Saturday, September 4, 2010
Just How Many Chefs IS Too Many, Anyway?
Last night's rehearsal of "Arcana," my collection of short pieces that goes up at Open Circle next week, went well. Which was great, even though it defies common sense.
What makes this show different from any other production I've ever been involved in is that we've got not one, not two, but FIVE directors working on it. This came about partially through necessity and partially because I get bored of doing theater the same way time after time.
When Open Circle Theatre offered me their September/October slot for a production of eight short pieces in my "Arcana" cycle, I was of course excited. But I was also terrified. Not only was the decision for this made waaaaaay back in July (that's right--one month to plan, one month to rehearse, one month to run), but I had already committed to produce/direct "My Time with the Lady" with Ron Richardson in August. There was no way that I was going to be able to direct this show too.
But when I asked around, I couldn't find another director who was available, or at least available to direct a full production. BUT....I did know several folks who like me have full-time jobs and summer commitments, yet who could probably eke out enough hours to direct a 10-minute play or two.
So after some work on both my part and Open Circle, four other directors were found: Mary Cutler, Evan Tucker, Nikki Visel and Rob West. Not only are all four smart and versatile, but they're four of the most level-headed and pleasant people you could hope to share drinks with.
I won't lie. There have been problems. Scheduling has been a nightmare. Rob's got a kid, Mary had a couple of trips planned, Nikki's dialect coaching, and a couple of weeks ago Evan asked for a later production meeting on Saturday because he was going to a bachelor party the night before: his own, as it turns out. (Mazel tov, Evan!) We also all work with our own processes, and the cast occasionally look somewhat dazed and are probably suffering from directorial whiplash.
But last night was an example of how somehow this can, and will, all work. We delegated Rob to be the "Director's Director" for a rehearsal where we created transitions between the different plays. For the first time, what we saw was the beginning of not eight separate plays but an evening of theatre, with its own rhythms, themes and ritual. It was collaboration of the absolute best sort, with the actors stepping up as well and offering great ideas and suggestions. After three and a half hours, it was done.
As we head into the horrors of tech week, we do so with renewed confidence. A show with five directors shouldn't work. It defies logic and all of the experience I've had with theatre. But even though I've been doing this for 20 years, it turns out that there's still a lot I can learn.