Here's a short story about how I ran rehearsal for a professional, nationally recognized Shakespeare Festival...
...Well, for 45 minutes!
As you might know, I'm currently serving as Assistant Director for The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Dr. John Hardy for Nebraska Shakespeare On The Green. I've AD-ed a few times, including last season's production of Macbeth. So I know my place in rehearsal is to observe, learn, research, chime in when asked. Take notes during runs, mostly for my own benefit; what would I do if I were directing this play? How would I fix ____?
This summer, my duties have also expanded to a little choreography and movement coaching, and taking copious and almost violent notes, attempting to copy down verbatim the nuggets of wisdom from our fearless leader. Okay, not a duty, but a creative obligation I have instilled upon myself to learn from the best of the best of the best. Hardy has an approach to directing unlike anything I have ever seen. I'm inspired to really assess my entire process as a theatre practitioner. It has inspired me to not only expand the arsenal of tools that I have already as a theatre artist, but to also pay extra close attention to how all of the directors and leaders I work with work, and glean even more from their individual processes.
Anyway. I mentioned something about running rehearsal? Oh ya.
Last week, Hardy asked me to watch a scene and stop and go as needed as he left the room. I was all like, "um, okay cool!" Of course, working with amazing actors in a super short scene, I didn't really feel the need to stop the scene, so I let it go. He came back, asked me if I had anything, and I didn't... other than one note for an actor as he was entering. Which Hardy let me give to the actor. Cue anxious sweats and intense blushing. This opportunity was all very unexpected by me, mind you.
Cut to 5 minutes later, Hardy said, "For the next 15 minutes, Anna is taking over," so he stepped to the side and I "took over," as it were. Really it was me sort of meekly stopping and starting the scenes we were working a few times, only giving a couple of notes occasionally, honestly too nervous to make too big a dent in what we were doing (also not wanting to overstep any bounds!)--I was almost too preoccupied with the fear that I wasn't seeing things that the director would see. But, Hardy told the company that I would have a different and smaller vocabulary than him, which is okay--I'm still a young director who has a lot to learn, and I certainly don't expect to be at the level of the professionals in the room yet. So that was encouraging! And that's the way you learn, ya know?? Trial by FIRE! Get thrown headfirst into the dang thing! But the whole company was receptive of what I gave them, and very supportive of the opportunity I was given to lead for a hot second.
But talk about intimidating!
When it was all said and done, 15 minutes of running rehearsal turned into 45 minutes of actually giving some direction here and there, stretching my brain to look for what an inexperienced director (like myself) might overlook, and discovering what my vocabulary for speaking to actors actually is. I'm so grateful to get to observe these incredible artists and learn from them, and to be given the chance to practice directing professional actors was so humbling. Afterwards, once I could breathe again, Hardy said "there's half a semester of grad school right there for you."
The Merry Wives of Windsor opens June 29th, 8:00pm, playing through July 2nd, the 7th and the 9th on the green. Check out the awesome production of King Lear while you're at it!
Bye for now!