How much leeway should a playwright give to a director as to revising, adding material etc. As a new playright having my first work produced I feel slightly intimidated, but I don't want the whole thing rewritten to suit an obsessive director. Any advice here?
As a director and a playwright, I always separate the two, even when I'm doing both jobs in the same production. When I direct someone else's play, I NEVER rewrite or add or delete. If I think that needs to be done, I tell the playwright and leave it up to him or her to make the changes. Even when a playwright has said to me that I can make any changes I think necessary (!) I refuse.
Some examples: I will tell a playwright if I think there needs to be a transition scene to clarify a relationship, but I will not write it myself. I'll show a playwright which parts are repetitive and ask him or her to delete one of them. I'll suggest to the playwright that he or she watch one rehearsal just to note what doesn't need to be stated by the characters because it can be shown by the actors.
Often the playwright will disagree, so the discussion can last a long time. Ultimately, the playwright has the final say.
There is a difference between being intimidated by and trusting a director. If you disagree, then speak up. But NEVER do it in front of the cast. And don't allow the director to comment to you on the script in front of them either. If you disagree, be sure to have a good reason and be able to articulate it. You also have the right to expect the director to have a good reason for suggesting any changes. Make it clear that you are open to his or her comments stating a potential problem, but you reserve the right to make changes in the script.
If you already think the director is obsessive, then you need to be particularly protective of your work. Establish the correct collaborative relationship and demand the respect of the directors and actors. Don't be afraid of them. Especially since this is your first experience, try not to go away from it regretting the way it was handled.
Thanks. I pretty much felt that I needed to handle it the way you suggested, however I needed some moral support from someone with a lot more experience at this than me. We have done a number of Lee Mueller's plays and he practically begs you to rewrite his stuff. I personally find this disconcerting as an artist(as well as bad professional form), and dangerously addictive to the director! I had decided we weren't going to do this to my play, however I would be open to suggestions within reason as long as they didn't drastically change my original intent. I will follow your suggestions to the letter and once again I really appreciate your taking the time. It's really exciting to have the thing produced, but then I thought would I be willing to can the whole thing over my principles? I decided that we will have to negotiate and see what happens. Thanks again.
I happened to spot my name here and just wanted to clarify a point about re-writes to my plays. - I don't actually beg for my stuff to be re-written - I only suggest that that "local references" be inserted to give the play a "local" feeling. In some of my scripts, a character may refer to a local store or street - therefore I leave it up to the actors/director to insert an appropriate name that the audience will know. This is what encourage. I do not beg for any plot points or major dialogue to be re-written. I simply ask the director to fill in a few blanks. That is all.
As the producer/director of site-specific theatre, I really appreciate that. When I'm trying to have the audience feel as if these plays are events happening in the moment, it's difficult to do when the character talks about 42nd and Broadway, and we're downtown K.W. in Ontario.
Ok first I apologize to Lee for sounding so critical, I realize and understand (and always have)what his intentions were. I still, however, feel it's playing with dynamite to give a director the idea they may add some things of their own. I have a limited theatre career, and perhaps I'm somewhat of a babe here, but most of the directors I've worked with wouldn't dream of changing anything in a script, and threaten death to ad libbers. They reviewed it, they liked it and they wanted to produce it for it's own merits. I guess it depends on how you view a work. Is it what the artist slaved over and decided was as perfect as they could make it, or is it a fairly specific idea that is adaptable to a situation. I mean when Oklahoma was first produced they didn't say in Scranton, "we'll change the location to Pennsylvania so they can relate to it better" Yes I know the authors were famous and nobody would have dared change anything and the story took place in a specific place, but still theoretically why not? I feel it really should be up to what the author intended, wouldn't you agree? I guess what it really boils down to is a difference of opinion and I'm sorry if I ruffled feathers, however forums are dull without lively discussions. Best wishes to everyone and I'm really done with this discussion..thanks...break a leg!