Keep It

“To be articulate in the face of limitations is where the violence sets in. This act of necessary violence, which at first seems to limit freedom and close down options, in turn opens up many more options and asks for a deeper sense of freedom from the artist.” Anne Bogart, A Director Prepares

If you’re an aspiring theatre director Anne Bogart’s A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre is a terrific guide. Her succinct reflections from the rehearsal room are immensely helpful.

The quote above has been especially interesting to me lately. In the essay on violence, Bogart discusses the importance of taking a plunge and making clear choices even when things are hazy. And the rehearsal process can get frickin’ hazy. So many thoughts and ideas floating around in one room can get overwhelming. Often you have to narrow it down and explore one clear idea as much as possible, and that choice can be “violent”.

She uses the example of the words “keep it”. An actor tries something out, improvising some bit of stage business, and suddenly everything clicks. Yes. That’s a great choice! But now, somehow, the actor has to recreate something spontaneous. Something that felt so full and true because it was off the cuff. It’s really difficult to have to duplicate something like that… But the choice, “keep it”, was made. And pursuing that focused choice will bring some power to the moment.

In a process of collaboration, where multiple people are offering suggestions and creating a piece together, boundaries need to be set. Rules need to be put in place. “We say yes to an idea, and then we follow it all the way through.” Sometimes that will make people feel uncomfortable. But’s it’s necessary to make clear choices.

So that’s the thought for today.

I miss directing. I miss working with brilliant minds in such an intimate way. I miss gathering in a rehearsal room, assessing each other’s emotional limitations for the day, and making difficult choices. Ah well. That day will come again eventually.

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