Q&A with Christopher James Webb

Christopher James Webb

Christopher James Webb

Faculty, Contemporary Theater

What is contemporary theater?

Contemporary theater is present; it's happening right now. It's a way of engaging in the world around us, reflecting on where we've come from, and looking ahead to the future of our art.

What is ensemble?

Ensemble is defined as a group of artists working towards a shared artistic goal. Ensemble is about the whole, as opposed to the singular performer. Ensemble is about allowing yourself to both affect and be affected by those around you.

Why theater, now?

Why not? Theater creates dialogue. Theater is alive. It's a "hot" medium, as opposed to film or television. Theater is a communal experience. When the revolution happened in Russia, the churches were closed but the theaters remained open. This speaks to the lasting power that this singular event has on societies around the globe. It is the one medium that can combine every art form, and forces you to be and breathe the same oxygen as your audience. 

What are you most passionate about?

I find that I'm most passionate about investigating questions that a writer/ensemble/artist poses. That's what drives my work—this endless search for an answer. And through that answer a connection to something or someone outside of myself.

What's your dream project?

I have a couple: playing Macbeth opposite my wife (actor Jessica Webb); creating a show or film around the early life and career of Orson Welles; spending time creating a new piece of theater in France.

What or where is the most interesting place you've performed?

In graduate school my class and I created original solo movement/trapeze pieces inspired by The Song of Solomon. In Chicago I created a solo piece around the idea/mythology of Superman and performed it in an attic with a chair and three clip lights. Most recently, I directed a production of EQUUS in a storefront in the South End with very little tech or set elements, and the smallest performance area. 

If you had to choose one word to describe your teaching style/philosophy, what would it be?

Love. I tell my students that every play/film/story we do or tell is a love story; it's our job to figure out what it is.

If you could say one thing to a prospective student, what would you say?

Follow your heart, your gut, and your head—in that order. If you do that, you'll never be led astray.

What skills will your students master in your class?

The ability to create on their own and as an ensemble; to create an environment that is free from condescension; to be free falling and leap without fear; to learn that failure is normal and essential to our work; to work through and with fear and failure; to come to our work with an open and receptive heart.

What makes the Conservatory 'the' place to study contemporary theater?

We have the facilities, the faculty, and the passion among our students to inspire and challenge all of us to create the theater artists of the 21st century and beyond.

Why do you love the Conservatory?

I've been here for a while now, and have loved seeing how we are bursting at the seams with students who are becoming their own agents in their art. We have more students now who want to take charge of their training and education, which inspires me each day. We have some of the best faculty, in some of the best spaces, working with some of the best students, creating some of the best work around.