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.


  1. These are some really interesting points. I've thought about the concept of directing before, and I've decided that it's not for me. (1) Not only am I too detail-oriented to see the big picture, and (2) watching the actors all the time and not getting to join in would make me so jealous. I would have to cast myself too. :-P

    I agree that it's not fair that directors don't always get the credit they deserve, but if you love directing, keep at it! It make take a few productions, but consistently great direction WILL be recognized at some point.

  2. Perhaps that is why people like Alfred Hitchcock had cameos in movies he directed - he had some of the same feeling you have. I know the stage is different than the movies, but feelings about your roles in the productions may be similar.

  3. I understand what you're saying. I'm not an actor, just a techie, so I feel that way sometimes too. No one knows how much work we put into our shows. I feel like I'm at my school all the time once we start a production. And I feel weird inviting my family to come see the play because it would sound like this, "You really need to come see our show! No you won't see me, but those beds in Act I? I made those. And when they bring out the gallery, I made the picture frame on the left."

    But I know what you mean for the directors as well. Baker (my high school director) basically lives at the school. Not only is he there for the actors, but he's also there with us for all the hours we work on the set. I don't think any of us truly appreciate how much time he puts into it. He's just amazing.

    And I know he doesn't get the credit he deserves from our community. It's always "You kids did a great job!", or "You must have worked really hard!". But Baker did the best job and he worked the hardest and I just wish people could see that.

    Wow, what a rant. Thanks for bringing this up, it's something I wish more people realized.

  4. i beg to differ...
    although i've never directed (life long dream, though) whenever i see a show, i can't help but think of the brilliant things brilliant directors do brilliantly!

  5. I agree! Even in Hollywood directors aren't anywhere near as appreciated as they ought to be. Film buffs know their favorite directors and who directs which films, but the average person doesn't know who directed their favorite films, but they DO know the actors in them. Unfortunate. And I know you don't know me haha so sorry if this is creepy or weird.