Like many relationships, collaborations between performers and directors don’t always result in a match made in heaven. This is particularly true in the theatre, where the director has such an integral influence on the actor’s performance. Miscommunication and misinterpretation may stall, sidetrack, or completely sabotage an otherwise promising endeavor. An actor’s character choices may not work with a director’s vision, or a director may neglect to take a cast member’s opinion into consideration. The same holds true for interaction between singers and musical directors, and dancers and choreographers. These kinds of verbal disconnects need to be addressed early on in the rehearsal process, so that everyone is on the same page by opening night.
It is obvious that artists on both sides of the curtain line are faced with unique challenges and hurdles during the preparation for a stage production. That is why an open, two-way line of communication is crucial to a positive outcome.
Many directors take an acting class early in their development, so they can not only learn the basic terminology and theory behind performing but also find a way to relate to the actors they hope to guide to success. In the same way, actors may gain valuable insight into the directorial process by taking a directing class. It can definitely help them understand what the director’s role is, allowing the performer to make the most of the creative collaboration and translate any feedback to further clarify, focus, and strengthen their skills.
An actor also should have a sense of the overall production, and his or her place in it. What good is an intense interpretation if it doesn’t mesh with the rest of the ensemble’s work, distracts from the main focus, or doesn’t serve the primary goals of the piece? It is the director who will help the performer get to that place and fit into the greater scheme of things. He or she is there to guide you and your fellow performers toward becoming a unified whole with a common artistic goal. The bottom line is simple—performers must respect and trust their directors, and directors must respect and trust their performers.
During auditions, directors usually listen to the performer’s monologue or reading, and then suggest an adjustment. This is done not only to sharpen an interpretation, but also to test the potential for working compatibility. Even if the notes seems illogical or extreme, an actor should not question the choice but just take the advice and go with it. It usually is the director’s way of seeing if someone can take direction, and following along could secure the job for the actor.
Speaking of taking direction, a successful performance is by and large a combination of the actor’s efforts and the influence of the director. The director serves as a mirror, a monitor, and a sounding board. The actor should be the conduit, taking the director’s vision (along with the playwright’s) and bringing it to life. This is why collaboration is so important, and why both sides need to be willing to experiment, listen, and compromise.
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