THE PRODUCTION

  

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 dates.

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 sustain.

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 scene. 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 circumstance. 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.

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