Directing Lady Day

By on 24 October, 2012 in Fun, Greg Thornton with 0 Comments

“If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music.”
-Billie Holiday

Anthony Stockard is in his fourth year as Assistant Professor of Theater Arts at Alabama State University. He is the former Producing Artistic Director the Aldridge Repertory Theatre in Birmingham. He directed the hugely successful production of Whitney: One Moment in Time that played at the Cloverdale Playhouse this past summer. Stockard took some time out of rehearsals to chat about Lady Day, teaching theater, and the Cloverdale Playhouse.

Greg Thornton: What was it that first drew you to Lady Day?

Anthony Stockard: The desire to learn more about the life behind the voice I knew so well is what actually sparked my interest in the show. I love Billie Holiday’s music, but at the time I knew little about her personally. When I first read the play, I was in awe of how much I didn’t know about Ms. Holiday. The more I read, the more I wanted to tell this story.

Greg Thornton: Do you find the challenges very different doing a one-person show as opposed to a play with a full cast?

Anthony Stockard: Absolutely. With solo shows the entire experience is told and controlled by one person and the ability to consistently observe interaction between individuals is no longer possible. Since this presents a reality where the audience must engage for an extended period of time with one voice, the approach to storytelling changes dramatically. Creating a dynamic and compelling performance for over an hour with no scene partners is perhaps the biggest challenge for an actor. Especially when it’s a well-known icon like Billie.

Greg Thornton: You wrote, produced, and directed Whitney which was a huge success this summer at the Playhouse. Do you see any parallels between Whitney Houston and Billie Holiday?

Anthony Stockard: Of course there is the obvious similarity of their unfortunate and untimely deaths due to their addictions and their occupations as entertainers. However, Whitney’s career did not face the same challenges race relations in our country presented to Billie. Whitney’s success, I believe, is what Billie would have had in another place and time. I think Billie wanted that kind of notoriety and knew why she couldn’t have it. That disappointment seemed to fuel a longing for love and appreciation in all the wrong places.

Greg Thornton: You have a great rapport with your theater students at ASU. You yourself studied theater. What do you consider the most important aspect of a training program?

Anthony Stockard: Commitment to students. Nothing else matters. Regardless of how much instructors may know or who they know, it will never facilitate the transformation of mind and ability like commitment to students. When students know their instructor expects more from them and will go above and beyond to see that expectation become a reality, they tend to give more. A program that centers all efforts on student success and commits to accepting nothing less from their pupils is what I believe is the best formula. When a program’s view of success is coupled with students who also view success the way the program does, really amazing educational experiences can happen.

Greg Thornton: I am really pleased with the collaboration we are having and I wonder how you see the role of the Playhouse both in the college/university communities around the River Region and also in the larger River Region itself?

Anthony Stockard: The playhouse is a godsend! There are not a lot of options for students to get outside experiences during the regular semesters. Students need new and diverse educational experiences for both growth and marketability. The Playhouse offers not only those opportunities, but also offers additional theatrical viewing opportunities to the college age community throughout the year. The River Region also benefits from the Playhouse by being able to either participate in productions or watch their friends and neighbors and take the stage and create quality theater. My students are absolutely thrilled by the many experiences they have had with Whitney, Shoe Shop, Opus and now Lady Day. I am just as thrilled and can’t wait to see what wonderful collaborations are yet to come!

Greg Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse.


  • Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill: Thursday, October 26 – Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
  • 2013 Season Announcement: Nov. 15
  • Joe Thomas, Jr. 3rd Tuesday Guitar Pull: Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Singer/Songwriters Night featuring: Neil Cribbs, Brandon Self, Seńoritawesome and Albert Simpson
  • Season’s Greetings: Dec. 6-16, Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • General auditions: Dec. 10, 6-10 p.m.

For tickets and further information

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