Artist of the Week Jules Kyung-Lee Zacheis ‘24 Fosters Supportive Theater Environments

Last week, I received my first nomination for Artist of the Week. I was a bit surprised because I tend to reach out first. Lucy Tobier, our News Editor, emailed me that Jules Kyung-Lee Zacheis ’24 had received several community requests. Understandably, I was excited to interview my first theater major after admiring our theater program from afar.

So, immediately after sitting down, I asked Jules what it’s like to be both a stage manager and director for so many on-campus productions. She replied, “Stage management requires being the director’s right hand. I take notes and keep things on track. During the show, the stage manager decides when the show starts, when the house closes, when lights go up, and when to place the right sounds. All of these things require the stage managers to be around.” 

Jules continued, “The other piece about stage management is the actor’s well-being and support, which is important to me. We make sure the actors are getting the support that they need, that they feel well-prepared, and have all the information they need. We also make sure that they feel taken care of and get breaks. We take note of situations that might make the actors uncomfortable. We ensure that the actors have someone who can look out for them.”

While I knew theater required actor support, I was unaware of how emotionally taxing the art form can be in comparison to studio art-making. Most of my practice, while stressful, is individual: I don’t have to care for an entire team of creatives. It was interesting to think of art from a care-based perspective rather than as a product-focused venture.

RED: Eva Nahass ’24 and Daniel Oakes ’24; Lighting Design by Maddie Adams-Miller ’26

Given Jules’s apparent love and care for her team, I was curious to hear why she wasn’t on the playwriting side of production. She replied, “I like finding stories that already exist. This is what I’m working on for my Senior Directing Capstone with ‘Angels in America.’ It’s a cast of queer people, so there is a legacy connection to the AIDS crisis. It’s also a cast of young people who haven’t experienced that, so there’s a different angle we’re bringing to it. We exist one or two generations after that, which means that the queer culture today still feels its impact, but in a very, very different way. And I think it’s cool that we get to take this same story that existed very, very publicly when it was first written and find where and how we exist in its legacy at this moment.” 

Jules continued, “I enjoy collaborative storytelling and working with the full team to embody these characters in interesting ways. We’re doing a bunch of emotional work and finding ways to tap into these complex emotions. Since the show is fundamentally about the AIDS crisis, it’s not something that this team has experienced, so it’s also finding ways to empathize and discover parallel emotional experiences.”

Naturally, I was curious how she is helping her actors to manifest physical feelings they’ve never felt firsthand. She replied, “No one in the room can understand the full extent of what that feels like, which is fantastic. I don’t expect everyone in the room to be able to understand that. Human emotion is, at least in my experience, weird because oftentimes anything that feels devastating is going to feel similar, even if it’s not quite on the same scales. There’s sort of a basic emotion there, and that’s something I can build together with actors which I find really fun.” 

Jules elaborated, “My favorite shows are the ones that have left me feeling just a little gutted. Theater presents an emotion that I have found difficult to replicate in other forms, because of how human live acting is. I have found a strong sort of empathetic connection to live performers on stage. I also operate under no delusion that theater is the only thing that people can connect to emotionally. I think there are some very specific things about it because it’s live, but it’s also one that I find myself very able to connect to, and so it’s something that I want to do from that lens. Theater happens to just be my medium.” 

standby, yours: Eva Nahass ’24, Lizzie Culp ’26; Scenic Design by Shreya Patel ’25

Since Jules is working on manifesting emotions from a hyper-specific experience, I wanted to know what media influenced her directing of “Angels in America.”

“I’ve consumed a decent amount of media about the AIDS crisis and a decent amount of theater about it. Rent is sort of a classic example. It is complicated, and I do think it is really, really important in how it brought attention to AIDS and how the emotions around that are presented  to a very large number of people in a very visceral way,” Jules shared.

She continued, “On the other side of the spectrum, there’s ‘All That He Was’ starring Larry Todd Cousineau. I think he only ever held three showings of it, and I saw one of the first. It was about his experience of losing his partner. Neither of those are things I ever experienced firsthand, but  those were the stories that made me cry like very few others had. I think there is a universal aspect to that. I am a queer person. That is part of my community’s heritage, and I feel a connection to that. I think being able to look at what that means to us specifically as the people who didn’t live through it but live in the shadow of it is cool.”

Given that Jules is tackling a personal and emotionally taxing subject, I asked how she balances the stress of coordinating shows and the audience’s anticipation of their final product. She emphasized, “Shows are hard. They take a lot of emotional energy. That’s something I’m still coming to terms with. Most audience members see it once and then they’re done.”

Jules continued, “Maybe it sticks with them and that’s great, but it’s just kind of a point in their life. I am getting very, very close to the biggest project I’ve ever created. Possibly the biggest project I will ever do. I’m very excited to put it all together and make what I hope will be a very, very good show.”

At The Wedding: Liv Medeiros-Sakimoto ’25, Eliana Swai ’25

Jules continued, “Making context a priority for myself has helped a lot. There are a couple of professors in the theater department who have come to similar journeys within themselves, certainly earlier than I did, and talking to them on occasion has also been helpful in sort of contextualizing the actual stakes of a show. They are high but certainly not world-ending.”

Betrayal: Rose Palmieri ’24, Eva Nahass ’24

As we wrapped up, I asked her if there was anything else she’d like to add. She underlined again the significant efforts her cast have contributed to her production. 

“I’m part of a very large team, including my cast Daniel Oakes ’24, Leo Rosaz Shariyf ’’25, Eva Murillo ’26, Lizzie Culp ’26, Siri-Vic Lokensgard ’25, Annie Hauze ’27, Martín Villagra-Riquelme ’25, and Kana Nagata ’26. The rest of the crew includes Shreya Patel ’25 as Scenic Designer, Griffin Moore ’26 as Lighting Designer, Yihui Wu ’25 as Sound Designer, Montana Hamel ’26 as Assistant Stage Manager, and Liya Chang ’24 as Poster Designer.”

She ended our conversation by adding, “This is my thesis, but ‘Angels’ is all of their projects as much as it is mine. It has required all of their deep commitments and passions. That will certainly continue to be the case until we open and they are as much a part of this project as anything I’m doing.”

See Jules direct ‘Angels in America’ on April 27 at 7 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m. There’s also a public dress rehearsal on April 25 at 7:30 p.m.

The runtime will be three hours, including two intermissions. 

Trigger Warning: Please be advised that the show contains depictions of disease, sex, violence, drinking, smoking, homophobia, and racism, and is not recommended for young children.


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