Archives For Directing skills

Go the extra mile - whatever it takes!

Go the extra mile – make your ideas BIG and BOLD (orange is optional)

Never be complacent with your achievements. One of the many beautiful things about theatre is that we always have the next show to work on – we’re never stuck in one place. We live in a sea of constantly changing requirements, ideas and possibilities. And the next show will be so different to the last …. To each new project you take the experience and the lessons from the last. If you’re on the case you will always improve and the process of creating theatre will be a wonderful experience each time. Continue Reading…

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Everything on the set has purpose ..

Everything on the set has purpose ..

There’s a ‘dramatic principle’ that Chekhov famously illustrated about what you should and should not have on set (or in your play if you’re writing). He said something along the lines of ‘don’t put a loaded gun on stage unless you intend it to go off’ or ‘don’t mention there’s a gun hanging on the wall in Act I unless you intend it to go off in Act III’ (you’ll find many variations if you search for ‘Chekhov’s gun’). His point being that you should not raise the expectations of the audience by drawing attention to an item that actually has no purpose or relevance to the plot. Interesting. I have read about this a few times and the interpretation of his words always comes out slightly differently. So, what should you put on your set and what should you leave out? Continue Reading…

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Get a good game going to loosen up the the 'comfort barriers'

Get a good game going to loosen up the the ‘comfort barriers’

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through
Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?
Offbeat Directing 7b: Early Rehearsals and Cunning Plans
Offbeat Directing 7c: Your Design Team
Offbeat Directing 7d: Infrastructure!

Ah .. the comfort zone. The place where most actors will stay unless pressed to break out. It’s that safe place where you walk in a way that feels ok, talk in your own voice or one you’re familiar with, interact with other actors in a non-threatening manner. It’s a safe, comfortable place to be. But it isn’t ever enough. Whenever you start to feel slightly embarrassed, uncomfortable, vulnerable or just plain scared, that’s when you’re breaking the comfort barrier. And this is good!

Analogy: Your body is remarkable. Your brain has a memory of every muscle you possess and knows exactly how far that muscle can stretch. When it reaches the stretch barrier your brain says ‘no, that’s quite enough stretching, thank you, this is where I’m staying.’ Pretty clever, keeps you safe. It bases this limitation on factors like how much you use the muscle and physical and emotional truama that have affected the area. You have a ‘range’ of movement that becomes normal for you. If you want to go beyond it, you’ll have to practise and reset the brain/muscle controlled barrier. So when you decide to take up yoga (for example) or any other stretching exercise, you have to repeatedly work on stretching your ‘normal’ range of movement until it is gradually increased. If you only do this once a week your progress will be very slow. The more you practise, the more you change.

Now think of theatre. Continue Reading…

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Anyone seen the poster?

Anyone seen the poster?

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through
Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?
Offbeat Directing 7b: Early Rehearsals and Cunning Plans
Offbeat Directing 7c: Your Design Team

Infra-what? For a show? Always makes me think of bridges and telephone lines – which is exactly right if you’re thinking of a society, a town or a community – the underlying systems that allow it to function. In this context I don’t mean the telephone in the foyer, I mean the underlying systems that need to be in place to allow the show to actually manifest, but happen beyond the stage. Actually, the telephone in the foyer is important! And the computer .. errr .. the front of House Manager .. oh, and the kettle. The person who will produce your show (might well be you, the director) needs to have a handle on the administration, marketing/publicity, creation of marketing materials, sponsorship, tour admin and transport (if applicable) and anything else you have a requirement for that isn’t actually on the stage! It is heartbreaking to put your heart and soul, half your life over the past year and a substantial amount of money into a show that nobody comes to see. Why don’t they? Because nobody told them it was on – doh! Continue Reading…

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the set, costumes and a dash of lighting for 'After Juliet' by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, different levels to act on, moody lights. Loved it!

The set, costumes and a dash of lighting for ‘After Juliet’ by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, ‘punk- Elizabethan’ style costumes, a plaza, scaffolding towwers to create different levels, moody lights. Loved it!

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through
Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?
Offbeat Directing 7b: Early Rehearsals and Cunning Plans

‘What team?’ I hear you say. Quite so. Chances are it’s just you and your best friend. But let’s suppose for the sake of this post that you do have access to people who will design for you – or at least be instrumental in getting your designs on stage in some form. Part of my ‘visioning’ period (that’s the never-ending period) involves visualising the design of the show in every way conceivable – the set, props, lighting, sfx, sound, costumes, hair & make-up. So, as soon as you can get together with each member of your team and talk through what you want. Show them your diagrams, sketches, design boards, fabric samples – anything at all you have collected whilst dreaming away! Try and find a way to make your design ideas a reality. I tend to be of the opinion that if my designer says ‘it can’t be done’ then I’m probably talking to the wrong person (although I do compromise when I really, really have to). Continue Reading…

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Get your cast relaxed and playing games to start.

