Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Directing with an Ear to the Page

By Autumn Smith

For the longest time I have been examining my role as a director.  This digging has, at times, left me in an artistic purgatory.  I have contemplated the place of directorial vision and the complex nature of the rehearsal room.  I have tried to place my mark on the work: make it my own, be original, give it  The Autumn Smith Stamp™!  Then, it came to me….

Get out of the way.

Get out of the way and let the words do the work—my Aha! Moment. Who was I to impose onto the work of someone else? I was shocked with my own fraudulence.

My new goal: stay as true to the playwright’s intention as humanly possible. Tell the story and don’t let anything stand in its path. Let the words stand alone.

A massive weight was lifted. I could now concentrate on simply bringing the words to life. Armed with this knowledge, I went back to the text—I read it over and over again before entering the rehearsal room. I had a clear objective—with only one problem: How do I convey this message?

I took an acting class. I went and studied with a seasoned actor on the language of their craft. I got dirty. I challenged myself, as I had not acted in a long time, to drop into the moment and not worry about “ACTING.” By engaging the directing process this way, I learned to ask questions and more importantly, I learned to listen.

When I entered my next rehearsal as a director, I found that I was able to let go. I had found a trust in myself by placing my ear to the page. I was able to engage the actors with a more precise language. I was able to conduct.

Theatre Ontario’s Directors Intensive is meant for those who want to get out of their own way. It is for those who want to ask questions; for those who want to make their work more specific. We will engage the work from both sides of the table, using the knowledge from one side to inform the other. It is meant for those who want to play.

The Directors Intensive runs April 20 to 21.  Read more about Theatre Ontario’s Directors Intensive on our website

Autumn Smith is a director, dramturg and artist educator. For the past seven years she has been the Artistic Director of the Dora Award-winning company MacKenzieRo: The Irish Repertory Theatre Company of Canada. For MackenzieRo she co-created and directed Teacht I dTir: Voices from Ireland Park and The Rake’s Progress: Do You Know Where Tom Rakewell Is? Other MacKenzieRo credits include the Canadian premiere of The New Electric Ballroom and bedbound, which also toured to the world renowned Druid Theatre Company in Galway.  Autumn has also worked with companies including the Shaw Festival (Riders to the Sea), Theatre 20 (Bloodless-workshop), Foundry Theatre (The Heretic) and Roseneath Theatre (Chatroom.)  As an educator, Autumn has worked for the Tarragon Theatre, the Stratford Festival, the National Ballet, Equity Showcase Theatre, and Stagedoor Manor in Association with the American Theatre Wing.  Autumn also had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for Theatre Ontario’s Annual General Meeting.  She is also thrilled to be a regular adjudicator for the Sears Drama Festival, this year marking her fifth festival.  Autumn is a graduate of the Oxford School of Drama Conservatory Program.

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