"We don't choose our fathers, do we?"

I am directing a play, and this Thursday, people (normal people) will be paying to see it.

I haven’t been in a lot of plays, but I’ve always watched the rehearsals imagining myself as the director. “Oh, that was a mistake,” I would think to myself. “She should have held her arm just like this. And his line would have been better if he had turned away when he said it.” I want to poke and prod, to get under the actor’s skin so that he suddenly steps away from himself and marvels at the character that has appeared.

One of my actors for this play called me the most “hands-on” director that he had worked with. What do I make of this? Isn’t hands-on better than hands-off, better than just letting the actors meander around onstage, oblivious to the fact that they are ruining the scene, that they are ruining my scene? As I fumbled my way through the script and around the actors, I began to change my mind. If the vision for the play is only in the mind of one person, what happens when that person is tired? What happens when that person has had class for nine hours on three hours of sleep and hasn’t eaten since noon the day before? If the vision for the play remains in my mind, the play will never leave those boundaries. It will still live and grow, but only as much as bacteria in a petri dish. To really capture the magic of growing a story, you have to plant the story’s seed in others. Every art works in a medium – painters work in watercolors or acrylics, sculptures with stone, photographers with light – and the medium of a director is people. Bind this on the doorposts of your mind, Leithart, and touch the inscription every time you carry a story out the door.

Toby Sumpter thinks of directing as making a soup. You toss handfuls of actors into a big pot and let them simmer. Ingredients need time to get to know one another. Once they have bubbled and boiled and blocked and rehearsed, they have finally become something that can be taste-tested and salted. Then the director’s work becomes very important as he seasons and coaxes the story into its best and most tasty form.

Your actors are ingredients and your play is a soup. And I mean that in the best possible way.

For more information on the play, go here.

(NOTE: the title of this post is a quote from the play, not something I would consider saying to my father at any time in the foreseeable future.)