View single post by Doug B
 Posted: Sun Apr 29th, 2012 04:56 pm
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Doug B



Joined: Thu May 20th, 2010
Location: Eastsound, Washington USA
Posts: 94
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Mana: 
I'm not convinced that my Great Idea or vision of the play isn't closer to what the playwright intended than the other productions I have seen.

I probably read 50 plays for every one I direct and produce. Ninety percent of the plays I do compel me to present them. There are always plays that are eating at me to present them. Let me discuss two of these plays.

Enchanted April. I read the script and loved it. I loved it so much that I went back and read the book the play was based on. (To me) On the surface Enchanted April is a wonderful set of four love stories that run from a 20 year old woman to a woman in her 60's. (To me) Underneath is the story of the birth of the modern woman. Women who are finally able to voice their frustrations with their lives as their husbands property and the need to exist as individuals.

To me the emotional climax of the play is when Rose tells Lottie that she had a child who died. If that single sentence was taken out of the play, the entire play doesn't make any sense (to me). In both of the other productions I saw, that line was delivered as a throw away. In Florida, the two actors were sitting on the stage way over in a corner where it was hard to see them. In Washington, the two were so far upstage they were almost in the dark. There was no blocking note in the script. In my production, I had the two woman as far down stage as possible (toes over the edge of the stage I called it) and just right of center. Rather than move the women into a corner, I had the others move away from them. I had Rose scream her lines in a burst of anguish. The audience stopped breathing. No one will ever convince me that what I did wasn't what the original author and the playwright had in mind when they wrote it.

Waiting For MacArthur by Paullette MacDougal. Unlike Enchanted April, I directed this play within a couple of months of finding it. I knew of Paullette and was able to contact her by e-mail. I had several minor issues and a couple of (to me) larger issues. Essentially she told me to do it as I saw it. I used light and sound and color to emphasize certain elements of the play. Much of that wasn't in the script.

I invited Paullette to come to closing night which she did. After the play she told me (and the others at the cast party) that it was the best directed production of the play that she had seen. Did I honor her original vision of the play? I don't know and to tell the truth, that isn't as important to me as the success of the play (in an artistic sense rather than financial - although MacArthur was both).

I know this is going to come out wrong (particularly in this playwrights forum) but I've been sitting here trying to find the right way to say it without luck. Here goes: If a play is in development (usually through the first two or three productions in my experience) I feel an obligation to find and present the playwrights vision of the play. After that, I don't feel the same degree of obligation.

There is something in a play that compels me to present it - what I call the Great Idea. That Idea is the story I will tell. That may or may not be what the playwright intended. Normally, I have no way of telling but does it really matter if the audience is educated or informed?

On the local scene I have refused to direct plays where my vision of the play did not agree with the playwrights. I have also tried to used another person's vision of a play as my own but that has not been successful. I can't direct a play where I don't have a burning need to present the message I see in the play.

Look at all the revivals on Broadway - clearly not the same vision as the original.  A few years ago, Lincoln Center did a revival of "South Pacific".  Very different than the original.  I would argue that Bart Sher had a different vision of the play than when it was first done and very different than R & H envisioned.

To answer the question Wee Eli asks, I don't think I have ever "imposed" my vision on a play. I see a vision in the play, the Great Idea, and I see it in the playwrights words. I usually can't envision an alternate Great Idea. I think it would be a very confusing production to mix and match visions of a play or to have more than one Great Idea.

Doug

Last edited on Sun Apr 29th, 2012 05:23 pm by Doug B