Directors Lab West: Day 6

Some of the exuberant and passionate people I’ve met at Directors Lab West

After our break-neck day on Wednesday, I was so glad to leave my car in one spot from 9:45AM to after midnight. There was a lot less running around in the Thursday Lab sessions, too: we began the day with a round table discussion; saw some site-specific theater in parked cars after lunch (The Car Plays); heard about social media and the press from a very frank and entertaining panel; had a luxuriously long 2-hour dinner break (in which there was time both to eat and to give a Twitter tutorial); and then saw The Children, a new play inspired by Medea at the Theatre @ Boston Court, followed by a talkback with the director and the literary manager, which was finished with plenty of time to hit the bar and continue conversations from the day, then fall into bed around 1AM. So that’s what I mean by a quieter day at Directors Lab West.

One of the great things about spending so much time with these lovely, passionate people and all our ideas is that we’re figuring things out very quickly. In yesterday’s post, I made a glib promise to let you know when I’d figured out the secret to collaboration… Well, are you ready?

Okay, actually, dial down those expectations for a minute while I say, of course I haven’t uncovered the secret to collaborative work, because there isn’t one, and because every collaborative process is different for a different group of artists. But out of our roundtable discussion yesterday morning, I jotted down some interesting and insightful thoughts from the collective Lab Brain, and started making some of my own connections. Here are the highlights:

  • One: “Instead of “demand,” “seduce” your collaborators.” Two: “Instead of “seduce,” “inspire.” Me: there are a lot of action words we can use here, like “invite,” and “encourage,” and I absolutely do believe that we should be kind and gentle with each other. That has always been very important to my process. But…
  • What is the balance between creating a safe space for exploration and creating a rigorous environment for our work? How to we energize the safe space; how do we challenge each other without shutting down the collaborative energy?
  • “Directors must dare to fail first, to set an example of risk and freedom.”
  • Directing collaboratively is “upholding something with an open hand.” Ask yourself what do you think you need to control, and try to let that go. It won’t always be the right thing; experiment.
  • “Say ‘I don’t know’ as much as possible; for a play to make sense to the people onstage, actors must be seduced into creating the logic of the world.”
  • “Democracy without knowledge doesn’t work.” Devising fails when each person doesn’t bring their skills, know what they’re doing, do their job well. A director in devised work provides a central idea for actors to build their own worlds onto. Everyone has to do their research.
  •  Maybe it’s about finding the people who also come at things 1,000% and can match my intensity. Maybe it’s OK that I am “too intense” for some.

It’s hard to believe that we have just today and tomorrow left of the Lab! Coming up today, we’ve got a couple of hours with Indy Convergence this morning, a picnic lunch in the courtyard of the Playhouse, a 3-hour mystery session entitled “Who the hell are you?”, a couple of hours with Michael John Garces of Cornerstone Theatre, and Crescent City: A Hyperopera this evening. As I have all week, I’m not letting myself think more than one day ahead. Being present for what is happening right now is about all I can handle. So bring it on, Friday!