Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Maestro's Mark 8/11/09

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
12:12:00 AM EDT

Maestro's Mark

Direct the play, not the players.

DB - The Vagabond ---------------------------------------------------
Good day friend.
Oh, that more directors understood.

I have written here about dopey actors I have known. But, in all fairness, I must talk about some dopey directors. The shameful fact is that I can probably squeeze into a Volkswagen beetle the number of good directors I have worked with over the years. Most of them seem to think that it is their job to give acting lessons to the cast. While it may be true that some young, inexperienced actors might need some sort of training, the rehearsal is not the place for it nor is the director the proper teacher.

I often advise youngsters who are looking for an acting career to study with an actor, not a director. If you want to learn how to play the violin, do you study with a violinist or a conductor. There are too many intricacies to the art of acting that directors are unaware of or have forgotten about. I will say that if you walk into an acting class and the teacher is sitting in a chair with a clipboard in his lap taking notes, head for the exit.

I once served on a jury in a trial during which the judge was not watching nor listening to the testimony but was typing notes into her computer. Both attorneys asked for and got a new trial. The acting teacher must pay close attention to everything you're doing and not take notes. Taking notes is what directors do.

Some directors will order an improvisation on the first day, before anyone is really acquainted with the play, their characters or even each other. It usually means the director has no vision or ideas of his own. Doing that is a stupid waste of time. Improvisation itself is very valuable under the right circumstances. Some day I will write about my friend Stuart and the best improvisation I was ever involved with.

The only screaming fights I've ever had with directors were over their inability to understand that stage business must be rehearsed. There are fight choreographers and fight rehearsals so that people don't get hurt. But complicated activity on the stage, especially when it is tied in to the timing of the scene, doesn't happen when you push a button. Why is it some directors have a total blind spot about that?

Twice I was involved in something I will never do again. I performed a rehearsed scene for a directing class. One was at a prestigious New York City film school, the other was under a private grant. In both cases the teacher was more interested in criticizing the actors than in helping the directing student.

In the first case, I don't know whether the teacher was playing a nasty game or if he was just an ignoramus. I tend to think it was the latter. But he had no idea what he was talking about. I almost stopped him to tell him to stick to the directing and leave the acting to the actors. The only thing those students were learning, in both cases, was how NOT to talk to actors.

I'll close this with an amusing story. The three character play had a line that read something like this "You work and work and save money so that you can buy a house. Then you move into the house and where are you?" The director began the rehearsal one day by saying that she wanted to deal with the realities. So I asked her if we were still in our apartment or if we had moved into the house. She answered "Oh, I don't care. It doesn't matter where you are." So much for the realities.

Some day I'll write about how important PLACE is to the actor and the production.

DB - The vagabond

May you have lots of sunshine in your heart today.

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