I just finished Slings and Arrows and now I’m slightly obsessed. I absolutely identified with the people and situations. I know I am so behind the times... For those of you who might not have seen it – I love the fact that is a peek of the theatre world and what happens behind the scenes to make a play ready for the stage. Geoffery comes in as the new artistic director of the New Burbage Festival when Oliver suddenly dies. Geoffery directs many of the plays within their season. It gives focus on the theatre world creating art but also the red tape and politics that are involved. It was interesting as a viewer to watch Geoffery’s
process and the rehearsals progress in the show.
Though I don’t have my own Oliver (a ghost that the main character collaborates with - but I wouldn’t mind one!) I thought it would be interesting to talk about process as a director in the theatre. I have been meaning to write this blog for a while as the continuation to Process over Product Part 1 in which I talked about Laib’s art being more interesting to me once I learned about his process.
Product is what I try to achieve: the polished play. However, if I am focused on solely achieving a play that sells then I forget the great value of process. Process gives a piece heart and soul – the layers which create art - that not only sells but has merit.
Before I even begin the rehearsal process I have read the play over and over and over. My script is a mess with words underlined and circled which is a mixture of things: from something that spoke to me about the play, questions I have, or things I want to find out more about. Then from there my inner nerd kicks in big time because I love to research. Most of this research won't be seen by anyone other than myself. Granted some of it is cultivated to bring to my designers but majority of it is just for my knowledge and insight. I research the playwright (if it is not a new work and if it is I have already made efforts to get to know him/her); time period, location, and anything that might pertain to the life of the play. During this I collect interesting information, stories, articles but what really resonates with me and how I work is images. I love using photography and art to enhance the world I am beginning to develop. I compile these images and show them to my set, prop, costume and lighting designer to develop dialogue with them on the world we are creating.
My first few rehearsals are strictly read throughs and table work with the actors. I am very physical person and love physicality in my work. I find though, if there is not an in-depth knowledge of what is going on in the play or the needs of the character physicality muddles that actor and director are not on the same page. Next comes putting it up on its feet - I like to have a pretty clear idea of what I want the blocking to be - but I usually let the actors discover it in the rehearsal process instead of telling them. I want the movement of their characters to come from them as artists and I guide them along the way.
The most exciting part for me is scene work when scripts are either memorized or extremely familiar. Where action and needs drive the scene and there is discovery between the actors as the characters. I encourage trying as many choices as possible in this period and seeing what works. It’s the “’ah ha moment’ of “yes that is what it needs to be” and developing that further. I feel that is how the layers of a character and play are born.
Last leg of the process is the previews which are important because as a director you can gauge how an audience reacts and adjust if need be. My job is done opening night and what is set in motion runs hopefully for a long time. What I love about the process is the collaboration of many to one final product.
The play is the thing.
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious - the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” ― Albert Einstein
Picture from behind the scenes of All an Act at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!