THEATRE 1 on 1: THE ART OF COLLABORATION

Posted: July 10, 2020 in Uncategorized

If it’s a collaboration … why can’t I do it my way?

The answer to this age old question—and I’m sorry but everyone asks this (even if silently to themselves) at some point in the process—is in the question itself: because it’s a collaboration.  Not all choices are good.  Not all choices are right.  And that’s why theatre improved once a director came on board.  The director may have a vision and through collaboration that vision may change but she (we’ll play with pronouns here) may not.  She/he/it/they may be totally onboard to see what the actor brings.  Some will work.  Some won’t.  The play itself has a vision of itself and you and the director (and/or your other collaborators) may see eye to eye or may not.  If your vision of the play and how your character fits into that vision are at odds with the director’s.  If it’s early on: don’t take the role.  You are here to tell a story.  You are not here to educate the director.  Unless you are truly willing to bend your will to help the director see his/her/their vision, then you are only creating chaos and an unpleasant work environment.  Don’t get me wrong, some director’s have true vision and some have their heads up their asses.  I’ve worked with both.  I’ve been accused of being both.  In the same production (I’m versatile like that). 

But good theatre is truly a collaboration of artists.  All coming together to tell a story, to have an impact.  We all have constraints: time, talent, budget, being the holy trio.  We need to patience with each other in the process.  We need to trust and we need to keep reign on the fatal flaw that chips away on each leg of that trinity: ego.  Our own.  Never mind about Heathcliff over there.  Let Heathcliff deal with Heathcliff’s ego.  We have enough to deal with battling our own. 

So, you heard about a play, you’ve ALWAYS wanted to do, and you have a GREAT idea on how to do a role, the whole play/a musical; how to direct it, or to dress it, light it … that’s fantastic.  Before committing to the project find out what the group who’s slated the project have in mind.  See if your visions fit or get excited about their vision.  But don’t fight the vision.  Trust the people involved to do their part.  And you do your part.  If in the process you come up with a brilliant idea: talk to the director PRIVATELY.  I can’t say this enough … PRIVATELY.  Do NOT tell them what to do.  Ask if their open to listen.  If they aren’t (and gawd knows what other hundred things they’re also dealing with: they honestly may not be) accept it and move on.  Do not end run them.  There will be a time where they will be open to hear.  You may likely have to schedule it outside of rehearsal hours.  If there is NEVER a time then that says more about them than about you.  If they are open to listen talk to them about your new approach that you/they may want to try.  Then LISTEN.  You may have hit a nerve.  You may be at odds.  You may have planted a seed that needs a few days/hours to take root  If they love the idea, it’s easy to go forward.  If they don’t: then let it go.  I’m not quoting the Disney song here; I’m saying quite the opposite “let your need to be right: go”.  You aren’t necessarily wrong but this may not be the production for your unique interpretation.  And you may be totally out in left field but that’s OK.  Because that’s just thinking outside the box.  I’m not going to say there are no bad ideas because there are.  I’ve sat and watched a few in my time, I’ve made as well and I hope I’ve learned from the experience.  As a playwright I find it compellingly hard to give up my vision sometimes (probably most of the time—especially if I’m talking about my own plays) but if the shared experience of telling the story is to be a good one, check your ego at the door and work well with others. 

I’m gonna try to post one of these every day because … hell, I’ve got the time.  COVID and life’s circumstances have given me a lot of downtime (no need to go into details here) and I’ve always wanted to work with new and would-be actors and so … what the hell.  If you know me, you may think I have a clue as to what I’m talking about or you may wanna run.  I’m here either way.  I am willing and interested in working with anybody via ZOOM on monologues or scenes or what have you, at no fees.  Because I have the time (until I don’t) and what the hell.  I’m a bit irreverent.  Some would say a joy to work with/some might say difficult.  No one walks away without an opinion.  If you’re interested in working on something 1 on 1, let me know.  You can contact me on Messenger (Michael Perlmutter) or email me @ Theatre1on1@gmail.com.

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