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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Different Approaches to Directing

1776 ended its run on Thursday. Thirteen performances, and I kept getting better the whole time. I kept adding in little touches all over the place, which I'd remember afterward and repeat in subsequent performances. By the final performance (to a large audience), the other actors were complimenting me on how I played one of the scenes. Which is not to say I was totally satisfied- I could still have been much better. But it's time to walk away.

Now I'm free to be part of Oklahoma. As of the end of 1776, they'd been rehearsing for over two months and I'd been to exactly one of those rehearsals. I told Binder (the producer/director) as soon as he sent out the schedule that almost all the dates coincided with performances (or rehearsals) of 1776*-------
(It's not all the rehearsals which were scheduled badly- just the ones for the male chorus members. If I'd been a lead, I think there'd be less of a problem.)
. I said to him, "This is going to be a problem.". To which he responded: "I suggest that you attend those rehearsals that you can and fill in what you've missed after your other show." Well, he's not quite as calm about it now that he understands just how many rehearsals we had to miss. (I'm not the only one from 1776 in the cast.) As a matter of fact, he's rather furious -though he covers it with a very diplomatic attitude.

Let me tell you something about Binder. He knows exactly what he wants from every person on stage at every moment. In the rehearsals, he says to random people, "You stand there, you're doing this, you say this.". And then we're expected to do that and move on. (None of us lowly chorus members have scripts, which would aid us in understanding the context.) I have no doubt that the end result will be very professional and impressive. But, y'know. It's not any fun for me.

Another problem I have is that the cast of Oklahoma is so ridiculously huge (more than fifty people) that half the time I'm just trying not to get trampled upon. I hate crowds.

1776 had many speaking parts (They were all speaking parts.), but no extras. And we all had fun.

Let me tell you something about Batsheva, the director of 1776. All she cares about is the realness of the performances. We started out just saying the lines to each other, rather than putting any kind of "acting" into them, so that we could internalize what we were saying and exactly why we were saying them. Once we knew the lines, not so much by heart as by understanding, she'd give us general ideas about who our characters were supposed to be. -------
He's a respectable man … he's seen every kind of person before … you're being too rude.
Batsheva really didn't have any idea what the end result ought to look like. But she trusted that if we understood the characters, we'd figure it out. And we did. We didn't deliver a flawless rendition of the script, but most of us got to the essence of the characters and gave our audiences a great show.

Oklahoma isn't the same kind of acting experience. There's no creativity or self-expression involved, there's no exploring possibilities. It's just doing what Binder says efficiently. One fellow cast member who quit the show to join another one summed it up quite well: "It feels like you're a cog in the machine." For me, it's all just an exercise in hitting my cues. So I get the sense that there are many opportunities for me to screw up (Some of which I have already discovered, to my shame.), but no opportunity to excel.



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