Saturday, March 07, 2009

Theater Is A Team Sport

I know an actor--close friend and colleague--who has fought with and complained about every one of the directors with whom he's worked, at least during the time I've known him.  Sometimes, he's had legitimate worries or complaints, and at times, he and his directors have merely diverged in their artistic visions.  He has earned the reputation of a "difficult actor."  Recently, his director caught him in the greenroom in mid complaint.  I was sitting next to him, my head in a notebook, counting calories (which is how I keep my figure!), only to look up on hearing the director's angry reprimand.  I feel close to my colleague and wish him well, but, Gaawd, I hated sitting next to him at that moment, not wanting to incur guilt-by-association.

In an earlier conversation, I told my friend that my own approach to directors is to give myself over to them.  I enjoy the work of marrying my own initial instincts to a director's at-times incomprehensible, at-times apparently ridiculous, artistic vision. Thus far, I have found that, in the end, their vision is neither as incomprehensible nor ridiculous as it first appeared to me, the short-sighted actor.  Even when the direction has in some big way "failed" in the final product, I've enjoyed--and learned from--having done my best either to believe in it or, at minimum, not fight it.

On the one hand, I feel (and have too frequently expressed) impatience with other performers when they have not worked as hard as I--in my insecurity and arrogance--think they should have done, and I've learned not to make too many negative presumptions about others' processes or work habits.  On the other hand, I feel no ambition to force my artistic sensibilities on other performers or directors.  I've been in plays in which other actors have complained bitterly behind their directors' backs and such complaining made me deeply uncomfortable.

Theater is a team sport

1 comment:

David Loftus said...

Totally agree with this, David. There's something to be learned from every show, and every director, and you learn it best by putting yourself entirely in his or her hands. Even if it's nothing more than how to be more patient and diplomatic with those you perceive to be fools, because there will always be plenty of those to spare; but at the same time, that won't be the case as often as we like to think.