Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Turned Table

I rarely direct. I'm usually on the actor side of things. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to direct Andrew's latest play, Tracing Sonny, for Theatre Unleashed. As tends to happen with his work, I've known about the project from the start (2006) and have watched it grow into a full-length script that is at the last stages of workshopping, hitting the stage the first weekend of June.

It's no big secret that I love actors. I've learned so much from sitting in auditions as a reader, choreographer and producer. Something I've noticed as a director is that the audition is all business. The actors come in with perfectly polished monologues. Of course, they've spent lots of time with those monologues and should know every nuance from performing it so much. The audition is all about the game face. The actors keep their game faces on as they do their monologues and fumble through the cold readings, all very business-like. With all this business going on, it's a challenge to see the vulnerable artist and weigh how your creativity as the director will blend with theirs. But they tend to be pretty damn good at the audition.

Then you get into rehearsals. That's where you get to see the vulnerable artist. The actors don't have the same familiarity with the material that they have with their monologues. They make weak choices, wrong choices or no choices at all. They stumble through the words and do their best to connect the director's arbitrary blocking notes with the script. I'm not complaining; this is part of the process and I recognize this as both an actor and a director. The important thing is to give the actors the opportunity to find their way with the material so it's as familiar as those audition monologues. I know I have to give them the chance to get good, just like I want directors (and choreographers) to give me the chance to get good.

So if you find yourself in the position of director, choreographer, producer or supervisor, give the folks on your team a chance to get good. You brought them on for a reason, and chances are that they won't disappoint if you do your part to set them in the right direction and give them the space to make mistakes.