“…But Daddy, what do YOU know about directing?”

                     Stacy Bohrer (July 3, 2012)

We go up next week—finally. Ten weeks will have passed, audition to opening, and Friday the curtain rises on “The Odd Couple.” I can’t wait!
My daughter’s query, of course, had been spot on. Not only had I naively applied for the task, not only did I not know what I’d be getting into, but to be sure, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
‘ Just thought, I suppose, that the “light people’ would do lighting, “sound people” would do sound, and the set designers would nail. ‘Just assumed, thinking back, that everyone would do what they were supposed to do (mine solely the stuff on stage), and that we’d all meet up in November, smiling and happy.
I was an idiot. No, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
First indication—first evidence I was out of my league—came early.
“Chuck needs to meet with you,” urged the theater’s head. “He wants to know how you want it to look.”
(Silly me. I’d seen the diagram in the back of the script. Couldn’t those guys just hammer and clop away until it looked like it was supposed to)?
“Would you like the door here?” he inquired, when finally he’d cornered me. “The window here?” (Seemed fine to me). “Or here? Should some just be hallways?”
What did I know? Am I supposed to know?
“Whatever’s easier for you,” I replied, not quite to his satisfaction. “No,” he insisted, “It’s all the same to us. We can do it any way you’d like. How did you envision it?’
(I “envisioned” nothing. I HEARD laughter…but I “envisioned” nothing).
I wanted to tell him I pictured it like it was when I played Murray on stage—to just call Mango ask him how we did it then—but I couldn’t. Better yet, I wanted to shout “Hey, I didn’t have an erector set growing—leave me the F alone!”—but I didn’t.
“Put it there,” I suggested, assuaging the moment. (Two weeks passed, maybe more, ‘til the set was complete. Only then, for the first time, did I know what I’d ordered).
All the while, though, thrice weekly, the cast rehearsed. This, I well knew, was my rightful domain. Night by night, they’d pound out their lines; night by night I’d implore them:
“Loud is good; faster is better.” (Not my wisdom, of course, but a mantra first heard from a guy named Scott Pop who directed me in “Lovers And Other Strangers” way back when). He only did comedy.
“Loud is good, fast is better”.
There were other rough moments—times I travailed so not to look like a deer in headlights. Like when they asked me of sight lines or when they asked about show times. I learned soon enough all they wanted were answers. Any answers. Lesson learned, I obliged…always, responding more than once with all sizzle, no steak.
“What about this?” the sound guy wondered, with a question of mics. “Yes.”
“Do you like this layout for the program?” asked the business manager. “Yes.”
“How’s everything going?” texted the president of the theater last week. “Fine”.
I think it is.
There’s a tempo to theater, a rhythm. From tryout to opening there’s a pulse each production. I’ve never directed, but know well the blood pressure.
We’ll be OK.
The actors, for the most part, know all their lines. Cast bickering’s been minimal. That having been said, one star—so pissed at himself for an off night last week, shot ME a scathing email. “The reason I’m so screwed up on my lines,” he disclosed, “…is because the blocking is scattered…” (I didn’t take offense, by the way, ‘though he shot straight at me. Nor did I respond. I kept paddling. I’m his director, I figure—not his conscience).
It’s part of the rhythm—no more, no less. Comes a time each play cycle when players get serious, when the ego-boost of getting the role fades and responsibility for doing the role flashes. Things fall into place, always, if actors take their roles seriously, but not themselves.

…Which is how I’m treating this, my gig as director. I’m having fun—not aiming the ball…just rearing back and throwing it. Learning a bit, laughing (at myself) a lot, I’m having some fun.
By this time next week, we’ll know if the audience did.

Leave a Reply