The nineteen-year-old sound operator on my production of Bertolt Brecht: In Dark Times, asked me how I do what I do. I asked him what he meant. Expecting some question about craft, I was surprised to discover he was not asking about technique. His question was more fundamental. “How do you get everyone to do their best work? You make everyone want to do their best.”
I can think of no better definition of my work as a director than the “person who gets everyone to do their best.”
In trying to answer him I realized that the process he was asking about involved the combination of preparation, inspiration and presence that I try to bring to the work. It begins with a fundamental belief that the piece itself as well as everyone involved has a “best” to offer. By focusing everyone’s attention on the work, its compelling force will draw out everyone’s best efforts.
To get there, I invest a lot of time and energy in preparation. I believe that the process must be firmly rooted in craft. To that end, I collaborate with the design team and arrive at the first rehearsal a production book in hand, text and character analysis complete and preliminary blocking on paper.
It is crucial that everyone involved have a clear idea of where we are going. As long as we are in agreement about the “direction” the piece is headed, people’s creative imaginations can run free. Together we can experience all sorts of unexpected flights.
We discover the elation of new ideas and images in service of the work.
The search for the best then rests with my talent, taste and ability to watch closely, nudge, make adjustments, follow the map, and to listen. To listen with my head and heart as well as with my ears. To listen to the spirit of the play, to the text and to the actors. To what is said and what’s unspoken. To the voice that guides the vision. To listen for the truth, acknowledge its presence and celebrate its collective expression.