Get your cast relaxed and playing games to start. Floaty costumes optional…

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through
Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?

You have a cast, crew and a whole host of people waiting to hear what it is you want and need in order to get the production underway (hopefully). Time to unleash the cunning plan – which consists of what you’re going to do in rehearsals and when. In Post number 7c we’ll look at Design Meetings and in 7d the Infrastructure you’ll need in place to allow the magic (or pay for it) to happen. By the way, all the ‘7’ posts are together because they all need to happen around the same time. But for this post, it’s just you and your cast. They arrive, they look at you … do you break into a cold sweat or deploy your plan? Well, let’s do both. Continue Reading…

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Here's hoping they won't hold back at audition (although Boz, pictured here, is actually the lighting designer - I like my team to be versatile!)

Here’s hoping they won’t hold back at audition (although Boz, pictured here, is actually the lighting designer on this occasion – I do like my team to be versatile!)

I’ve been planning this for months now (as you would expect from the Offbeat Directing Series of blogs on this site!!) Now up to the dreaded audition bit (see the blog post)! I don’t really like auditions. I find that nearly all the group will audition for the same parts, so in the last few weeks I’ve been trying to encourage a bit of diversity. I hope I’ve succeeded. The group is 16 strong and there are many, many more parts than that … so, multiroling is key. It took me AGES to work out which characters can be played by an actor also playing another part. We’ll see if it works!

At the same time as I’m auditioning on stage Tom (photographer) will be working on his video diaries and, no doubt, taking a few groovy pics! So … I’ll update when everyone has auditioned and been cast. Not expecting anyone to get terribly upset, but they can’t ALL play Agnes Nitt! And why is no one auditioning for the lovely part of the Opera tenor of gargantuan proportions (fatsuit anyone?) Greebo the cat-who-turns-human-sometimes will be a challenge (although he appears to look a bit like a Johnny Depp style pirate – that would work). The casting of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg is also a big challenge and (apart from other important considerations – obviously) I’m really hoping not to have to make new costumes (we did Wyrd sisters some years back). But .. if required costumes are always fun to make!

So … here goes! Fingers crossed for a good, clean audition. No biting, scratching or hysterical outbursts please… Cover me ..I’m going in….

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IMG_1485

You’re right. There is absolutely no reason to place this photo with this post.

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through

Ok, now the work can really start. I love rehearsals! There is nothing more satisfying than a dynamic, creative, interactive rehearsal that leaves everyone feeling like they”re getting somewhere! It isn’t always like that of course, but we’ll work though that in time.. For now we have several things to do within the same time frame in the early stages. We need to be aware of the way we’re going to work and who does what (this is the subject for this post), we need to have a plan for how we work with our actors in rehearsal and we need another for dealing with the infrastructure, the design and the people helping us out with it! Sounds like a lot – and it is. If you’re organised and clear and can delegate you’ll be fine. Continue Reading…

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Ok, I'm cheating - this is not a first read through! But encourage your cast to act as well as read the lines.

Ok, I’m cheating – this is not a first read through! But encourage your cast to act as well as read the lines.
Pic by Tom Flathers (as if you didn’t know)

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition

You’ve just survived the painful experience of casting the play and your chosen actors are assembled for the first read through. You would love it if they’ve actually read the play, thought about it and got to know their characters a bit, but just having read it would be ok for now! You all sit in a circle …. now what? This can be one of the most awkward moments and it’s easy to fill the awkward silence by rabbiting on about your vision, how you see the set and the costumes, what you think it’s all about and many other valuable insights you’ve collected over the months you’ve been working on the play. But don’t do that, it’s really not the right time! People are nervous – get them reading pretty quickly! They don’t want to listen to the director (not too much anyway) – they just hope they don’t sound foolish or pronounce that strange word on page 24 incorrectly (they will – ignore it). Continue Reading…

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Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Listening and watching (in a positive way) are very underrated. In a previous ‘life’ I was a therapist (remedial massage mostly) and I spent many years teaching others how to assess the varying conditions of their clients. Listen, watch and, in the case of a physical therapy, get your hands on (but even then you are listening with your hands). In theatre, observation is everything – but not just in theatre. The same applies if you just want to help a friend. Watch .. listen. Where are they? Continue Reading…

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