Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Catching up with the Director's Lab 3

So, today is day 5, and I'm just getting around to posting highlights from day 3.  That's ok.  It's all about keeping things in balance.

The top of day 3 featured a panel of designers who work regularly in LA and beyond: Sybil Wickersheimer (scenic), Cricket Myers (sound), Holly Poe Durbin (costume), and Christian Epps (lighting).  This was a really enlightening talk about the practical side of collaboration between directors and designers.  All of these designers had strong ideas about what helps make a process work.  The biggest emphasis was on communication.  There is a value in taking time at the start of the process to learn one another's language and terminology.  Some additional thoughts:
  • Feed your image bank by taking the time to see the world around you. 
  • As freelance artists, we tend to create a world for ourselves within which we're working all of the time, but it's important to make space for personal interests, for play, and to just go outside sometimes.
  • During the beginning of tech, designers like to get their work roughed in, and advise directors not to worry about the fine details right away.  Give the designers time throughout the tech to continue to finesse everything.
  • Throughout the rehearsal process, directors should remember to keep their designers updated on any new discoveries made.
  • "Realism is the playground of the mediocre mind."  (Holly Poe Durbin)

Next up was a session with Michael John Garces, artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company.  Having taken Bill Rauch's class at UCI, I was already very familiar with this company's methodology for creating community based theatre.  In a nutshell, this company creates partnerships with particular communities, learns about the communities, then creates original productions with, about, and for the community.  It's really fantastic work, and as someone in the lab pointed out, very common in some Latin American countries, but only starting to catch on here in the US.  Michael led the lab participants through some cultural mapping exercises - everyone splits themselves into smaller groups based on a given critieria (such as birth order), then work quickly to identify additional things all the members of a group have in common.  I really like this activity and use it often in my rehearsal process.  It works not only as an ice breaker to get people talking to each other, but can be a nice way into getting a group talking about bigger topics.

Following Cornerstone were the co-artistic directors of the Boston Court Theatre, Jesica Kubzansky and Michael Michetti.  This discussion began with an examination of the balancing act between two artists sharing the role of leading this company.  As the session continued, much of the talk revolved around the state of theatre in LA today.  Some memorable points:
  • Boston Court's work in particular aims to use the magic of theatricality in such a way that audiences never forget they are in the theatre.
  • Parents need to take their children to the theatre, and theatre artists also need to think about how to nurture the future generations of theatre goers.
  • We need to recognize the theatre critics as members of the team and valuable to our work.
  • More discussion needs to continue on how to change the culture in LA so that people consider theatre as an option of something to do for fun.
The last session of the day was a conversation with Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, composer and lyricist, respectively, of Leap of Faith, previewing this weekend at the Ahmanson.  If you don't already know, Alan Menken has composed many successful shows and movies, a few of which are The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Sister Act.  He and Glenn Slater have collaborated on quite a few projects.  The evening was mainly a lot of biographical details and anecdotes about both men's work.  They talked a bit, also, about the difficulty of balancing family life with such a demanding career.

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