THE DIRECTOR’S DILEMMA

  

She was approaching on a motorcycle. He turned on the dirt road at the sound of the engine. It was a small motorcycle as cycles go, but quite average for the area of Auroville in Tamil Nadu, South India – planet Earth circa early 2004. He put his hand out beckoning a lift and relief from the heat seeping from the road. He had just walked a little way out of a community call Peace City – on the map of the Auroville area it was listed as Youth Centre. He had been driven there by a Tamil youth on the back of a cycle in the hopes of finding a young man of Hawaiian origin. He had been to a popular local eating establishment as well as a drum making workshop / community center in search of the Hawaiian. It was at the center that he got the information the young man was at the Youth Centre. He found out only after the young Tamil drove off from delivering him to the designation that the information was dated.

The young Hawaiian was living in a community headed by an Irish woman and French man – a couple. The community was located close to the area he just left. It wasn’t particularly frustrating to be in the back and forth situation in the late morning hours, and though he could be stressed at times, his determination of will always carried him beyond any frustration looming in his life. In his chosen field of expertise frustration was ever present. In fact, one of the many lessons learned in his profession was that you never give up; you always continue on for in the end, it will be…it will all work out.

So when he saw her coming his way on the motorcycle, he was ready for the rejection of a lift – others would surely come by or he would just keep on walking. However, she did stop saying, “You’re the Director, aren’t you!?” This was asked with a French accent. Since the entire 100 acre area was a small village, (his home of origin was the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx in New York City) he didn’t have to ask how she knew of him.

“I’m trying to get to Isai-ambalam.” “That’s where I’m going. That’s where I stay.” So he got on the cycle, and off they went. In the interest of small talk, he did ask the obvious question. “How did you know I was the Director?” “I was just swimming with one of the women playing a witch and she was talking about you. She said you were very good.” “Well, sometimes.” The cycle traversed the rocky, pockmarked road bumping them up and down as he held on to the seat. “I’m looking for a young American from Hawaii; I have a script to give him.” “I know him we live in the same community.”

They arrived, and shortly the Director made contact with the Hawaiian, interrupting… (Well in is not our purpose here to say exactly just what was interrupted.) The Director explained to the Hawaiian his services were needed as a theatre professional. The Theatre Professional wisely asked the Director for as much background as possible. The Director then explained his dilemma and how it came about. He explained how he came to Auroville quite by accident; unlike the Theatre Professional who had known of this future city as he was a visitor four years past.

The Director recounted how at breakfast with a retired British stage and television actor, three weeks past, he was told his services as a theatre director was sorely needed in assisting a local theatre troupe in a production of an English farce based on the works of the Bard. The Director came to the rehearsal, observed from a distance, and came to the conclusion all was not as hopeless as the British actor portended.

The Director then told the Theatre Professional how he interrupted the rehearsal (seems to be a pattern with this director), told the group who he was and his credentials in theatre. The Director also told the group if they wanted his services they would have to transport him to and from the rehearsal. After some talk back and forth, concerning not changing the casting and costumes, the troupe voted the Director as their leader for the production. Subsequently a rehearsal schedule was set, performance dates were confirmed and the production was off to a new level.

It is stated here that the production was off to a new level because it was now mid-February and the core group of actors had the script since November. Most of the cast was still learning their lines and were treating rehearsals as a social gathering rather than an opportunity to discover the intricacies of the play.

After three weeks of moving the cast to a level in which all could see the production taking shape an incident occurred during a rehearsal of a scene. After the rehearsal the Director was driven to his guest house by the Fool who caused the disruption in the rehearsal. In the morning the Director called members of the core group together to discuss the incident and possible resolutions to the situation, which was to have far reaching effects on the production, as well as the theatre troupe itself. The three witches of the core group of six people were present as the Director explained the situation from his point of view. When in rehearsal it was important the core group set an example to the rest of the cast, which was growing larger each day. At that moment the cast was around 16 people with the possibility of growing to 25 including 6 or 7 children.

With a cast that large, it was important during rehearsal, everyone give their attention and respect to those on stage at the time. If there were many separate little conversations and distractions the task of the Director would become harder as he would be busy asking for silence and so forth. The Director then explain the distraction of the previous night was truly outrageous and a purposely destructive act to the entire process of mounting this production. When the Fool came in with head phones blasting and the Director asked him to leave the immediate space, and the fool would not, that was bad. But, when the Fool at some point gave out a loud yawn, (to which the Director had asked form the stage was the goings on boring the Fool?), and he still continued this unconstructive behavior…

The Director said that was a situation he had to address. (What the Director did not say to this half of the core group was that he had too much experience in group dynamics to fall into an obvious baited confrontation with someone who exhibited all the classic signs of a person who had a serious problem with authority figures.)

The youngest of the witches had to leave just as the Fool arrived. He was pulled out of this high school classes for this meeting. At this point the director laid out the options to remedy this situation. He could, one, replace the Fool, or two direct around the Fool, which was to say direct everyone else and let the Fool do what ever he wished. Since this looked to be what the Fool wanted anyway – to direct himself. The Director then said, before he revealed the third options he needed to explain the dilemma he was no placed in through recent developments. He explained that as he had 36 years experience in theatre and 13 years in community radio, his work now revolved around helping people of his background and circumstance realize their potential through radio, radio drama, and writing with an ear for dialogue.

The Director knew dialogue was the basis for many forms of expression in literature. If one could write dialogue, one would have the basis for the writing of novels and screenplays. The Director told of his being born to what is know as an underclass circumstance, growing up in a lower class situation and ascending to an upper middle class zone of comfort. He passionately explained his rejection of this comfortable circumstance/situation and his current work with folk of this beginning(s) background in a now life consuming quest to change individual circumstance(s) where he could.

The Director told of his attending a drumming demonstration three nights prior. It was put on by Tamil youth with drums they made themselves. During the demonstration they not only drummed but also, one of the boys danced. The Director explained how he was told by the facilitator/mentor of this group of villagers that several traditional taboos were being broken that night concerning the drumming and dancing, and that in Indian society, or rather village society, there was a risk of these youths being ostracized, marginalized, banished or even worse.

The Director then stated to this core of the core group – in actuality they were a family unit of mother, daughter and son, he said that was his dilemma. Should he continue with this quasi theatre troupe who continued to resist his every suggestion with the Fool only acting out to the maximum their true feelings, or should he abandon the troupe for the villagers who actually welcomed his presence and already wished to work with him on a project that would create a story scenario for their drumming demonstration? With this in mind, the Director revealed his third option: He would step down as director to assume the task of Stage Manager. The actor playing the role of the Demon would then assume the directorship, releasing the Director from that all consuming task and giving him the freedom to work with the villagers on a closer basis.

After a bit of verbal jousting, mainly between the Fool and the Director, with the Mother witch trying to compromise on her son’s behalf, the Director came up with a fourth option, which was to give the Fool an understudy. If by performance time the Fool was not up to snuff, it would be evident and the understudy would perform the role. The Fool balked at this suggestion and, in a final jab, told the Director he never wanted to play the Fool anyway. He wished the Director luck in finding another Fool. As the Director was driven away by the sister witch, he asked her if her brother always used the excuse that he was “only a teenager” in ducking responsibility.

All this is what brought the Director to the theatre professional and the professional being asked, within three hours of the theatrical squabble, to be the Fool.

(To Be Continued)

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