The Life of a Freelance Director

Giovanna Sardelli, director of The Velocity of Autumn, is a veritable whirlwind of energy. She would have to be, in order to keep up with the demanding schedule of the life of a freelance director! As our Director of New Works, Gio keeps her finger on the pulse of new works in America, traveling to festivals and showcases around the country. The energy and the new plays she brings us are invaluable to the mission of our New Works Initiative and TheatreWorks as a whole.

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Gio at the first rehearsal for The Velocity of Autumn

TWSV: How did you start directing? Was this always your passion?

Gio: I actually began as an actress. My MFA is from the Graduate Acting Program at NYU, and I spent a decade working in theatre and I had a small, recurring role on the soap opera Another World. I never really figured out the business of acting—I didn’t enjoy auditioning, and when I did get a part, I was always more interested in how it all came together rather than just my tiny part of the story telling. Zelda Fichandler was then the chair of the Graduate Acting Program and she had started a directing program with Paul Weidner. It was a year-long, tuition-free program that was an extension of the Grad Acting Program and they invited me to attend. Zelda was the one who told me that I thought like a director. And I’m so grateful to her and to Paul for supporting me in the transition into directing because it is what I love to do!

TWSV: Where have you worked in the last year?

Gio: Since January I’ve been at TW; Winston Salem, NC; Cleveland, OH; Louisville, KY; Austin, TX; and home in NYC, and then back to TW.

TWSV: When you’re working on a show, how much time do you usually get in one location? Do you usually stay through the run of a show?

Gio: When I work on a show out of town, I usually make one trip to see the space and meet with designers and actors from the area. Then, once rehearsals begin, I’m on location for 4–5 weeks, and I typically leave the day after opening. As TheatreWorks’ Director of New Works, I travel to festivals on behalf of TW so I spend some weekends traveling in that capacity. In April, I spent a weekend in Louisville, KY and then the next weekend in Austin, TX.

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With Rajiv Joseph and the cast of Describe the Night, NWF 2014

TWSV: How much time do you actually spend at home? Or are you mostly on the road?

Gio: I’m usually in NYC (which I consider my home base) for 4–6 months a year. I usually do one off-Broadway show per year and that keeps me in NYC for a few additional months but I’m on the road quite a bit. I typically know most of my schedule a year in advance. Or, at least I know the big projects. Then I tend to fill any open time with workshops and readings so that I can keep meeting and working with new people.

TWSV: Do you approach theatres when you want to work there, or do you wait for someone to come to you with an offer? Or is it more about having relationships with certain people / places / playwrights?

Gio: In the beginning, most of my jobs came from my relationship with writers and my work on with them on a specific play. Now, my work comes from my relationship with writers AND with theatres. My agent is always working to connect me to new people and I’m grateful to have someone I really trust working on my behalf. When I have a play I love, I send it to theatres that I think would be a good fit and hope that something comes from that. But all of my offers come from relationships—either with the playwright or with the theatre itself.

TWSV: After The Velocity of Autumn, what’s coming up for you?

Gio: I’ll be spending a month of my summer in Sheridan, WY as part of their Wyoming Theatre Festival and then I come right back to TW and get ready for our awesome New Works Festival in August. The day after the Festival, I head back to Cleveland to start work on All The Way at the Cleveland Play House. I’ll be there until it opens on September 23. I love that I’m doing that play in a swing state right before the election! And after that, I’m taking a vacation!!

TWSV: What’s your favorite thing about being a freelance director?

Gio: I love that I get to know so many artists from across the country. I get to be part of so many communities and so many stories and that keeps me creatively and personally fulfilled.

Question: Where has Gio worked in the last year?
Answer: All over!

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