is an exploration at the intersection of French fiction, crime and the urban landscape. It deservedly received a 2017 world debut at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, located in in China’s Zhejiang Province. CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP) is part of the California Institute of the Arts and having their production that was supported by Wanxin Media achieve an overseas run reflects well on both the school and Travis Preston of CalArts. Thanks in part to mesmerizing imagery dreamt up with help from film theorist Tom Gunning, “Fantômas: Revenge of the Image” was a literal trip for audiences who saw it in China and beyond.

To better understand the production, a few introductions are in order and chief among them is our title character. The fictional Fantômas, a true anti-hero, made his literary debut in 1911. During the following decades, he would appear in French novels, films, TV shows, comic books and more. Criminal behavior that this character excelled at included disguise, theft, impersonation and evading capture. Such daring exploits naturally translated to popular entertainment of the era. Naturally, Travis Preston of CalArts saw this character as a way to convey “modern urban terror” as his production “investigates the close relationship between sensation, violence and entertainment in contemporary visual culture.”

According to the CalArts website, the stark scenes, sensory effects and beams of light that cut across performers were a trip for the audience as well. A mobile and enclosed unit for the audience took them “through space like a rolling camera dolly and the audience views the performance through an aperture of changing dimensions, not unlike the lens of a camera.” A look at scenes from the performance show that such a viewpoint, especially at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival world premier in 2017, must have made a lasting impression on audiences. Those audiences were quite large, as CenterForNewPerformance.org points out that “sold-out houses” came to see this international world premier.

Travis Preston of CalArts directed the run at the annual festival and was assisted by CalArts students, alumni and faculty. The overseas run spanned from Oct. 19-28, 2017. Those who were lucky enough to see the production will likely retain a lasting memory of the tense mood that Fantômas conveyed. For those who missed it but want to keep track of Mr. Preston’s future efforts, learning more about Fantômas is a great starting point to see, hear and experience the capabilities he has as a director.