For the theatrical novice, directing a production is a daunting task that forces one to always have the answer and overcome steep hurdles. In his Introduction to Theatrical Directing class, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Sean Dillon equips his students with the tools necessary to brave these hurdles.
“What we try and do is sort of build a toolkit of directorial principles,” Dillon said. “At least in a theoretical sense, we want you to understand the principles, and then we do things where you kind of put those principles into practice.”
For Dillon’s students, the real test of principles comes in putting together a short production for a free showcase early next month.
With this assignment, students are tasked with every aspect of theatre, including staging, blocking, costumes, casting and organization.
“As a director you have to be so many different things,” said senior theatre major Alexandra Franco, whose body of work consists primarily of acting. “You’re a psychiatrist and a teacher and all these things. I don’t necessarily enjoy having to be the one who has all the answers.”
Like Franco, many students face a difficult transition from actor to director. The first step in that transition process forces the actor to think like a director.
“A lot of people in the class who have been actors, they sometimes have things to unlearn before they start learning it again, because they have some assumptions about what directing is that may or may not be true,” Dillon said.
For actors, making the jump to directing also means a radical change in how they approach a situation.
“As an actor a lot of your concern is with the character and having the space of that character occupy your mind,” said Jordan Klomp, theatre and international studies major. “Now it’s like you have the whole cast of characters occupying your mind, and the actors who you’re directing.”
With his first foray into directing, scheduling and organization presented Klomp with a challenge.
“Usually you’re told the times you have to show up to things,” Klomp said. “Now it’s everyone else that has to make it work.”
Understanding the struggle for first-time directors, Dillon spent part of a class session offering ways to stay organized, including an elaborate method relying on post-it notes. As Dillon was careful to emphasize, actors learn differently.
Each student chose a short play or scene to direct as part of the upcoming showcase. Senior theatre major Alvaro Renteria chose a scene from Molière’s 1664 comedy “Tartuffe,” a French play characterized by its slapstick and wordplay.
“I almost instantly fell in love with this play,” Renteria said. “Just by the physicality of the characters, the rhyme scheme that they had, the double entendres they had with the words. This could go so many ways, and it’s so funny.”
Klomp took a different approach to his production, opting to stage “Family Voices,” originally an absurdist radio play by Harold Pinter. Since the play consists of a series of intermingling monologues, Klomp saw an opportunity to exercise his creativity with the carte blanche staging.
“As a director you get to have full control of the staging because it’s not designed for the stage,” Klomp said about the radio play.
With the curtain about to open on their theatrical showcase, students continue to welcome bursts of creative energy into the production process. Sometimes those bouts of inspiration are start and stop, Renteria said.
“Sometimes I just sit there and I don’t have any clue what I’m going to do,” he said. “But after a good while of being in that stagnant state, something just pops out at me. And it just starts growing from there. It’s just a really strange but fun and exhilarating process.”
The showcase starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs Dec. 4-7 in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.