Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"But what I really want to do is direct..."

The title of this blog post is one of the most cliched lines I can think of. I'm not sure of the origins, but it's practically a gag now: the actor who fancies herself an artiste decides that directing is where her heart truly lies.

Which is funny because, for the longest time, I didn't see the point of having a director at all.

Granted, I was young and naive. I would go and see a play, and having a vague awareness of how such things were produced, I thought, "What a waste. Actors learn lines. They say them. Why do they need to be chaperoned?" As if actors are self-sufficient beings. As if a group of people are capable of producing something cohesive without a bit of vision (and, admittedly, supervision).

Like I said. I was young.

The thing about directing is that it really plays to my strengths. I love discovering a character and figuring out how they tick and who they care about and why they're there. When you're an actor, you get to do that for one person. When you direct, you get to do that for everyone. All of a sudden, you're the one who decides what the emotional core of every scene is. I cannot count how may times I've had to bite my tongue at a rehearsal because either I had an idea, but it wasn't my place to interfere, or because the director was making a choice that didn't make sense, or because an actor was ignoring direction and no one was putting them in their place.

I want that. I want to be that person. I want it to be my vision, my baby, me getting the final word in.

There's also, of course, the fact that memorizing lines makes me acutely anxious and while I love rehearsal and production, I kind of hate (non-musical) performance. Directing allows me to have a key role in the parts I love, and kind of disappear for the part I hate.

And yet.

There's something really... not sad. Annoying? Irksome about the... invisibilty of the director. When the audience waits at the stage door after a show, they compliment the actors on a job well done. There's no way to have a floating label that reads "This was Leah's idea!" every time an actor makes a choice that came directly from one of my notes. There's no way to tell if I was great at my job or if my cast and crew just managed to get by without me.

And that bothers me.

It's not that I'm a gloryhound or an attention hog. It isn't even that I just want credit where credit is due. It's that... how do you invite your parents to see a play you directed? They don't get to watch you. It's like you aren't even there.

I love the intimacy directing affords; when you do it well, the appreciation you get from your actors is unlike anything else.

But I just wish there were a way that I could share it with everyone.