What I Learned – Directors Direct
As a theater professional (humor me), I’ve done just about every job in the production process. I’ve written. I’ve acted. I’ve produced. I’ve designed. And I’ve directed.
I direct all the time. I call myself a writer, but I often feel I spend far more time directing than writing.
I really hate directing.
In all probability, the primary reason I hate directing is because I feel I’m just not very good. I don’t feel I have a good instinct for creating interesting stage pictures. I have don’t critique my performers well because it often takes me three or four days to really settle on what I think needs to change. I have a very hard time telling people no.
For Vilification Tennis, I’m a performing director. My job as the judge is to guide the actors on stage. I’ll drop subtle hints about what is working and what isn’t working. I control the tempo of the match. My responsibility is as much to help the performers do the best job as it is to assist in guiding the audiences response to their performances.
I’ve been doing it so long, I barely think about it any more. I just know how to control the flow of the show and most people don’t even notice that I’m doing anything at all, which is as it should be.
Because so much I do is onstage, I often neglect the offstage piece of cast development and show coordination. While we can put on a very good show with a small amount of prep work, the more time we put into the show, the better the onstage product becomes.
The cast is large and as their skill has improved over time, it has become clear that we need to cut back a few performers.
All of my performers are very good or they wouldn’t be in the cast. But you have to make decisions. You want to use the best possible people and that sometimes means the very good don’t get a chance.
The job of a director is to put the best possible show on stage. It is not to make sure that they don’t hurt the feelings of their performers.
As I looked at our show last year, I thought about the fact that we have been improving as performers but I haven’t been improving as a director. I’ve been regressing.
It wasn’t just Vilification Tennis, either. I have a great time putting together Big Fun Radio Funtime but I know my performers want more direction out of me. When we read through scripts, I need to give them ideas on how to approach the material.
That’s my job.
As usual, my best ideas come about a week after the performance when I think “that scene might have worked better if the character had sounded more annoyed.”
Directors direct. That is their job. I may think I’m absolutely awful at the job but if I’m going to keep doing that job, I need to be committed to doing it right.
What I learned is this: there are times in our lives when we are tasked with doing something that we can’t do well. When that happens, we need to work to do it better than we believe we are capable. If we do that, we might actually get better.
The only way to be good at something is to start badly. Some things just take a lot more doing to become good at it and it’s different for each person. At least you keep doing even though you don’t feel like you’re good at it (yet). Curious to know if your favorite directors feel like they’re ‘good’ at directing.