By Caitlin Heaton
Throughout our last four months as Young Directors we have had several experts in the field visit to impart their knowledge to us. We have been taught about how to work with actors physically, how best to communicate with our actors, and the thought processes that go into directing a piece of theatre.
As emerging directors, it is so important for us to hear from other people about their experience in the industry. The majority of directing is collating the ideas of people you admire, and turning it into something you are proud of, so part of this is learning to listen to other people about their ideas. Hearing so many people have different opinions on how to approach a play, how to rehearse and how to get everyone mentally into the room has been invaluable. This blog will take you through some of the fantastic visiting practitioners we have been lucky enough to work with.
Our class with Jorge Balca also showed us an experience through the eyes of the actor. Often when starting out, an actor may have already been to one job, and can be tired and their head will not be anywhere near where yours is. They’re human too. As a director, your initial aim is to make sure that everyone is on the same footing once you begin to rehearse. This session took us through a gruelling physical warm up that still makes my muscles ache just remembering. He put us through our paces which woke us up to getting active. We then played a ball game, a simple one, just throwing and catching in an order, and saying place names in an order, but every time one person made a mistake, every member of the group had to do ten push-ups. Doesn’t sound too awful does it? But it went on. And on. And on. We got tired, and restless, and started making more mistakes, and we all started to get irritated with each other and ourselves. After the ball was dropped for around the fourth time in a row, Jorge stopped us. He told us that this game is what it’s like to do a long show. You start with all the energy and excitement, but eventually you begin to make mistakes. And when those mistakes are made, you can’t just think selfishly. A company is a unit, so during a show you have to do anything you can to keep things running smoothly.
The session that I think was most memorable for us all us was one of our first Saturday sessions, with a practitioner Almiro Andrade. Now, meeting new people can always be a bit daunting, especially in a professional atmosphere, and if you know you’ll be working together for an extended period of time. We had all had a very long day and worked hard to be where we were. Almiro knew that we were tired, but just asked us to do one final exercise for him. He turned the lights off and asked us all to walk around the room, which isn’t the easiest thing when there’s twelve of you in a small dance studio, but our eyes adapted and we passed by each other easily in the gloom. He told us to think of the time when we had felt most loved, and to completely embody that feeling once more, to take ourselves back to that time. He asked us to stop, look at the person closest to us and imagine that that person was us when we had felt happiest, and what we would want to say to our former selves. Then we all came together, and told us all to hold onto that feeling of happiness, because this business is a hard one to work in, but if you believe in yourself and allow yourself to be happy, you can carry yourself through. On paper, I may not be able to construe how powerful that moment was, but I know that for all of the Young Directors, it was a moment that none of us will ever forget.
Caitlin is in her first year at Queen Mary’s University where she studies Comparative Literature. She will be directing One Day When we were Young by Nick