Director's Note with Joel Grothe

facebook twitter Linkedin Email

New Year, New View! Spring 2022 has us traveling to the Isle of Wight in our first production of the semester, Joel Grothe Whale Music. Associate professor and director, Joel Grothe, has joined us to grant an inside look into the play’s process and product.

So, Joel, what can a person expect when they go to see Whale Music? Does it have something to do with whales?

Haha, no, not really much about whales. One of the characters gives her friend a recording of "whale music," whale sounds which are supposed to help comfort her child while it's in the womb. It becomes a repeated point of discussion, mostly comedic, throughout the play.

Tying into that, the play itself is the story of Caroline, who becomes pregnant and decides to return to her childhood home on the Isle of Wight (off the SW coast of England) to have the child.

The writer of this play, Anthony Minghella, is an Academy Award winning screen writer. How did this effect your decision to direct one of his plays? 

A couple years ago my acting teacher Richard Warner retired from UVA and donated all of his plays to Lamar. A collection of Minghella's were in with these and I was immediately intrigued- I knew The English Patient and Truly Madly Deeply but didn't know he wrote plays. All four in the collection are excellent- Whale Music perhaps being the most personal as Minghella grew up on the Isle of Wight.

Last year about this time you directed The Good Doctor here at Lamar University. How does directing Whale Music differ from that process?

Every process takes on its own life. I've directed almost 20 plays here, everything varies a little. The Good Doctor was a lot of young actors in short scenes, this play is much more longer, sustained scenes. Josie Landry was in two short scenes in The Good Doctor; she's in almost every scene in this play. Josie and Dominique (Roman) have grown up a lot since their first performances at Lamar last February.

This play was first published in 1983. What can audiences gain from experiencing this production in February 2022? 

It says that the setting is "the present day" so we have stuck with that, not trying to set it in the 80's. Some of the language, especially about LGBTQ culture is a little dated based on assumptions people had 40 years ago but we've mostly navigated that. Overall, the play holds up really well.

The Last Word: The last word is yours. Anything you want to say to interested parties, the cast and crew, the Lamar community, etc...?

This production reminds me why I love actors; real actors, people dedicated to the craft, hardworking, perpetually curious, and full of good energy. Rehearsing this play reminds me how lucky I am to have the career I do.


Joel, thank you for joining us and enlightening us on what to expect from Whale Music running February 17 – 19 at 7:30 p.m. and February 20 at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theatre. Tickets may be purchased online at or at the door. For additional information be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @lamarutheatredance.