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January 26, 2011

TT: Tentative axioms of a novice stage director

• Directing is mainly listening. The director's first job is to ensure that the actor speaks the text in such a way as to make it intelligible to members of the audience who have not already seen it on the printed page.

• When you're talking, you're not listening.

• If you're working with good actors, let the performance emerge naturally from them, then shape and edit it.

• Don't give line readings to professional actors. Your main concern should be to make sure that the point of emphasis in every sentence is correct--i.e., that it helps make the sense of the sentence self-evident to the listening audience. You can do that without "acting" the line out, and should.

• Insofar as possible, let actors do what feels natural to them. If you are the author of the play that you're directing and the actors find it insurmountably difficult to speak the lines on the page exactly as written, then change them. If they're well cast, then their instincts are probably sound and should be taken seriously.

• Try not to interrupt. Always give an actor the chance to get things right without being told.

• If, on the other hand, he says or does something really wrong twice in a row, fix it on the spot. Otherwise he'll learn it incorrectly and will find it harder to change later on.

• Let the actor work out his own blocking in the first couple of rehearsals. Once it starts to gel, that's the time to edit it and--usually--to simplify it.

• All movement on stage must be relevant and motivated. If it isn't, it will look fussy. If the lines are interesting, standing still is always an option.

• Actors want and need to know that what they're doing is pleasing to you. If it is, say so. Don't assume that they can read your mind.

UPDATE: A friend writes: "Now, just wait until you're directing multiple personalities along with a big production team!" Er, yeah....

Posted January 26, 2011 3:23 PM

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