Kate Bussert ‘16 Adds “Award-Winning Director” and “Theater-Company Founder” to Her Artistic Resume
When Kate Bussert ’16, an English and theatre studies major, studied abroad at Oxford University last year, she planned to focus on English literature and her senior thesis rather than pursue her lifelong love of theatre. Then she became involved with Oxford University Drama Society (OUDS).
Each year, OUDS holds the New Writing Festival, which showcases the work of four emerging playwrights, who are paired with four student directors. In December, Bussert was selected for a directorial slot and received the script for Twin Primes, by Florence Read, another Oxford student.
A few weeks later, Bussert was invited to take the show to this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That meant adding another title to her artistic resume: director of a theater company.
“In order to produce plays at Oxford, you have to start a production company,” she said. “This is mostly for practical reasons: you need a non-personal bank account to cash checks and handle ticket sales, and it's good for marketing to have a company name. So I started Chiasmus Productions with the playwright Florence Read.”
Opening a bank account was difficult for Bussert because she has a US passport, she said. She also had to create a website and email address, write press releases, create marketing plans, correspond with lots of different companies, and fill out contracts. Those were all new tasks for her, but she accomplished them—while also conducting research for her senior thesis.
“It’s very rare to have plays that are both written and directed by women, especially young women,” said Bussert. “But at Chiasmus Productions, we have created an environment that puts the talent of women at the forefront and uses gender-blind casting.”
Bussert’s approach and values mirror what she has learned at Wellesley. “The theatre is all about communication, and men and women are socialized to communicate in different ways,” she said. “There's always room for more stories— especially about women, people of color, queer and trans folk, people of many different abilities, and multilingual people. When people are not represented in art, we are implicitly saying that their stories aren’t worth telling.”
Chiasmus has produced five plays since its inception, and Bussert is currently directing two of those shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (Twin Primes runs through August 15, and Blow—also written by Read—ends on August 14.) As a director, Bussert must always be on hand to help if an actor has a crisis, a designer needs a second opinion, or there are new edits to the script. “I think the best art comes out of love and mutual respect, and it's my job to nurture that,” she said.
When Bussert returns to campus next month, she will maintain her Chiasmus duties while also serving as Director of Wellesley’s Shakespeare Society and working on her thesis, which includes a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
“Theatre has always been an integral part of my living and learning, and Wellesley has made that available,” Bussert said. “I have received so much support from both the English and theatre studies faculty, and I have also had the privilege of being taken on my own terms here. I’m not a woman director, I’m a director who happens to identify as a woman.”