On Directing Styles

Posted by A Quiet Man with a Loud Voice | Labels: , , , , | Posted On Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Attempt to blog after every rehearsal? Fail.

I don’t know how Angela does it.

It’s not that I haven’t had time or anything. It’s just that the blocking portion of the rehearsal process is the single most boring thing to experience. We’ve currently blocked a little over half the show so far and are off-book on the first two scenes of the twelve scene show – so we’re probably ahead of the game. Now if only we’d focus and get things done!

Actually, we’ve probably done a lot better job of focusing and getting things done than any show I’ve done in a long time. I am really surprised to see people running lines and blocking together before rehearsal starts, after rehearsal ends, and whenever they’re not onstage.

But this entry isn’t about that. This entry is about the director-actor relationship.

Let me start off by mentioning how lucky I am to be working with Dan Nadon again. I’ve known him since I was a kid and have taken several courses that he has taught. But this is my first ‘real’ play he’s directed that I’ve been in. I did perform as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for him once, but that was Children’s Theatre so I don’t really consider it a 'real' play.

Plus, I sucked then.

I’ve always known Dan to be a very open person willing to listen to what you have to say and share his own opinions. And he brings this same mentality to directing. Earlier today I went to the theatre early to discuss the character of Death with him and walked away with a better understanding of his mentality. And it was a real discussion, a back-and-forth between the director and an actor where some ideas were clarified, some were thrown out, and some were left open for further exploration.

Example: I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of Family being considered a non-essential facet of life. At some point before the show opens, I’ll discuss this – because it’s probably the single most intriguing idea of the whole show for me. In fact, I’m currently attending Carol Robinson’s class where I hope we’ll dive into deeper detail about this.

Back on point:

Not all directors are very open. I had an acting teacher once who also directed several shows.

Disclaimer: I auditioned for two of the director’s shows but was not cast. While I was bitter at the time, I now consider it a blessing for the following reason:

This director/teacher was one of those, “do it this way,” directors. He would tell you exactly how to do a role in class. Right down to blocking. He was not in the least bit interested in exploration. If we tried something new he would inevitably say, “That’s nice. You should try this,” and if we came to class next day with something different – he would reiterate the original suggestion. One time I mentioned to him that I tried his suggestion at home but couldn’t make it work.

His response: “It works. You’re just not trying hard enough.”

After watching several of his shows I started to notice that all of the characters in his plays were the same. They all walked, talked, and acted like him. They were well staged, but I never saw anything resembling a collaborative effort onstage.
That, my friends, is Shitty Director Number One.

Shitty Director Number Two is the complete opposite.

If you ask him questions about the character he’ll inevitably say, “I don’t want to tell you how to do your character, you need to figure it out yourself.”

And that is an incredible copout.

Yes, the actor should have freedom to explore – but when the actor comes to the director with a question, it is because he needs help. If you don’t give them help? You suck as a director, sir. You don’t even deserve the title, you’re nothing more than a glorified babysitter.

I, thankfully, have never had this problem. Though I have been regaled with stories from those who have.

And the third type of Shitty Director?

The Incompetent. You may think Shitty Director Number Two is incompetent, but you would be very wrong.

The incompetent director chose a play that he doesn’t understand. But he saw it once and it looked cool and is doing it exactly like the show he saw. And the leads in his cast is made up entirely of his actor friends who have zero respect for him and just do their own thing. This director is the kind that just lets you do whatever the fuck you want. If you want to play Puck like Iago, he’ll laugh and say, “Interesting choice!” but doesn’t have the balls to tell you you’re wrong.

Dan Nadon, thankfully is none of these. It’s been a great joy the last two weeks discovering new things in For Every Man, Woman and Child with him and I continually look forward to rehearsal to see what the next idea he brings to the table is.

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