Given all that went on with this show’s technical and logistical elements, I’ve learned a few things about how to handle similar situations in the future. Though a lot of these issues are unique to a University production, they can be applied to the professional world. First off, though proper delegation of duties is a good idea, make sure you know who you’ve got working for you and that they are capable of completing the job. Also, stay on top of these people if they are not regularly present at rehearsals and make sure that they haven’t over committed themselves in the interim. Secondly, don’t worry about the prospect of over rehearsing unless it becomes a problem with the cast. If you feel relatively confident about where you are in terms of the rehearsal process, you can bet that you’re about to be screwed by something; be it man, God or beast.
Lastly, the success of any show is dependent upon the individuals working on it. They are more important than the text itself, the director’s concept or anything else. Regardless of how good a production may be, if the group, or the chemistry between them, is not right, you can be sure that the process will be much more difficult. Thankfully, that was one thing that was right about Artless Charlie. I firmly believe that if Adam and I hadn’t had such a comfortable working relationship, or if the cast had not gotten along as well as they did, we would not have been as successful with this endeavor. I am particularly proud of this in the sense that not everyone was completely at home from the start; it was something we had to work for. Though most everyone knew each other pretty well before we got started, Evelyn was essentially an outsider and her discomfort and nervousness was immediately evident. I was really happy with how easily she became part of this group and how quickly the cast accepted her and made her feel at home, despite her lack of experience on the stage.
Once the right group has been assembled, be sure to regularly show your appreciation to those who do help you out, because there’s a good chance that they will need to cover someone else’s ass for you. If you neglect your cast and/or crew and fail to respect their time, the results could be disastrous. I say this because I know how much that saved this production. By showing everyone how much they were truly appreciated and continually offering positive reinforcement to the group, they were all much more willing to go the extra mile for this production and make it the best it could be. I sincerely appreciate everything that all of those involved did for this show, and I know that if it had not been for them, this production could have very well imploded. By involving Erin, Emily and the cast with so many major decisions and aspects of the production, Adam and I were able to eliminate a lot of the theatrical hierarchy that can bring down a lot of young peoples’ productions. I am truly thankful that we were able to achieve this dynamic and maintain it through such rough times. It looks like communist philosophies work better in the theater than in the state house. The success of this show ultimately lies with the whole group.
As a director, I’ve learned that it is imperative to keep an open mind about any and all ideas regarding the show. Be it intentional or not, things will change during the course of rehearsals, and you need to be ready to deal with them. Those changes may not fit your original vision or concept for the production, but a lot of times they are better than what you had in mind anyway. No one person’s ideas or opinions are more important than anyone else’s in the group, and that includes the director and even the playwright. In order to have a successful production, all valid ideas, options and opinions must be properly explored. In doing so, I’ve learned a great deal about myself as a director by finding new ways to approach various moments and/or staging approaches that ultimately forced away my directorial crutches and allowed me to grow. In the past, I’ve tended to always play the darker, more sardonic side of the issue, using that as the easy way out of a complicated moment in a play. But through this show, I’ve found new ways to explore a text in a more human and vulnerable manner. I’ve also discovered that you must let the play evolve naturally through the rehearsal process. That is not to say that you cannot go into a show with a specific vision or concept for the production, but you must not let that vision get in the way of the play itself. If the show really wants to go a certain way, it will tell you; be it through the actors’ impulses, the text itself or the revelation of previously unseen moments or opportunities. In this case, you must be true to the show, and yourself, by being able to adapt to these changes in a fluid manner.
This experience has taught me a great deal about myself as a director, an actor, a collaborator, a supporter, a dependant, a stubborn fool and a friend. I had no idea going into this project that I would learn as much about myself as I would about the theater. As a matter of fact, the success that Adam and I have found with Artless Charlie has driven us to seriously consider starting up our own theater company after graduation. Inspired by this production, as well as Mac Wellman’s recent comments to us that some very young people are creating the best theater in small companies around the city, Adam and I are looking into the prospect of trying it for ourselves. As this is an idea that neither one of us had ever considered before taking on Artless Charlie, I think it is safe to say that this project has had an immense impact on both of us as artists. I am a firm believer that if we put enough of ourselves into it, and do so honestly, the results will pay off accordingly. If this seems optimistic, it is not. I have merely been inspired by the immense support of those around me: friends, colleagues, family, and most of all, my teachers. Garnering support and praise from those that have taught, guided, and inspired me along the way means the most of all; as it is their opinions that I regard most highly. I will cling to their words of wisdom as I venture out into the world, and use those words as tools of success. Here’s to the future of the Artless Theater Company™.