On Directing

Tomorrow I head to Chicago to teach some theatre classes at the Willow Creek Arts Conference.  The one I’ve been working on this morning relates to directing, and I am always surprised at the stirrings that happen in me as I consider this kind of work.   I am reminded again of how much I love the theatre.   Theatre moves me because of the physical presence of the actor, the living, breathing entity that takes journeys through both real and imagined space and time, and right before my eyes transforms, often running the gamut of emotional life, giving me permission to do the same.   I am reminded of how powerful a thing emotion is, and the rarity of its appearance on stage.   Over the years, I have been the privileged recipient of so many moments given by actors plying their trade, sometimes in performances, but more often in classes, students opening themselves to the terrifying exploration of the human experience.   Thinking about directing makes me immediately more observant, paying attention again to the way we relate physically across a table, or the cacophony of sounds that surround me in the coffee shop, or the potential of vulnerability that exists in every exchange.  Connectedness, action, story, conflict, imaginative detail…

Central to all this is the actor.  There is a beauty to watching actors open themselves to what I simply call “a moment.”  They fight through the fear and terror of being in front of others, but more importantly, they fight through the fear and terror being in front of themselves, opening the doors of the identities, exploring, learning, failing, recoiling, launching again, all in service of an artistic experience that serves as a catalyst for an audience’s journey into their own identities.

I don’t think about these things as much as I used to, and it’s both refreshing and a bit depressing to come back to them.   Things have changed over the years, but I’m still the guy that loves the moments actors offer up.

Here’s to them, my daughter and son among them…

Action is forever…

4 Comments

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  1. Totally dig what you’re saying here. Much of the best work I’ve seen has been in a classroom or rehearsal. Kind of sad and special, that.

  2. You have a special talent Jeff. I never got the chance to say Thank You! for helping me over come the fear of singing in front of others. Next time I will work harder and do the whole song like you wanted in the first place. Keep doing his good works.

  3. Jeff – so glad to find out you have a blog. I took three of your classes at Willow Thursday and came away very refreshed and renewed. Thank you so much for all that you shared with us; I’m sure you understand how wonderful it is to take a break from teaching and pushing and instead be pushed and taught.

    Laughed when I saw what you wrote here about being observant – because suddenly, since you talked about action cues – I am aware in every conversation of the moment I want to begin to talk. Very funny.

  4. Reading this places in my mind the urge to audition for a play, a meaningful play, to participate in the conversation between actor and audience, to take the words of the playwright and bring them to three-dimensional reality. And to keep my knees from knocking.

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