Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I read an interview with Robert Rauschenberg (most famous for his found-object, three-dimensional "combines"), during which he said that if he could envision a completed work, then the idea was enough for him and he didn't need to build it.  He preferred to put his effort into the projects whose final forms were mysteries to him and to make his decisions about what to build once he had the materials in his hands.  Sometimes I think about this approach to creating art when I reflect on my own process.  Paintings, sculptures, and installations are something different than theatre performances, of course, but I like to see how ideas from one discipline can inform or be in dialogue with those of another.  Some directors work as real auteurs, sculpting the performance of their imagination, using the actors and scenery as mere matter.  Others have a vague idea of what they want a show to be, and largely allow the actors to shape the direction of the show.  I think a large majority work in a sort of middle ground of mutual compromise.  At times, I have a strong, near-complete vision of how I would like a scene to play.  I know from experience that if I can accomplish it, I'm pleased with the results, but I also feel a bit of a fraud, or at least selfish.  I feel an ethical obligation to honestly consider the ideas and desired contributions of the actors and designers.  Generally, I think that's how I should be working in this collaborative field.  But there are times when I simply want to compose a performance and have that vision fulfilled.  Without questioning.  And then there are the collaboratively created ("devised") works I have led.  These require a huge jump of faith that the process--which usually involves much improvisation--will yield a good and meaningful show as the result.  Too much planning, or too-specific expectations would undermine the point of such creations.  Improvisation is a useful tool for both actors and directors (and, apparently, found-object sculptors), but I like it as a means of reaching a higher and more finely-crafted goal, as opposed to improvisation being part of the performance.  Unless it is thematically relevant.  Then I may find it to be smart and whimsical fun.

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