Sunday, October 29, 2006

30 Scenes and 30 Changes - Directing Journal Vol. 4

One of the most challenging aspects of this play are the scene changes. The play is comprised of 30 very short scenes. This requires that set pieces and actors move about quite often. The actors and one stage hand will be doing all the work. For our last rehearsal we practiced the scene transitions for three hours. Normally, you wouldn't do this until later in the rehearsal process, but as it's such a big part of the show, I decided to get it all down early.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Horizontal Waltz - Directing Journal Vol. 3

The Baltimore Waltz is a very funny play and a very touching play and it also has a soft porn scene. In reading it the first time, the scene just seemed funny and amusing, but having to choreograph all the moves involved was something I wasn't quite ready for. I got a taste of what blue move director must consider run of the mill. I found it difficult to tell the actors such things as, "could you please thrust more with your hips, rather than your shoulders?" It's very hard work for the actors. Both of them finished the blocking sequence looking like they had just run a few miles.

One of my biggest challenges right now is that the set designer is out of town, on a cruise, and I am having some blocking problems because of the positions of the flats. We only have them marked with tape right now, and it's difficult to see where the actual playing space will be in the upstage area.

Overall, I am very pleased with the rehearsals. Tonight we have our designer run through which means that the people involved with providing lights, sound, costumes and props will be there. It's always a nervous time for actors, because it 's usually the first time that strangers see them perform a show that's only half finished.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Moment to Moment Work - Directing Journal Vol. 2

The Baltimore Waltz is a play done in thirty very short scenes. I really think it's important for the actors to be able to work at the play in sections, with intensive notes from me after each short run through. As an actor I know that it really helps to be able to repeat a short section numerous times with specific adjustments from the director. Doing this allow the scene to get further into the actor's psyche and body.

Often directors will just have actors run an entire act once or twice during a given rehearsal, and often they never stray from this routine. In my view this is usually an mistake. The actors never get a chance to do work on difficult sequences several times. For guidance, I turn to the French word - répétition. which is the word the French use for rehearsal. I think that repetition is really the key for an actor in feeling free and comfortable on opening night. It's such a simple concept, but often neglected. There is really something to be said about doing things over an over in order to perfect them.

It could be that in our acting world, which has been so effected in good ways and bad by The Method, we sometimes believe that repeating something too many times will make it stale. To some extent that may be true for film, but on stage, I don't believe it's true. On stage you want the performers to be so grounded and confident in all of their moments, so that it frees them to really be present.

Fortuneatly, I have a group of actors who take direction and my requests for subtle changes so easily.  I also have a stage manager that remembers every minute detail of blocking that I have mumbled over the last number of days.

Tonight we worked on the first twelve scenes. The last being an hilarious bedroom scene combined with a tour through the Louvre. It's kind of hard to explain. You'll have to come and see the show.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thoughts on Directing - Vol. 1

Directing The Baltimore Waltz has been a very enlightening experience so far. Because I cast three excellent actors I am relaxed about the outcome. This has freed me up to really watch them rehearse and let my imagination just flow. I have always suspected, but now am certain, that many of my ideas come from that part of the brain that is purely unconscious. The observations that are most striking to me are two: first as I watch a scene I often don't worry about the content, I only pay attention to whether or not my mind is being stimulated and brought alive by what is happening on stage. If I pay attention to that, I can pinpoint problems in scenes just by asking myself, "what were the actors missing in this moment that caused my mind to become bored?", usually there is something very specific that is required to make the moment work and I look for that. I do my best to describe my impression to the actors and then ask them to do it again. Inevitably the moment that was bland or misguided comes to life. It's quite an astonishing process. The second thing I do often, is just let the scene unfold and pay attention to my associations. For instance yesterday, there was a scene that I had staged in a very static way. Initially this seemed adequate and would have been a fine way to set it. But as I watched them rehearse it again, the image of Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone, kept coming to my head. I quickly realized that what my unconscious was telling me was that this moment would be much more interesting, if I had one of the characters walk among the other two characters as he talked about their past lives. Often, Rod Serling would do something like this. He would saunter across the screen recounting the lives of one of his characters and asking questions about how things could have been different for them. I asked the actor to try it this way, and the outcome for all of us was astonishing. The feel of the whole scene changed and it was much more exciting and interesting to watch.

No More Underpants

Thanks to everyone in the cast of The Underpants. I will always remember the fun time we had. Kalon, Mary Lou, Shannon, Bob and Blake, you're the best. I can't ever remember getting along so well with a group of people.

Next up is The Baltimore Waltz at The Pear Avenue Theatre. I am directing this wonderful show written by Paula Vogel. It's the story of a woman's personal tribute to her brother. The play is very funny and also very touching. You can learn more at The Pear's web site.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


John Stewart's take on Clinton's "meltdown". I think that Clinton was awesome in this thing. He just nailed that Fox Network right wing bullshit and they could do nothing. That's one for the Gipper!