There are times when I am directing where I feel a certain resentment that my actors aren’t puppets. If I could, I would be in every one of their places. I would fill their shoes with my own. I would make them dance.
But there is another part of the director in me that is absolutely helpless. This is the more realistic side that worries about practicalities and sound levels. This side knows nothing. It has an infinite number of infinite ideas, but it has no way of getting them outside of itself.
When this director dominates I feel like I am trapped inside my own skull.
This is why having actors as collaborative partners is so important to me. Because I am well aware of my own ignorance. I have read so many books and written so many words in the past five years of my life that if you split my skull open and looked inside, all you would see is a hive of letters, ideas and pictures.
But to this process, with these actors, and this script, I am a newcomer.
At times, I know, it is difficult to work with a director (especially one who isn’t even your ‘real’ director) who answers most questions with a blank stare, a pause, and an “I don’t know. What do you think?”
It must be equally frustrating to work with someone who, moments later, will give extremely detailed line notes, or pause the scene to adjust the placement of your elbow for no apparent reason.
But the main goal of a collaborative theatrical process, especially one as strange and convoluted as this one, is less to make a performance than to discover one that is already there, waiting latent in the elements that you have collected around it. This leaves a director in a very strange place, since traditionally they are supposed to know everything about the production, and direct it with a machinists’ precision
But I can’t. I don’t know everything.
What I have done in this process is try and see as truly as I can. I tell the actors what works and what doesn’t. I “direct” them. But they are the true creators.