5 Things Emerging Directors Should RememberMason Beggs
"Know the story you are telling – and the world that you are telling it in – and the answers will come."
– Mason Beggs
By Mason Beggs
15 Years In Business
The life of a director can be a very stressful job. As you lead the ship you are asked to wear multiple hats and must quickly and seamlessly switch between roles. You are an interpreter. You are a composer. You are a therapist. You are a dramaturg. You are a producer. You are an artist.
I am a director and educator based out of Jersey City, NJ. My directorial work includes Production Director for TedX Jersey City, Drama Director for Argus Eyes at Saint Peter's University, Head of Devised and New Works for New School's Summer Acting Intensive, and a professor at The New School for Drama where I received my MFA in Directing.
I have developed work at venues across the region, including New York Theatre Workshop, PTC Performance Space, Playwrights Horizons, The Lion Theater, Art House Productions, The Cell, Theatre for the New City, Tisch School for the Arts, The New School for Drama, and Theatre 80.
With all the stress that a rehearsal process can bring, you have to remember basic things that will keep you grounded. Here is a shortlist of tips that may help.
It's Okay To Say I Don't Know
So many times we are presented with questions that we simply don't know the answer to. And so many times our gut impulse is to quickly spit out a response to seem knowledgeable, strong, and in control. But that impulse is destructive. That impulse is ego-driven and doesn’t show strength. It shows fear. We don’t always have the answers and that’s okay. Discovery is part of the journey. Regardless of the research, we have done, we are interpreting the art as it happens. Know the story you are telling, and the world that you are telling it in, and the answers will come.
When it comes to a script, all of the information you need is in your hands. You cannot have read the play too many times. You've read it 10 times? Great! On to 100! You will learn something new each time and see different perspectives and opportunities to explore.
Know The World
I had a designer once tell me that "if you aren't able to detail what a fork looks like in your production, then you aren't ready for rehearsal". What they were getting at was understanding the tonal world of the play. Fully defining the tonality and atmosphere of the piece will give you a set of rules that every artist in the room can then draw from. Taking extra time to explore this for yourself in pre-production will make creative time with the design team, and life in the rehearsal room, that much easier. Explore everything from the quality of the air to the rhythm and tempo at which the world moves. Is this world vibrant and full of life, or a paled exhausted landscape? Is this world jagged or smooth? What does this world smell like? Even if you are working on a piece of realism in a black box theater with no lights and a quasi broken chair, defining the aesthetic world will strengthen your storytelling. Random tip: Create a Pinterest board to illustrate how you see the world.
Focus On Story, Not Ego
Some of my favorite moments that I have created in rehearsal have never been seen by an audience. Why? Because in the end, they didn’t serve the story. No matter how beautiful or “cool” a moment is, if it doesn’t strengthen and enhance your narrative, then ya gotta kill it. Throw it in the garbage... or at least under the bed for future use.
It's Only a Play
I forget this one myself as I tend to obsess over my work to the detriment of my personal life. But my failure at this doesn't have to be yours. We are doing what we do, not just because we are artists and we are compelled by the universe (tiny violin plays), but also because we ENJOY doing it. Don't ruin that for yourself. Everyone in that room has sacrificed the possibility of a stable life as a corporate lawyer to be in that dark dank black box rehearsal room with you doing what you all love. If it flops, it flops! And that happens (although never a producer that). The worst production I ever directed was a piece that caught the attention of an artistic director who saw through the minefield and became interested in my work. Most of my professional life is due to her seeing that production. So you never know what opportunity will open up the next. There is life after you bomb! Breathe.
Working in the theatre is ridiculous and a lot of hard work. But it's what we love to do! Take a moment to breathe, check your ego at the door, fail, succeed, play, and then breathe a little more. Buy yourself a smoothie while you're at it!
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