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  • Meg

a director's POV: what an actor brings

When I look back on my work as an actor and director, I often reflect on how my directing

experience has likely changed how I would behave as an actor in a rehearsal room now. I

wanted to reflect on two mistakes that I sometimes made as an actor and the opposites that, as a director, I love looking for in the actors I work with.

1. Being flexible to the point of becoming a puppet.

When I was a kid, I would start rehearsals with a strong idea about the character. But the more I trained and the older I got, I shifted a bit to having a more flexible approach. When I started acting, it was back in an era I think where artists had less freedom and agency. It was praised, when I was a teenager, to be a puppet for the director; flexible to the point of giving up your core beliefs about the individuality of these characters. I think I started to teach myself that being a good actor was about being what the director wanted you to be.

As a director now, I look for an actor that will bring me their fight. By this, I don’t mean attitude and anger (gosh, please no). I mean that they have done enough work and have enough confidence in the character they want to create that they are willing to give me bold choices and willing to ask to try something a different way. The theatre I can create individually is way more boring than what a team of talented people can create as an ensemble. I like flexible actors and ultimately, if the director feels a character needs to be performed a certain way for a good reason, then go with it. But keep that fire and confidence in who you believe that character to be.

2. Keep quiet about personal things that affect my work.

When I was starting out as a young actor, I was told to “keep my personal life at the door”. It

followed the idea that your personal life had no place in the rehearsal room. It would be

unprofessional to let anything get in the way of the art. So if you’ve had a bad day, suck it up

and act like you’re fine. But if your dog is sick or your car got a flat tire on the way to rehearsal, how on earth is that not going to come into the space? Don’t get me wrong, compartmentalizing is a great skill to have as an artist. But as a director, I look for an actor that will be compassionate to themselves. While I won’t ever demand personal details about an actor’s life, it is very important to me and the art that I am made aware of things that might affect you in the space. It doesn’t mean that I will change my behaviour or judge you, but it will mean that I am better able to support you. For example, if I knew that a relative was sick, I might not choose to work on the hospice scene in the play that day. Or I might be better prepared to take a few extra breaks or get some additional support in the room for you. Knowledge helps me to be a better director for you. So, it’s okay to be human. In fact, maybe it’s what made me cast you in the first place.


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