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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Directing one's own work

Tonight begins rehearsals for the workshop of in the great expanse of space there is nothing to see but More, More, More. I'm directing myself, which I'm excited about, but it's also a position I usually sidestep. I've consistently with directors and partners for years, mostly because it's incredibly helpful, and also because I'm wary of directing one's own work on principle. The lack of perspective is, by it's nature, a hindrance. Perhaps. Maybe familiarity is a good thing in this case.

Any advice from experienced directors or playwright-directors out there?


Ian Walker said...

I'm familiar with your concern about the lack of "alternate" perspectives in directing own's own work. It's a real issue to contend with. In the end, you always have the actors' perspectives and ideas to help with that. What I enjoy about directing my own plays, is that it requires me to put on a very different head, to ask questions (like, where is this person standing?) that I don't need to ask as the writer. Even better questions are ones that help me understand the actor/character challenges, and how the design elements define the intuitive (and sometimes incomplete) ideas within the script. Not to shill my blog, but I did a video post about the playwright as director a while back: http://secondwindtheatre.blogspot.com/2008_12_01_archive.html

I'll be fascinated to hear your observations and learnings.

Justen said...

Of the plays I've written and had produced, one was directed by an external director and the other by myself. (I do have an upcoming production of another new play I've written that I will by directing myself.) Of those two experiences, the piece I directed myself was, by all accounts, much better received. Whether this was the direction, content, acting, design, or a combination of all of that, I don't know (though I have my suspicions). Those experiences colour my thoughts.

The other, larger, factor is that when I've written, it's primarily been because there's a show I want to direct and it doesn't exist, so I need to get it out myself. Really, the main reason I've written plays thus far is for Director Justen to do the job I really love.

Perhaps it's because I write as a director that I find it more fulfilling to see the work through on its complete journey. As I write, I do think about how I would direct it.

You can say this limits your perspectives and arguably so. Additionally, I've been involved in productions wherein a writer has director their own work and from where I stood, there were glaring ways in which a director has needed to step back from the preciousness of their words to better serve the production, and they haven't done so.

I do find, though, that as for perspective your actors will always bring in their own approaches and open things up in new ways you won't have anticipated as writer or director. As to being too precious with one's own work, well, that's a call you'll have to make about how you handle that once you've gone through the process.

I felt that taboo myself at first, but given my own personal motivations for writing, I quickly shrugged it off and made the arrangement work well for me.

Freeman said...

Thanks to both of you for these thoughtful perspectives. The first rehearsal went well, and I'll likely revisit the entire subject after I've completed the process, so I don't publicly debate with myself in a way the cast can read. They don't want that any more than I do, I'm sure.