Directors Note with Caitlin Grammer

The Lamar University Department of Theatre & Dance is proud to present Thomas Gibbons’ Permanent Caitlin GrammerCollection directed by graduating senior Caitlin Grammer. The second theatre production of the season walks a delicate line, not only in the scripts challenging and controversial subject matter, but the process of a young artist directing one’s peers through such a complex production. With the process in full speed, we are elated to have a moment to speak with the director one-on-one for a peek behind the proverbial curtain

Caitlin, what can a person expect from Permanent Collection?

When you come to see Permanent Collection, you can expect to be surprised and challenged. It’s a brilliant script that presents us with questions we don’t frequently consider and don’t frequently want to answer. The play follows the new director of The Morris Foundation - a priceless art collection - as he works to bring significant African sculptures out of The Morris’ storage department and into the public eye. This change is opposed by the foundation’s education director, who is committed to upholding Dr. Morris’ will, stating that the collection is never to be altered. The dispute grows as accusations of racism and discrimination create a very public battle for control of the foundation. We’re ultimately faced with the question of what it costs to fail to see the world through someone else’s eyes. 

As a student director, what has been the most challenging aspect(s) of this process for you? 

Probably the biggest challenge that is different from any other role I’ve had is the navigation of interpersonal relationships during the rehearsal process. The actors and the stage management team working on this production are all students in the Theatre program here at Lamar. A student director has to keep things on track and work the show towards a specific vision, while also being friends with the cast outside of rehearsal. I work hard and expect a lot from the people around me, and it’s been difficult to navigate how to ask for what I want and what I believe the show needs while also being mindful of my friends and their needs.

How has your time in the LU Department of Theatre & Dance influenced your vision and prepared you for this process? 

My time at Lamar has really taught me how to take risks. I’m a micromanager by nature, and as an artist this manifests itself in a way that causes me to have everything as pre-planned as possible. While it’s absolutely necessary to prepare, research, and have a plan, it’s also good to be able to set all of those things aside for a moment to explore and make discoveries in rehearsal. Concepts like these are just concepts until there is an opportunity to put them into practice, which I’ve had plenty of at Lamar. My time spent as a stage manager and then as an actor over the last four semesters has put a lot of things into perspective for me, and has taught me to only control the things that I can truly control (which is absolutely not that much). It was important to me that the actors I cast in this show would be hard workers and good collaborators, and it’s been important to me in rehearsal that the conversations about their characters are as much about what they believe as it is about what I believe. I’ve found that when you surround yourself with talented, hardworking people, and you allow yourself to trust them and their influence on your work, the work always ends up better in the end. 

Speaking of your previous work at LU as an actor and stage manager, how has this process differed from those of the past beyond the work itself?

Directing is, for me at least, a balance directly between acting and stage managing. My directing binder often looks exactly like my stage management binders - full of paperwork, script copies, detailed notes and research, printouts of every email in relation to the production. I like to have all of this work done and organized in advance- like a stage manager- so I feel like I have a solid foundation to jump off from in rehearsal, which, is the part of the process that’s very similar to acting for me. In rehearsal as a director, you have to be able to watch, listen, and receive what’s happening while balancing it against the research you’ve done, the things you’ve learned in class, the designer’s concepts and ideas, and the vision you have overall for the production. It’s really fun, and it’s collaborative, and sometimes it’s scary but it’s always worth it. There are so many aspects of being a director that are similar to roles I’ve held in the past, so to an extent it feels like the natural next step. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to have so many different production and design roles to help inform my decisions as a director in this specific production. 

Permanent Collection has been referenced as 'current issues' being 'ripped from the pages of art news.' How has this work influenced you and/ or your peers through the process?

The show itself is based on real events that happened in Philadelphia in the early 2000’s. The museum that inspired The Morris is The Barnes Foundation. The Barnes collection holds billions of dollars worth of impressionist and post-impressionist art, and when Dr. Barnes’ will was challenged and a move into the city of Philadelphia was suggested for the collection, it made international headlines. This was a great source of pre-show research material for myself and our team. Beyond that, the show focuses largely on themes surrounding race, which I think are more prevalent now than they have ever been. Permanent Collection asks us to consider why the art world is so often segregated; why it’s so frequently white scholars setting collections in museums, and what can happen when we challenge the status quo? It also causes us to consider our own lives. Do we only surround ourselves with art, movies, and television shows that reflect our lives and our experiences, or are we opening ourselves up to a culture or a point of view that differs from ours? When we create, are we collaborating with teams that only look and sound like us, or are we starting with a group that reflects the way the world actually is? These are big, prevalent questions that the world is constantly being faced with, and I think they’ll continue to be so for a long time to come.

Caitlin, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. The last word is yours. Is there anything you would like to say to interested parties, the cast and crew, the Lamar community etc...? 

My hope for this show is that people see it and leave a little bit changed. One character in the show says this of viewing a painting: “Our own narrow perspective widens, if only by one degree. Over a lifetime of looking, we can learn to see in the round. “That’s something I find to be true universally, not just in an art gallery. I hope that when you come see Permanent Collection, you open yourself to the possibility that you could leave here changed, and with your perspective widened by a few degrees. Come sit for a few hours and put yourself in someone else’s place.

A special THANK YOU to Caitlin Grammer for taking the time to give us a sneak peek behind the curtain for the upcoming production of Permanent Collection. Tickets are on sale now at or you may reserve seats by calling the box office at 409.880.2250. Performances will be held in the Lamar University Theatre on November 7, 8, and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and November 10 at 2 p.m.