TRENDER: Wilbury Theatre Group Artistic Director Josh Short

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


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Josh Short, from his parent's basement to the stage of Trinity Rep.

Who are the Rhode Islanders leading in arts, fashion, food, and style? They're Trenders, and GoLocalProv offers glimpses of the people you most want to know on the scene. Today, Josh Short, the Founding Artistic Director of the Wilbury Theatre Group. Under Short's leadership, the Wilbury Group has just taken up residence in Providence's Trinity Square--where another well-known Rhode Island theater got its start. 

RI cred: Born in Matunuck, RI, educated at the University of Rhode Island and works in Providence. 

1. What got you started in theatre?

Growing up my brother and I spent a lot of time making movies in our parents basement with their old VHS camcorder so I always had some interest in performance. Then in high school somebody gave me Sam Shepard’s Seven Plays and that turned me on to what I saw as a more exciting, provocative theatre.

2. How did you get involved with the Wilbury Group?

The Wilbury Group started in 2010 as a looser collaborative of Providence theatre artists brought together by this commitment to presenting great productions of challenging works, and as time went on, public support increased, and the group evolved into an organization with a bit more structure. I went from being the producer, and director/ sometime actor to being the Group’s Artistic Director.

3. The Wilbury Group has just moved into a new space--the launching ground of Trinity Rep. How does that make you feel?

It feels like a privilege to be working in the space where Trinity Rep and professional theatre in Rhode Island was born. There was a lot of really challenging, cutting-edge theatre done in the space in its heyday and we feel incredibly fortunate to be carrying on that vision.

4. Wilbury's new show, Detroit, strikes some chords that may resonate right here in Rhode Island. Can you expand on that?

We’re very excited about being able to present Detroit for a few reasons, first of all it’s the New England premiere of one of the best plays to come out of New York last year (Putlizer Finalist, Winner of the Obie for Best New Play, etc.), and also because it humanizes the aftermath of the economic crisis in a way that many Rhode Islanders may be able to identify with. There are two couples in the play, one of them is dealing with the strain of suddenly going from being a two-income household to one and struggling to maintain the lifestyle they’d grown comfortable with, and another couple mysteriously appear and start living in the house next door to them. Throughout the course of the play we see these four individuals come together while struggling to balance on their own precipices of uncertainty and feeling the crunch of the time they live in.

I think Rhode Islanders have seen a lot of change over the years in a way not all that dissimilar from the people of Detroit. We’ve been challenged to re-think the industries that we used to rely on for our economy, and on a personal level many of us have had to re-invent ourselves to meet those challenges.

In the end, the play is really about the opportunity for change that comes from challenges, and that’s a theme that the people of Detroit, and Rhode Islanders familiar with the economic uncertainty of the last few years, will really identify with.

5. What is the best play (other than your own productions) you've ever seen in Rhode Island?

I’ve seen a lot of great work done by a lot of the theatres, but I think the Gamm’s production of Elephant Man 5 or 6 years ago was one that helped me recognize the kind of work that I wanted to be doing.

6. If you could get the rights to any play in the known world to produce here, what would it be and why?

There’s this spectacular outdoor production (motorcycles, fire tricks, and actors on 20 ft. stilts make it extra heavy on spectacle) by Polish theatre company Teatr Biuro Podrozy called Macbeth: Who Is That Bloodied Man?. It’s only very loosely based on Shakespeare’s play, but I think it’s exactly the kind of smart and challenging piece that I think our audiences would appreciate.

7. What's the most rewarding thing about working in Rhode Island? And what's the most frustrating thing?

The most rewarding thing is the support from the audiences that have followed us over the years. The most challenging thing is getting the word out to new audiences that we’re here! We’re lucky to have such support from our audience, the local theatre community, and the communities where we work though so hopefully getting that word out is just a matter of time.


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