LA Opera - Akhnaten Orchestra Tech  Photos by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

LA Opera – Akhnaten

On Sunday, November 6, renowned British theatre director Phelim McDermott spent 90 minutes with Dr. Theresa Dudeck and her theatre students in the Waltmar Theatre, talking about his range of work over the last 30 years as a theatre and opera director, creator, collaborator, and improviser. McDermott, one of the masterminds behind the dark, Olivier Award-winning musical Shockheaded Peter (1998) and co-artistic director of the ingenious Improbable company (, was in town directing the all-new production of Phillip Glass’s Akhnaten at L.A. Opera which runs November 5–27, 2016. Under McDermott’s visually inventive direction, Akhnaten received rave reviews after its launch at the English National Opera (ENO) with critics calling it “riveting,” “stunning,” “mesmerizing” and “enthralling from beginning to end.”


Phelim McDermott on stage

“Akhnaten” director Phelim McDermott and Chapman theatre professor, Dr. Theresa Dudeck, talk improvisation with students in the College of Performing Arts. PC: Dale Dudeck

McDermott also directed Glass’s Satyagraha about Mahatma Gandhi in 2011 at ENO, in collaboration with the MET, whichbroke all box office records. In fact, Akhnaten is McDermott’s third collaboration with Glass, having also directed Glass’s The Perfect American (2013), an opera about Walt Disney during his final days, at Teatro Real in Madrid. Chapman’s theatre students were treated to an inspiring discussion about McDermott’s unique, collaborative rehearsal process, grounded in improvisation and open-space structures.

Chapman Department of Theatre professor Nanci Carol Ruby was also in attendance and said, “It was a wonderful opportunity for students to learn from a master. Phelim’s message and response to students was incredibly generous. I hope they feast on the knowledge gleaned from him throughout their careers. I know I will.” Dr. Dudeck and her students will be attending a performance of Akhnaten this weekend.

Phelim McDermott poses with students.

Chapman theatre students enjoyed an engaging discussion about improvisation for theatre and opera with acclaimed British director Phelim McDermott. PC: Dale Dudeck