Choosing Your DirectorBy Ty Unglebower • Dec 15th, 2010 • Category: An Actor's Advice
Both professional and amateur theatre have their advantages and their disadvantages. One of the advantages to amateur theatre is that the actor can concentrate on finding the best overall experience for their art. No contractual obligations can force the amateur actor into specific venues, casts or activities. It is a freedom that community players should make the most of. Especially when it comes to directors.
A director is going to make or break your production. And because most people do not want to be labeled as quitters, (though there is nothing stopping you from quitting a community production), a bad director can mean for a rather unpleasant 6 to 8 weeks taken out of one’s life.
Actually I will amend that somewhat. A director that is a bad fit for you can make for a long and unpleasant rehearsal process. Some would argue that a director which is a bad fit for you is not a “bad director” per se. To me, it depends on why they are a bad fit, but that is another issue. For now, let us remain with the topic of knowing about the director.
Ask yourself under what conditions you do your best work. Not necessarily related to acting only, but in any creative process. Any situation in which you need instruction and guidance. Under what sort of structure do you feel most comfortable? Knowing for certain may require getting a few shows under your belt, but these are questions that you need to answer.
Take me for example. I work best in an environment of trust for the actor. To me, the director’s job is the big picture. Blocking the play, encouraging actors to ask questions of themselves and to come up with consistent answers, and then helping them perform according to those answers. Where the performance and the character belong to the actor, and the director’s influence on method is minimal. I do not thrive well at all under directors who tell me how to deliver a line, what my character is thinking when that line is being said, who dictates the nature of all of the relationships on stage, and feels the need to keenly observe every movement of the technical crew at every stage.
I like to workshop and brainstorm for a while, but then I also prefer rehearsals to be prompt and structured with an agenda. Not free floating and informal from start to finish.
You get the idea.
These preferences are the result of ten years of acting, and finding under what circumstances my talents as an actor can thrive. So whenever I can, before auditioning for someone the first time, I will talk with people I know who have worked with them. I will ask some questions. I will try to determine what sort of shows that person has directed before. And if I decide to try out, I will pay keen attention to how they conduct the audition. Are they fair? Do they seem to be favoring one actor over another in an obvious manner? How do they treat those who are trying out?
Not all of these things can be determined each time. But being in a show with a director that matches your style versus being in one that works against your style is like night and day for the actor. So do your homework and make sure you are working in the daylight whenever you can. You have nothing to prove either to yourself, or to the world, by working with a difficult director. You have only to give yourself the chance to allow your performance to flourish.
Sometimes you get it wrong, and a director is not what you thought they were going to be. It happens. And then we gravitate towards directors with whom we have worked before. That is human nature. Yet working with a new director need not be a nightmare if you do a little bit of digging, both inside of yourself and as it pertains to the director. It’s some extra work, but very much worth it if you can avoid that director who would cramp your style, whatever that style happens to be.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6001.
Ty Unglebower is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.