I don’t know about you, but after I “hit” submit, I always reread my blog posts. Invariably, I find a typo or five or some type of formatting issue I somehow missed the first twenty-seven times I tweaked it, but that is neither here nor there.
As I reread yesterday’s post, I was suddenly taken back to ca. 1991 when I lived in a 2nd floor apartment in Toluca Lake, an aerie-like apartment that overlooked some beautiful trees on Blix Street.
Theater is Not a Democracy
About that time, I auditioned for and became a founding member of a famous acting school’s theater company. We were, as a “group”, attempting to come up with a playbill. Remember the saying, “The theater is not a democracy?”. While that is quite true, it, too, is another story.
Anyway, one day in the heat of the process, after I pitched a short play that I wanted to direct, whose title I cannot remember today, I received a phone call from another actor in the company, who happened to be a regular on a soon-to-be much-loved sitcom.
He proceeded to harangue me about my directing aspirations. “Who did I think I was…?” “Did I know how long he had worked before…” “What made me think I could direct…?” I think I protested, “But I have directing experience.” “Where?” “College and university… But I chose to transition into acting…”
However, his verbal abuse went on and on. Ultimately, I went to the place where traumatized people go when old wounds are reopened. And his call stayed with me for a long time. Even so, when I heard many years later he was forced to retire due to several terribly vicious and racist public rants, I felt only pity.
And I moved on. In late-May 2012, sitting in the Water Closet director’s chair as a playwright, and being allowed unrestricted access to the actors, became immeasurably important in my continued development of the play.
- After an actor “sing-songed” a line for the second time and after reading the line aloud myself, I realized it was not the actor, but the line of dialogue. I rewrote the line.
- I did not make it perfectly clear that the military convoy is waiting for them, as “Oma” readies to leave Holland, even through the character mentions they only have an hour to pack. Having that realization gave the actors more to “play” and provided the scene added tension. I will fix that in the next revision.
- A friend in the audience wrote me she didn’t realize “David” was in the karaoke scene even though he talks about things he must have seen in order to discuss. She had trouble understanding because the actor isn’t physically written into the scene until he walks to “Mary” and “Oma’s” table. I have always seen Water Closet as a piece with no walls, a psychological drama, with limited set pieces and lit areas from which actors enter and exit. However, my friend needs to see “David” in the scene. So, now I am having fun contemplating how to incorporate the character into the top of the scene, perhaps waiting in line to take his turn at the karaoke machine. Next revision…
There were many more examples of how illuminating, important and wonderful the experience was for me, and I think, would be for any playwright preparing a new work.
It was rare and unique to be encouraged to direct an informal reading of Water Closet. I will always remember Eric Eberwein for it and thank him from the bottom of my heart.
I will direct a reading of one of my plays again… Maybe even a production.
Soon, I hope 🙂