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April 28, 2006


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Josh Costello

This is a nice metaphor, and well-articulated. Is there a way it could be expanded to include the collaboration that directors have with actors and designers? I feel like as directors we do all the work your metaphor hints at when we prepare for rehearsals and production meetings, and then all our ideas and plans interact with other people's creative processes and everything explodes (hopefully in a good way), and our own ideas grow a whole lot as a result of these interactions.

I'm not a music guy, but maybe the equivalent for that next step is the conductor?


Interesting. I was talking about something similar last night. The particular music piece that came up was 'Fur Alina' by Arvo Part. The song, as I understand it, is written with notes but no time signature. It is a single person piano piece and different recordings show a surprising level of variation in what is heard. The same notes in the same sequence, but a wholly different orientation towards the piece.

John Branch

Not being a director, I don't have very well-defined notions about what a director does, but I think your view is pretty clearly expressed here. I can raise a question, though: do you have a view of the audience's role in the theatrical process? I have a couple of reasons for wondering about this. One, a writing class I had in broadcast-film required our projects to state a purpose and an audience, and I've found it useful to attempt this in things I've written since then. Two, elsewhere in college I heard that one Marxist view of the arts proposes that the audience "owns" the means of production, i.e., the final work of constructing the art experience takes place in the audience members; the theoretical implications of this are somewhat beyond me, but it's easy to see that, for a given show, the experience Mike Nichols would have is likely to be different from the experience Mike Piazza would have. My apologies if this is basically off the track of what you're trying to discuss.

Also, is the Sondheim orchestrator you're thinking of Jonathan Tunick? I remember seeing his name on recordings of Sondheim musicals years ago.


Ah, John, you'll just have to wait for the next installment!


You're assuming that the general contractor position is NOT creative, which is where I would take issue with your position.

My wife is a talented costume designer and talented (and very much in-demand) costumer draper. She contends that draping is just as creative as designing, it's simply a different job, which is to build what one person has created and make it realistically work.

It's a difficult job, one that takes work and imagination. If something is not feasible in a design, she has to communicate to the designer what and why and suggest alternatives.

Just like writing. But it's a different job. Would a writer take credit for a wonderful lighting design for a show? No. Nor for a costume design or wonderful staging.

I would never posit that any job theatre is NOT creative, nor would I posit that a directors place is NOT creative. I don't even really have issue with your metaphor, to be honest. I think it could work. I have never said that playwrights are the architect's of theatre itself. Playwrights are the architect's of whatever play they wrote. They designed it. The actors and directors and designers and stage managers built it, made it work if at all possible. Each job is valuable.

My issue is that too often director's are given authorship of a play they didn't write once it gets into performance. It's happened to me and to writers I know and I'm sure you've seen it happen, though I accuse no one of that here. I do contend that playwrights are too often marginalized in a community that now reveres directors and movie stars when once the play was the thing. Not only do playwrights not have a union, are well payed or given voice in the rehearsal process, now it seems that the play is less important than the event itself and the playwright is lucky if even invited to a rehearsal or an opening night. We are shut out more and more, and my statement contending that the playwright is the architect of the play was simply to remind everyone that if a playwright hadn't written a play for someone to do, the actors, director, designers and stage-managers, wonderful and creative as they are, would simply be standing around waiting.

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