Monday, November 12, 2007

Day Ten

Some Observations on the Art of Directing:
(this is actually the title of a wonderful book by William Ball, founder of ACT in San Francisco and Artistic Director from 1965-1986)

JoAnne has taken apart the Bacchae to its very roots with her production, leaving us with characters whose motives and actions we understand (but should not identify with) and a simple yet humanly incomprehensible story arc. It must be simple so that the audience can understand just how tragic the story is.

During rehearsal, JoAnne will turn to Jim Leverett and ask the simplest questions, forcing everyone in the room to consider things they have not thought about, or defined in a very simple way that may in fact be far more complex. In doing so, she sucks out the meaning from the text, informing each scene with the most comprehensive available knowledge, which is then distilled into performance. The audience will never have the knowledge that the actors do, and yet the performance is affected by it, bringing out different nuances and emphases.

In directing classes they always tell you never to use descriptors (be angrier, be happier, etc) or to tell an actor how you want the line said. Well JoAnne Akalaitis is one of the most renowned directors of the last several decades and she does both of those things all of the time. Not that it's a bad thing that they teach that way, because not doing so forces young directors to think about why they want a line said a particular way and how that fits in with the rest of the scene, but I'm just pointing out that it's really not a "no-no" when it comes to directing. If JoAnne told me to say a line a particular way, I would say it exactly that way, because she clearly knows exactly what she wants out of it.

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