a link and a premise*

Here’s one of the more valuable articles I’ve read in recent memory.

Marshall W Mason advises directors how to mount a stage reading, by the numbers, in the Last Frontier website.

What underlies his premise

Guiding principle: Clarity

Goal: To let the play speak for itself. Do NOT try to direct the performances.

is, of course, the need for the director to fully understand the play, to have parsed it, to have had a dialogue with the playwright with any queriable points, to have communicated this clarity with the actors.

A “duh” moment, you say?

I’m a structure nut.

Didn’t used to be, I was the “child with not the wit to ask,” but once it was pointed out – like the word you learn anew and suddenly hear and read everywhere?  I’ve gone the next step, been trawling books and the ‘net, quizzing and grilling every writer of any genre.

What amazes me is not only how many plays I’d previously directed with only instinct, years of theater experience, and a rudimentary framework to guide me, but how very few working directors appear to have parsed the scripts they then cast and put on a stage (and ask audiences to pay for).

But it’s so simple!

Directors!  Understand the structure of a play you’re directing, and you don’t have to overlay your “vision” on the characters or story, you needn’t muck with time or place, you won’t miss the unseen character who’s never referred to in words but whose presence permeates the script, you won’t be completely blind to the dramatic question!

If you direct plays, if you want to direct plays, my advice is, know the play’s aboutness (a term oft-used by the fine poet, professor, editor Michael Dumanis and arguably a crucial concept in all art) before you start finding actors or a space.  No, the dramatic question and aboutness do not equate, although the dramatic question is an important component of aboutness.

True confession: I’ve just spent a lot of time trolling the Web about aboutness and will think and write more on that word another time.  Right now, though, I need to get to the new play, which is in that intoxicating state of almostness.

Enjoy your writing day.

*tongue-in-cheek parody of a lick and a promise

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