Wednesday, November 19, 2008

thoughts on directors

No, I'm not writing to complain. A few of my best friends are directors (and I even direct sometimes, too, though rarely).

One thing that really struck me in the symposium on Monday was when directors spoke up and said that they were pretty much doing it all by the seat of their pants, and that they weren't sure what everyone in the room was talking about when actors talked about various problems within the process, because they never get to see other directors at work.

This makes sense in some ways because I know how busy directors are, and when they move from job to job, they barely have time to eat and sleep, let alone drop in on rehearsals by other directors. On the other hand, theatre is certain to suffer if directors, both old and new, are not taking the time to observe how other people attack the same job. Again, it comes back to my same concern--how do we improve what we do, unless we are consciously trying to define and evaluate how we make plays for/with audiences and how we can do it better.

There are, of course, certain difficulties with other directors sitting in--ego and innate competitiveness between the two directors, and an understandable shyness about sharing what can be an extremely intimate process. Observers can be deathly when it comes to vulnerable human beings up on stage feeling willing to expose themselves and make mistakes, to look stupid and slow and ugly, if necessary.

This may be something that StageSource can address here in Boston, to try to set up some sort of director-to-director exchange (it may already exist for all I know). It's certainly something that directors themselves could do on their own. It would certainly require a fair amount of trust on the part of everyone concerned. But, to be honest, Boston is a small theatre town (as are most cities) and most of the directors and actors all know each other anyway. The actors are all aware of how various directors work. Maybe the directors should suck it up and see what they can learn about themselves.

(on a side note:)
Personally, I adore rehearsals. I like watching how directors work with actors, and I love watching actors stumble through discovering the story and characters of any play (especially mine). I watch directors intently, trying to understand how they do what they do. The question was raised a bit over the weekend about how much time the writer should spend in the rehearsal hall. While I think it's important for the playwright to get out of the room, for everyone's sake, I'm always reluctant to leave, because I just like being there.

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