Ideas & Inspiration

Offbeat Directing 8: The Comfort Zone

[caption id="attachment_1288" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Get a good game going to loosen up the the 'comfort barriers' Get a good game going to loosen up the the 'comfort barriers'[/caption] 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. (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 7d: Infrastructure!

[caption id="attachment_1167" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Anyone seen the poster? Anyone seen the poster?[/caption] 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! (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 7c: Your Design Team

[caption id="attachment_1118" align="aligncenter" width="800"]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![/caption] 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). (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 7b: Early Rehearsals and Cunning Plans

[caption id="attachment_1021" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Get your cast relaxed and playing games to start. Get your cast relaxed and playing games to start. Floaty costumes optional...[/caption] 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. (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?

[caption id="attachment_986" align="aligncenter" width="800"]IMG_1485 You're right. There is absolutely no reason to place this photo with this post.[/caption] 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. (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through

[caption id="attachment_966" align="aligncenter" width="800"]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)[/caption] 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). (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Ideas & Inspiration

The Noble Art of Observation and the Power of Silence

[caption id="attachment_926" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now) Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)[/caption] 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? (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition!

finding your cast 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? Ok, hands up .. who likes auditions? No one? Well, there's a surprise! I absolutely hate auditions. As director I always want to give everyone a part, preferably the part they want (naturally I squash that part of me for the duration!). What makes that so much worse is that there will always be a significant number auditioning for the 'best' role. After years directing in youth theatres I can honestly say that most people do not find the idea of the 'character cameo' very appealing - they want lines and appearances. Some people count the lines - presumably so they can see just how good their part really is. I can't complain I suppose, I do remember auditioning for the part of Juliet in Romeo & Juliet at school and no other part would have been on my radar (yes, I did get it - I was very determined). As an actor of course, the whole process is nerve racking and fraught with horrors. Not getting the part you want may result in tears and tantrums, or just bitter disappointment and profound silence. Getting the part you want results in wild celebrations and much screaming - which makes the the ones who didn't get the part feel SO much worse (yes, I have worked mostly with the unbridled emotional responses of teenagers and children). So why on earth do we do it? Why don't we just handpick pick the cast we want and bypass the horrid audition? (more…)

By Barbara, ago
Skills

Offbeat Directing 4: What does the Director do?

[caption id="attachment_840" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Precision Pointing Demo from Hugh Farey directing The Real Inspector Hound Precision Pointing Demo from Hugh Farey directing The Real Inspector Hound. Photo by Tom Flathers[/caption] Also in this series: Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning What does the Director do? You might well ask! I've seen many directors at work and some appear to think it is entirely to do with deciding which side to make your entrance from and where to stand when you get there... These things do have to be decided (to some degree) but there is so much more to do and, like most things in life, we can always defer the hard tasks and meaningful, but difficult, conversations by doing something fairly mechanical (the washing up is always fair game if you're at home - obsessing on where to place your cast if you're in the theatre). So .. what is the actual role of the director? The Director's job is to TELL THE STORY. Sounds easy, but it really isn't. (more…)

By Barbara, ago
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