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  • Meg

a director's POV: learning and shifting

Updated: Feb 22


I was seventeen when I directed my first show. It was the final project for my International Baccalaureate Drama Course, and I spent months rehearsing after school to execute my dream vision. Before the final performance, I had to give a tiny speech explaining a bit about the process. It was supposed to last for just a few minutes, but I got swept up onstage and spoke for fifteen, explaining my vision, the design, what I hoped to accomplish and why this play needed to be told then. 

 

Fast forward to now and while my experience might have increased, my passion for creating art has remained ever as strong. I was fortunate to complete my MFA in Directing Classical & Contemporary Text at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and here are my top three shifts, moments where I was challenged to adjust my approach to best suit the show and the artists. 

 

1.     I worked with a brilliant director who told me that she always prioritizes ‘teatime’ (a concept that all UK artists would be familiar with). She said it was during the tea break that you really got to know your cast and that sometimes, prioritizing a slightly longer break, to ensure that you got to finish the conversation you were having, was crucial. It was where relationships developed and where you gained insight into the artists you were working with. I have thought about that often and have certainly utilised this tool; at the end of the day, creating art is an ensemble activity and part of creating a good ensemble is allowing space and time for artists to connect. 

 

2.     Katie Mitchell’s The Director’s Class was one of only two required readings for my course at RCS. In the book, she explained that artists are often anxious creatures and your job as a director is to manage that fear in the room. As an actor, I remember being somewhat insulted at this belief; I felt it was an unfair accusation. All actors are anxious creatures?? No way. But in just sixteen months of my MFA, I realized that this is, most often, the case. Yes, we were coming out of Covid and adjusting to physically being back in the space with others, but it was bigger than that. As an actor, I recognize how vulnerable it is to get up in a rehearsal room and experiment; it can be frightening to take a risk and when you add in all the other additional factors and stresses of being a human being in our day and age, it makes getting out of your head and into your body very challenging. My work as a director is to empower the artists I am working with and provide a space as devoid of bad fear as possible. On the first day of rehearsal, I always speak about finding the comfortable discomfort; sometimes, the work we must do feels uncomfortable or nerve-wracking. Knowing, as an actor, how to differentiate between not wanting to do something because it feels unsafe and simply being afraid to take a risk is an important skill. As a director, helping to guide an actor to make that distinction and providing that support, is imperative. 

 

3.     My Grannie always says, “Don’t go to battle unless it’s really necessary”. This concept was reiterated by one of my mentors during my training. If an actor is willing to argue you harder than you are willing to argue on a certain decision, then it is likely that the actor should be right, and it is a fight worth losing. As a director, I am gifted with seeing the actors bring their own interpretation into the room. If it was a bunch of actors exactly like me, we would have no creative dissonance and the work would be bland. It’s the unique perspective of each actor that, when combined, creates magic. Let the actors do their thing. Know what is important to you as a director and hold true to those choices. If it’s worth fighting for your vision, go for it. But have the courage to change your mind. 

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