This is the last report on The Director in Auroville and his involvement with the
Stephen Briggs stage adaptation of Terry Prachett’s “Wyrd Sisters,” performed Saturday, 27 and Sunday, 28 March 2004. There was a cast of 24 with 2 musicians, a lighting crew
of 4 and a sound designer. The Stage Manager was not available for the performance
If truth really is to be told, The Director never much was into directing stage
theatre productions. It could even be said this was so because it was essentially a
thankless task most often. Sure, when a production went well it was truly an up-lifting
experience, and all… It could even be believed that to be acknowledged by a small cadre
of folks – cast and crew, was much better than being given the accolades of the adoring
crowd. But a further truth, in The Director’s experiences, showed he would never be
acknowledged as the great director he truly was and is. One essential reason was he
never worked with big budgets. The Director always chose to – in his own words: “I
‘help’ those situation needing me most.” His definition of needing him most, was those
without, as his grandmother –maysherestinpeace- would say, “A pot to piss in.”
This situation was exacerbated by the timeworn fact of the type of people who
tended to be part of a theatrical production. Largely they were people running away from
discipline and structure, not knowing theatre was mostly dependant on self-discipline –
the highest form of discipline as well as being a temporary fluid structure – hard to
get a handle on.
The drama around the production of a piece or the personal drama within a piece
did not bother him much, largely because he had through the years witnessed so much of
these, what he called, “sideshows,” they were now both as inconsequential as they were
part of the landscape. More than a few times The Director was not given his due until
years after when folks realized what a creative force he was though, lately, this was
changing, it did not help The Director’s psyche much, as he was way, way to jaded from
the disappointments experienced through out the years.
Even with his last big stage production, in which 4 out of 6 awards were
garnered, he being on of the two non recipients, the cast and production winners did not
say one word of acknowledgement for his contributions.
Though all this may seem perturbing to The Director, it was not. He was almost
biblical in his view of things. This is to say, as long as one person understands what
he had/was accomplishing, it was all right and just.
Another problem with theatre productions has to do with the duration one in the
position of director has to stay with a project. If a production is to be done right on
the scale in which The Director was accustomed, it would take at least four and a half
months out of his creative life. Granted, The Director was arrogant enough to believe
and see the time was always successful, it was still creative time taken out of his life
as a whole -- A radio drama may only take two months creative labor; an adapted radio
drama only a month.
Getting back to personnel matters, with a stage production, The Director would
spend two weeks to dramaturge a play, three weeks with the producer, writer (if
available), designers and possibly stage manager. Another week or two would be spent in
the audition and casting process, leaving a month to six weeks of rehearsal and three
weeks to a month of performance.
This is a total time spent not only exploring a creative process in The
Director’s own mind, but the combined efforts of a production team as well as cast.
Anyone in this process could at anytime be suffering from any number of physical,
psychological, spiritual, or/and all the many other modern maladies.
It is a delicate, sometimes even painful balance to keep a large dispirit group
in motion for an objective not entirely fixed. In other words, the larger the cast, the
more potential therapy to be administered.
The Director knew, the thought, that through some cosmic karma or other
phenomena he had the ability to bring such dispirit, often alienated, sometimes even
bickering groups and individuals together for a single purpose. His years as a stage
manager and arts administrator, taught him so much about human behavior and group
dynamics that he was usually sort out when a situation seemed hopeless; at times it even
seemed a situation itself called to him.
The great flaw in all this was the fact that The Director had little tact in his
expectation of the acts it took to achieve the final pact. Sure, he was getting better
(re: more diplomatic) in the process, but, in his mind, the end was still a pact – an
agreed upon end to a process.
Though he dictated, he did not really, ultimately wish to control. He usually, at some
point, let go of the reigns of perceived power. He executed this release process in an
imperceptive way to a Stage Manager or cadre within the group. This was an easy process
for The Director to do because of the simple fact he was usually finished with his
process at least two weeks before the performance. At that time The Director had a
moving, three dimensional visualization of the possibility of the production – where he
knew it could go… it’s life… the body of work - complete.
And so it was with this production that a week and a half before it’s opening night, The
Director gave up potential maniacal power to the Stage Manager, The King, The Fool, The
Demon / Sergeant and the King’s heir.
The Director did what he always did; spend quality time with the Lighting Designer, the
Sound Designer, the musicians and any cast members who sought him out.
Oh yes, if he was in the rehearsal vicinity and actors were going through a scene he
would impose his vision but by and large he, especially for this production, spent time
working out with the children. The Director felt responsible for the children mainly
because there were none involved in the production when he came to the project. He felt
since the play was essentially a farce – in the vein of Monty Python and such, it could
absorb the children in various supporting roles.
This however, limited rehearsal possibilities as children in Auroville, like children
all over the western world are kept very busy with after school activities to make sure
they don’t have idle time for any of the numerous ‘bad’ influences of the world adults
As usual, there were cast members who found the need to impose their vision on the play
as psuedo directors instead of working the vision through their own character
interpretation. This is expected when one has a cast the size The Director was dealing
with. What they didn’t know was that since The Director was treating this as a workshop
situation and not a ‘professional production,’ it didn’t really matter to him if people
thought they knew a better way. More often than not they were correct in their ideas.
All The Director was really interested in was the movement or rather traffic flow of the
piece. As long as actors moved to the general stare areas The Director needed them to be
at, he really was not too concerned about them changing words or motivation within the
Unless it really was out of sync, it wasn’t worth the battle.
In the end, everyone stepped up to the task and that was all The Director
wanted; for them to have as near a ‘professional’ experience as possible under the
The Director even got them to do his signature introduction walk to down stage center –
the designers and technicians really appreciate this convention The Director developed
as a way of causing a minor crack in what is know in the theatre as the fourth wall.
At first they – the core group, resisted this convention, saying the folks in
the audience would be all Aurovillians, but The Director prevailed, pointing out the
convention was designed to introduce the actor as the character and then they were to
stay in character for the entire three hours of the play – including intermission –
until the curtain call, when the characters returned themselves to the actors. The
Director had a little poke at the cast by telling them, as they wondered just how to
stay in character, just exactly what to do during the intermission… He said now was
their chance to expand their roles and direct themselves and add to the playwright’s
lines and all.
The Director was told they never do curtain calls in Auroville. Since The
Director is semi-famous for his curtain calls this was one custom Aurovillians had to
lay to rest.
They did a curtain call.
The curtain call was even essential to the play in that it was during the curtain call
the new King was crowned. This was not in the stage adaptation.
The Director was given a copy of the original novel the play was based on by the
Demon / Sergeant and read it on his way out of town. He read it on his 36-hour train
ride to New Delhi. He was pleasantly surprised to see how much his staging of the work
did coincide with the author’s intent.
One of The Director’s ways of working is to actually try and channel into the
original creative stream the author or playwright was tapped into when they captured the
work on page.
This, I am happy to report, was indeed achieved.
And a fun time was had by all, including - The Director.