A few weeks ago I was chatting with my mother when she expressed a tinge of disappointment that none of us ‘kids’ had ever wanted to ‘do what your father does’. She is a doctor and my brothers have chosen to study Zoology and Neuroscience respectively. I work in theatre. Dad on the other hand is an IT project manager. I was about to agree with her when I realised that maybe what she was saying wasn’t strictly true. As theatre directors so much of what we do is in fact project management.
“This individual seldom participates directly in the activities that produce the end result, but rather strives to maintain the progress, mutual interaction and tasks of various parties in such a way that reduces the risk of overall failure.”
Wikipedia on what a project manager does.
This might seem a little reductive and in some ways it is, as it requires looking at directing through a very specific lens. Let me clarify here that when I think of the director as a project manager I am not thinking of the director who is also a producer. In this instance however, I am looking at the director in the rehearsal room, the one mysteriously composing with intangible materials. What is it that they are actually doing?
I would describe directing a play as making of a series of decisions. From the choice of play, to choosing your collaborators, to casting, to planning rehearsals the director is called upon to exercise choice. Once in the rehearsal room – and particularly in the fringe getting to a rehearsal room can be a long and hectic process – the director is then called upon to create the optimum space for the team to work. They then use their eyes, ears and other senses to take in what the actors and creative team are putting out and, through yet another series of decisions, steer them towards finding the play.
In many ways all of the other members of your team will know more about their chosen disciplines than you do about yours, and certainly more than you know about theirs. But as I’m embarking on this journey into directing I am starting to suspect that what I’ll keep learning are ways of making things happen, of bringing people together and giving them the space to do what they do best.
I am in no way suggesting that the director is not a creative artist, but what I’ve discovered over the past six months training with StoneCrabs Theatre Company, is that they are the ones who bridge the gap between the creative and the practical. They are the ones who tell you to stand to the left and pick up your cues, and also the ones who tell you to eat paper and steal a story from a passerby.
StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival is on 14-18 March at The Albany Deptford.