Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lessons Learned

Mistakes I made on Kingship de Facto:

* Not hiring a set designer

I figured that since it was a basic set and wanting to up the profit participation for everyone involved, I thought I could get away without one. However, the show would have looked more unified; I would have had to really think about blocking in more detail before rehearsals began; and the designer could have taken care of the projections and props, saving a substantial portion of my time for other things.

* Not holding my ground

I gave in on some issues I really shouldn't have, issues that proved to be critical to the final product. It also dimished my standing with the actors, causing me to lose control of the process and contributing to the unsafe environment.

* Skimping on prep

I did do work on the text before rehearsals began but I didn't go as detailed as I could have, counting on doing that work in the rehearsal hall in collaboration with the actors. It ended up contributing to the giving in I've talked about above, and thus to the unsafe environment.

* Not holding open auditions

I really wanted for once to just work with people I handpicked, figuring I deserved it for once. But once my original choices turned me down, I should have gone through this route. Instead, my casting was really late and while I ended up with good actors, my conception of the characters had to undergo radical changes to accommodate them. In a general call, I may have found the qualities I was looking for.

* Not letting the actor walk

The actor who was in crisis had been thinking of leaving the show. In retrospect, since we ended up having a major disagreement in terms of the interpretation of the character, I should have let them go. If I had done the audition process above, I would have felt confident enough to find a replacement. As it was, I felt if anyone left at that point, the show would die. And so an uneasy peace prevailed and the rehearsal process was fatally poisoned. I've been reminded that sometimes shows just don't happen, and there is no shame in that.


The most consistent problem people had was with the script. However, I don't honestly know if things could have been done differently there. There was an understanding from the get-go that Adam wouldn't have the time to do a large-scale rewrite and the one area that Adam refused to budge on (the weakness of Lindsay's character) was the one area referred to time and time again as the biggest problem. We did make some changes that strengthened the script and if I had executed the things above, it would have alleviated a lot of the problems.

I still love the ideas that Adam presented and believe he had something important to say. I'd choose the script again.

I recently read How to Stage a Play, Make a Fortune, Win a Tony, and Become a Theatrical Icon and wish I had read it before I started the show. It probably has more resonance now, though. The title made me think it was more of a biography, but it's a small guide on the stages of making a show. What I really like about it is that the book is geared towards the psychology of dealing with the people involved in the process with you and how to handle certain situations and personalities. I highly recommend it as a good, easy read (complete with cartoons!) and as a reminder of the basics of the process.

A question I've been asked a lot later is, "What's next?" I don't honestly know. There's some traveling I want to do next year: to return to APAM and Magnetic North, and to see The Drowsy Chaperone in Chicago. I'm still going back and forth on the MFA in Directing thing. I discovered attempting to put together the 365 Days/365 Plays project that I'm not really interested in producing right now, although I did enjoy the challenge of conceiving how I would tackle just a different style of script. I helped out my friend Jean Bubba the storyteller with her recent performance of An Evening With John and found that satisfied my need to get back on the directing horse for a while.

So, I feel like being very taoist at the moment, doing the things I've feel motivated to do and dealing with personal discomfort as it comes up. I'm enjoying just getting to know myself better and truly appreciating the miracle of creation all around me. I'm a big believer in destiny and it's my hope that by getting myself out of the way, the doors will open to adventures I can't even fathom right now. I still believe the work that one big umbrella was formed to do is important and it is my hope that those doors will show me the way.

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