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, 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 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.