Three vital questions for a director
Notes from The Directors Lab
After spending ten years in international Directors Lab programs—first in New York and Chicago, then co-founding Directors Lab North in Toronto—Evan Tsitsias has amassed an extensive amount of advice, examples, and notes that prove essential reading for theatre creators and artists across disciplines.
In The Directors Lab, Evan combines these materials with breakout sessions, master classes, interviews with directors, and even a manual. The Directors Lab is a tool for directors to use to learn more about themselves and how they work, spark ideas for the future, and learn methods from their peers. In order to set the stage for his book, Evan posed three vital questions – what you see below are the answers from various directors and participants, showing a range of points of view from different levels of experience. Whether you’re new to directing or have been in the biz for a while, these questions are formed to educate and inspire!
WHAT DOES A DIRECTOR DO?
- Directing lives on the spectrum of allowing and guiding people to grow and then letting them go—much like being a parent.
- A director creates the world of the play for the entire team and allows them a safe place to play and explore on this playground created for them.
- Ultimately, being a director is empowering people to be their best.
- It’s managing relationships.
- It’s a process of fixing problems.
- You are the captain of the ship. You have to lead a group of people towards their final destination.
- You must be a facilitator. In a sense you are the least important person in the room. The playwright and actors are the ones that live on. You are the negotiator.
- A director tells the story as clearly as possible.
- A director nurtures, supports, and encourages the team so they can open up.
- You’re an investigator, an architect, a mechanic.
- Your job is to inspire, clarify, guide, and lead.
- You are the host of the party.
- You are a conduit, sculptor, orchestrator, conductor, and filter.
- You are the filter into which all the ingredients are poured, allowing the cleanest and purest story to emerge.
- A director ignites the spiritual fire and inspires others to keep the fire burning.
- Directing is an editing process.
- A director manages panic attacks.
- You stimulate, then you watch.
- Your job is to clarify.
- You merge all the elements.
- Being a director is partly being a psychologist.
- A director creates action in time and space by putting characters in conflict with one another. Leadership is 100% willingness to communicate 100% of the time.
- You empower everyone so they feel safe to take risks.
- A director’s job is to keep an eye on the journey of the play while negotiating the lights, sound, costumes, and all other elements.
- Directing is interpreting. The creative impulse already existed.
- You are there to support the actors’ discoveries, not give them the answers.
- Your job is to mask your anxiety.
- You have to be a good collaborator, especially with very disparate groups of people. But you must be the boss, the person who adjudicates the ideas. You need a certain amount of diplomacy and a significant ability to articulate.
- You have to know what the motor of each specific project is. Each play and musical has an engine driving it that is very different from another.
- A director liberates the actor completely in the work and allows the actor’s nature to guide rehearsals.
- You have to have deep ambitions—interested in being great with no ego. Be at the service of your work with strong ambition.
- Your job is to work with all the best ideas available, and shape them into a production.
- A director always makes the room feel like it’s moving forward.
- You are the writer of the “production.”
- It’s about recognizing a good thing in others and molding it into something. It’s managing the chaos factor or anarchy factor.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE THEATRE AND THE THEATRE ARTIST?
- To bring people together in outrage. It’s one thing to be a loud radical voice, but you have to connect with your truth. Then you can bring people into the truth of your radicalism.
- As theatre artist, to speak truth and not be afraid to speak the truth and provide opportunity for other artists to speak their truth.
- To bring your peer group into the theatre—and young people!
- To be in constant search for the truth, no matter how muddy it is.
- To always be curious and to investigate that curiosity through a well-researched, educated, and objective lens.
- To contribute to the vitality of the world.
- To ask questions about what it means to be a human being.
- To be closer to a poem than a novel, and provoke unanswered questions.
- To be about transcendence, unlocking something inside us.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE AUDIENCE AND HOW DO YOU INCLUDE THEM IN THE WORK?
- I am always thinking of the audience. I want to elicit certain reactions.
- I always seek to entertain, interrupt, disrupt, and educate.
- You cannot compete with TV or film. An audience is hungry for theatricality, so give it to them.
- They come to see themselves represented.
- They want a conversation and to feel part of the experience.
- The audience needs it to be an event.
- I am always trying to put the audience in the position of the character.
- I try to chisel away at the audience’s defences.
- I want the audience to see people in complex ways. There’s truth in that, to start off normal and then change from that. In the same gesture there is both evil and good. I want to allow people’s view of reality to become more complex.
- I want to give the audience maximum opportunity to make their own experience. People want a journey.
- The more specific it is, the more people think it’s their story.
- Remember that audiences are not bad people. They’re a benevolent witness. They want to have a nice time. They want us to do well. So if we can have that sense of a witness that is kind, then we can start being activated that way.
Want more of this essential resource? Get your copy of The Directors Lab now!