It made me think of precisely the wrong kind of directoral approach to playwrighting. Joshua James has written a fantastic, telling and, as usual, witty version of similar thoughts on his Daily Dojo.
A few years ago, I had completed my play, "The Great Escape," (Pictures of the eventual production can be found here) and I was looking for a place to have it produced. Through a contact who was high on the script, I was put in touch with a downtown director who I'd heard of, and who has had a solid reputation for his Greeks and Shakespeares.
We met in Park Slope, and having never met me before, he proceeded to explain to me that he had uncovered the protagonist of the play, which he felt was "Susan," a character that is off-stage in Act I, tied up and silent in a bag in Act II, and finally comes in for a show-ending monologue that makes up almost the entirety of Act III. His suggestions were based on this concept, ripped from the pages of a playwrighting text book. He felt the play was "her" play and that I should rewrite the play to match who was "clearly the protagonist."
Needless to say, I didn't wind up working with him. It occurred to me that he didn't actually want to direct the play I'd written; he wanted to direct the play he was looking for between my script and his own designs.
What I've found is essential is to be rather careful about who you listen to and to what end. That's why I feel workshops and open discussion about a play are often rather damaging. Only someone who understands and enjoys the playwright's work should be anywhere near the process of creating that play.
Last night, I got some pretty merciless feedback and walked away with a fair amount of work to do, but knowing that it was from someone who was high on the play already, made the work something I'm looking forward to doing. If it had come from someone with an agenda that was anything except "I want to see Matt Freeman's best work," it's simply off the table. Anyone who I feel has little personal stake in my work is someone who I won't accept commentary from during the initial process.
I know some playwrights relish a long workshopping process (most don't.) I'll be bold enough to quote myself regarding that from my Rants and Raves on the New York Foundation for the Arts Website:
Workshops: Playwrights know the workshop dilemma all too well. It’s how large production companies earn their “new work” grants while avoiding the production costs associated with actually producing untested plays. The end result? Hundreds of expressive and original new plays, whittled down to nubbins of shavings of what they could have been, wartless, because of hours and hours of witless “feedback.” Well intentioned, maybe, but deadly for your sense of self, like a boob job.