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Making the scene work is one thing. Knowing that it’s working is another. But what you first need to do is know what you’re ...
looking for, and also to be open to happy accidents. The whole art of directing a play is giving the actors the chance to feel open.
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How to Recognize a Good Scene in Theater Directing
On behalf of TVLesson.com, my name is Joseph Adler and I’m producing artistic director of GableStage in Coral Gables, Florida.
Let’s talk a little bit about the approach to the play.
Now in theater, I think the playwright is supreme. Now we always hear a talk about how important the director is in film and certainly that’s true. I'm not saying a director isn't really important when it comes to theater, but in theater, a playwright is protected in so many ways that most film writers do not have the protection at least until they become well-known names and can ask for that protection contractually.
Every playwright has the right to approve with any changes that are made and many of them are very willing to make those changes and many others are intransigent when you start to discuss them.
So, in any case when it comes to approaching the work, the most fundamental thing is to try to find out what this play is really about. And when you figured that out from that material comes the approach. I think form definitely has to grow out of content. Style has to evolve from the content of the play. If you impose your own style on something and it isn't really right, you're definitely going to have problems.
I think so often we put a mirror in front of ourselves. And instead of seeing what it is we’re doing, we’re really looking at ourselves and trying to impose whatever it is we would like to be doing with this material. On material, that it is not necessarily suited for.
So the play comes first. I think that’s true of course for the actors. Everything they need to know is somewhere in that play one hopes. The quest for that and for the meaning and interpretation of that meaning is what this craft is all about.
But first comes the word and the word is supreme. It’s one of the many things I love about theater. That’s pretty much how I feel about what come first.
Let’s talk a little bit how you know when a scene is working. Obviously the process, the rehearsal process is about making the scene work.
Now making the scene work is one thing. Knowing when it’s working is another. And then, perhaps the most important element is knowing when the scene is working, how you got there, and being able to maintain that. And that means maintain it for six or eight performances a week and for however long the run is.
I say maintained it. I think one of the things that’s so interesting is that even within the framework that you established and that you set, the great thing about live theater is that there is variation in performances. No two performances are exactly alike ever. No matter how much you rehearsed, no matter how much you set things they will always be a little bit different depending on a lot of factors including the audience.
They are again as I said is the glory of live theater. But I think what’s essential, what’s really essential in rehearsal is to know what it is you're looking for, be open to accidents. Sometime you think you’re looking for something and you think that’s your goal and you find out in the course of the process that something else works.
I think it’s important to stay open. It’s also important as I said earlier talking about the process. It’s important that everybody feel free to do their best work and be relaxed enough to take chances which I think also means that when you’re trying find out what works and doesn’t work, you have to give the collaborators, the actors the opportunity to feel open to making contributions and to taking risks. That’s essential in the process.
So, I think we all know when — well, I take that back. I was just going to say I think we all know when something’s working. Actually the truth is a director’s job is to take something that works and choreograph it into the whole. I mean an actor is not concerned about — they maybe concerned about making a choice but a director’s job is to take that choice and orchestrate it into the whole so it works in tandem with all the other choices.
That’s what makes this whole thing so fascinating.
On behalf of TVLesson.com, I’m Joseph Adler, thank you for watching.