Lots can happen during rehearsals and even more can happen during the run of a show. I’ve had to go on for ill performers. I’ve had a performer have kidney stones – he still went onstage – it was thrilling (NOT). I’ve watched my actors perform in the dark due to power outage (both thrilling and terrifying). These are extreme examples of things that can happen… but what you really need to be ready for is what the show does to you as you watch it take on a life all its own.
Directing a show is very challenging, fun and rewarding. It is cathartic and it is all encompassing. Gene Kelly used to get asked who was his favourite dance partner and he would answer Jerry the Mouse from Tom and Jerry. There was no way he was going to pick one person out of all the beautiful and talented people he’d performed with over the years. When he received his Lifetime Achievement Award, he admitted that you had to be a little bit in love with each girl in each movie in order to make it work. I think it is also true when directing a play… on a larger scale.
I can muster up some feelings for even the worst actor for a few moments on the stage, but if I’m going to direct something, I need to dig into the script and fall in love with many aspects of it – the humour, the dialogue, the characters, the locations – anything and everything to get me involved with bringing it to life. There are times, of course, when I’ve been assigned a show that hasn’t had as much draw for me as other productions, but whenever possible I really do dig into the material to find reasons for loving a show. And then I cultivate that feeling in the attempt to give it all I possibly can.
So then, when friends ask me, “What’s your favourite show?” How can I possibly answer that? I’ve found something to admire in each production and trying to rank them or decide “who” is the best is really an impossible quest. Rather, I can describe how they each made me feel. For example: The Three Musketeers was a fine French dinner with wine and good friends, Follies was a beautiful crystal necklace, Oklahoma! was a rollicking party and The Trials of Robin Hood was a big bear hug.
During my most recent show, The Trials of Robin Hood, I had all of these questions asked of me, and I had all of these musings. There were a few actors in this show who had worked with me before and I was so pleased to have them around again. There were several actors I’d never met prior to this production and I’m now very pleased to call them friends. What you never can expect is how a show will change you during the run. Watching Oklahoma! was like watching something someone else had created – I had to remind myself that it was my work on that stage. Watching, (and performing in) Robin Hood made me feel closer to a show than I had felt in a long, long time.
After the show is over, and cleaned up and you’ve had a little time to reflect, you can start to see how you may have been changed by the experience. I’m still not sure for this last one, but it was different. They all are – there’s no way to pick a favourite. So don’t try…. and don’t ask me.