Monday, July 19, 2010

Losing Control, Gaining a Masterpiece?

I would never have thought that in my perusal of the business and success oriented blogs that I frequent, I would find a piece that would tie in so nicely with my theatre writings. I guess I should not have been surprised, though, given that the rules (or shall I say, the "anti-rules") of creativity apply to any creative endeavor, theatre included.

In this piece, Mark McGuinness discusses the importance of letting go or pre-conceived notions one may have about what one is creating. He tells the story of a lost horse who, when permitted, found his own way home.

If only more directors would approach the creation of a production from this perspective. So many of them seem intent of creating a precise, detailed vision, and making sure that all of the actors in it are in some way serving that vision. This isn't the way to produce great theatre. It's a way to produce either theatrical robots, or a bunch of pissed off actors.

McGuinness doesn't suggest we abandon discipline or structure, and neither do I, especially in the theatre. But I wish more directors understood, (or just allowed themselves to understand) that the best productions are those that they guide as opposed to control.

This is how I try to do it when I direct, and some of my best theatre experiences were with directors who tired to do the same.

How do you direct a show? Have you ever been in a show that was allowed to find its own way home, like the horse in this story?


Mackenzi said...

Hi! - I'm a newcomer to your blog, and a fellow actress myself.

I have been in both types of shows, the strict and precise visions and the one i'm doing now, a more freeform 'let the actors decide'.

Maybe its my fault as an actress that I'd rather the director create, but it seems as though they have always been the more successful shows for me. I like creating a masterpiece from what i've been given. Adding my own spin on an exact character I was told to be.

Letting go of pre-concieved notions creates a new kind of masterpiece. An origial. Sticking to the strictness of the traditional script is recreating a masterpiece that has already been done. I say both are works of art.

I've had some bad experiences with shows that were forced to 'find their way home' because the director failed to create. And my most successful shows were when the director had a vision.

Perhaps this is me detailing my shortcomings as a creative actress but Its just my experience thus far in my career. Your blog has surely made me think about this though! I should be challenging myself, and putting my characters in a whole new mindset.


Ty Unglebower said...


Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, and for checking out my blog. I hope you will continue to do both!

As to what you say, I don't mean to suggest that a director should not create. He should, and if there is no vision at all, there might as well be no director at all. I only mean that (in my opinion) the best directors are those who can allow their vision to flow and change throughout a show, let it breathe, based on where actors want to go with things. That inspiring the creativity of the actors is a key step, as opposed to trying to make everyone realize how marvelous their vision is.

Or like Michelangelo creating a sculpture. He said he would take a large piece of granite and "simply" remove the pieces that were NOT a sculpture, so that what was already inside the granite would come out. I like a director who take that approach, instead of pounding away at actors to present exactly what he wants.

But I see what you are saying though, and I don't think it means you are lacking something as an actress. I think it merely means that you require, (or at least prefer) a different set of variables than perhaps I would. There are as many ways to do a show as there are shows.

Mackenzi Flannery said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I will definitely be checking up on yours! Its hard to come by a blogging actor who has so much insight to the business.

I think we're on the same page with this whole thing, haha. You seem more creative then me but thats what makes us individuals, right? I tried to put it to use in rehersal today, and I hope I got somewhere!

Looking forward to reading more from you!

Mark McGuinness said...

"the best productions are those that they guide as opposed to control a production."

Nice distinction! I'm glad you found my piece of interest.

Ty Unglebower said...

Thanks Mark.