Author Topic: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character  (Read 3674 times)

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planetmike

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The director's job is to communicate a vision for the show through the actors. But for one role, the vision for that character is just entirely wrong. I know it's not my place to say anything, and maybe it will seem more natural as rehearsals progress. But what should the stage manager do, if anything, if a decision the director has made is just not working?

Scott

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2010, 11:39 am »
But what should the stage manager do, if anything, if a decision the director has made is just not working?

Not part of your job.

(Besides, some things than others take longer to either "work" or be discarded: this is one of the reasons we have rehearsals and not just performances.)

Rebbe

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2010, 12:49 pm »
Theater is subjective, so it’s not working and it’s entirely wrong in your opinion.  Apparently it is working in the directors opinion, or as Scott says, it will work given more rehearsals.  You could offer constructive suggestions related to something  concrete that might help a moment work better, such as “would you prefer to have the actor move the prop before that line?”  Or “would it help to have me Q the actor to enter sooner?”  You could even ask the director why they are giving a certain direction or how they want a scene to be played (along the lines of your need to maintain the show after opening) and see if that clarifies things for you, or opens the door to a constructive conversation. 

But I think it’s unproductive for an SM to judge the director’s vision as right or wrong.  The director will be hearing plenty of alternate opinions about their work from the producers, designers, dramaturg, playwright, and others involved in the process.  The SM should be as objective and supportive as possible, IMHO.
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

kallulah

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2010, 02:00 pm »
I feel your pain.  I recently worked with a so called "director" that clearly made incorrect choices concerning a character, that even the actors looked at me with a face resembling that of a betrayed brown bear cub.  Some things were just obvious and he was clearly missing it.

I made the choice, and it's the right choice, to not say anything.  It's not my place.  As much as he "treasured" my input he just didn't want to hear it and it was up to the actors to defend their definition of the character and whether they wanted to try a different approach, which is what rehearsals are for.  The actors, were not vocal enough in their character choices and by not expressing their desire to want to explore other decisions the show became what it is today...a complete mockery of a great writer's work. 

The fact is, there's nothing you can say or do.  When you're the director and the SM comes up to you and says, "hey I disagree," will you welcome his criticisms with complete unbiased reception or will you resent the fact that the SM is going a little out of their way to do something they were never contracted to  do?

turtle

hbelden

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2010, 05:14 pm »
I obviously agree with everything that's been said so far, and I also think that as the producer's employee, the stage manager has a responsibility to make the producer aware of problems that would seriously affect the quality of the show.

In a situation like yours, I'd make sure that there was some kind of a run-through soon that matched the producer's schedule and strongly suggest to the producer that she/he attend, without criticizing anything the director is doing.  If the producer asks for something specific, why you're making a point out of it, you could say something like "I'm concerned about the character arc for X; I don't think it's going to stitch together when we do a run." That could be either a director problem or an actor problem, and you can always play the "I'm a stage manager, not a director, so I'd appreciate your input" line.

However, if this is the same show as your other thread about the producer and director fighting each other, then my advice is pretty worthless in your particular situation.  The only thing I'd advise in that case is to do your best to understand what the director wants and then do your best to make it happen.
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On_Headset

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2010, 06:21 pm »
Quote
I also think that as the producer's employee, the stage manager has a responsibility to make the producer aware of problems that would seriously affect the quality of the show.
While this is certainly true, I'm not sure I'd try and stretch it as far as has been done here.

Director lets morale get so low that the show might fall apart? Call in the producer.

Director is neglecting parts of the production so much so that the end-result will be deficient? Call in the producer.

Director is being too aggressive or selfish and risks violating the law or a contract? Call in the producer.

Director appears to be utterly incompetent and in way (way!) over their head? Call in the producer.

Director makes a solitary questionable artistic decision in what is otherwise a garden-variety production? Not so much.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2010, 06:27 pm by On_Headset »

dewitt

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2010, 08:24 pm »
I routinely work alongside a director who loves to cast against type. It is not unusual for other members of the group to ask me
"what is she thinking?"  Recently this director cast a popular Shakespeare comedy. For the romantic leads there was a short
overweight girl and an older bald man. They were both good actors but visually not what anyone was expecting. Sometimes it isn't about the typical or the expected, it is about the experience of getting there. When I see a project where the staff makes unconventional choices I may not agree with those choices, but at least it isn't boring. There is nothing I find less interesting than working on a show where the look, style, and intent is simply copied from the Broadway or movie version.

loebtmc

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2010, 09:17 pm »
Many many times we have differences of artistic viewpoints from the director. As a stage manager, your choices are either 1) don't work for those folks or 2) ignore it and live with it. While our job is to be the pin between the artistic and technical teams, and while we will always be artists who maintain the director's vision during the run, it's not our vision. We don't get a vote.

MatthewShiner

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2010, 12:05 am »
I have worked on shows where I thought the director was insane and making terrible choices, and the show was an award-winning hit.  I have worked on shows where I thought it was going  to be nothing but a hit, but ended up being on people's worst list.  You know, no one is psychic in how it will all turn out.  And often, as a stage manager – we see the potential of a show, and is it makes it way through rehearsal and the production process – there are always compromises.  A show is rarely as good (or great) as it could have been in your mind.

But, let us play this out . . .

You are think the director is doing a bad job, you tell the producer, the producer agrees with you . . . then all of sudden you have made a dividing line between the director and you . . . and unless the fire the director, you are going to have a very tense working situation.  And firing a director is rare (although it happens), but once it does – just be prepared for the a very complicated and tense transition.

Other option.

You think the director is doing a bad job, you tell the producer, the producer DOESN'T agree with you, now you have egg on YOUR face, and there is a line between you and the producer, and maybe, if the producer sides with the director, then between you and the director as well.

Actually the best thing in this situation, which I know is VERY counter intuitive, is get really behind the director's choice, and get excited about it.  As questions about it, try to get into the directors mind (you are going to have to maintain it, put understudies in, etc . . . ).  And if you end up talking to the producer, you can present the situation in a fair and balanced light.

Let's say, for example, you are doing Romeo and Juliet, and he has made the bold decision to make Romeo gay.  I don't know why this would be a choice, but worse choices have been made.  Let's say your producer comes and ask you about how rehearsal is going, you can say, well the director has a really interesting take on the show, he is having James play Romeo as gay - I never would have thought of that as choice - and the rehearsals are really interesting - I can't wait until I see how it plays in front of the audience.  What is great about this . . . if the producer thinks it's insane, then it's the producer is the one who is going to go to the director directly  - and unless the director has told you not to speak to the producer, you sort of come off as a champion for the show, a supported for the director, and, if this choice was really of interest to the producer, the producer is going to see you on their side.

I don't mean do this is sort of dumb, sleazy, greasy sort of way - but just remember this, your favorite show should be the show you are working on right now, and you should be it's biggest advocate.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

planetmike

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Re: REHEARSALS: Director makes a poor decision of a character
« Reply #9 on: Jun 28, 2010, 11:37 am »
Thanks everyone for the comments. For the role I was asking about, we ended up losing the original actor who was cast, the understudy was not able to commit to performing the entire run, so we ended up during tech week casting a new actor. And that actor was not forced to learn the character per the director's vision. I think by that point we were all just happy to have somebody in the part that no one cared if they were doing it the "correct" way or not.

 

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