Awhile a go I adjudicated a festival that involved a lot of student writers and directors. It was awesome to see their work and to talk to them about how they wanted to present their work. I love hearing the “why” of a show. Why certain choices were made with a production. An interesting dilemma that occurred multiple times was that there was a difference between what an actor, a writer or a director intended to put on stage and what they actually presented.
More often than not, young artists have a clear picture of what they want for a character, what they think about a moment, what they intend. They do spent time thinking about their craft. They are smart and articulate when they describe what’s going on in side their heads in terms of that character or that moment. But just as often, they are surprised to hear that what I saw on stage did not match what was going on in their heads.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Sometimes it’s difficult for young artists to manifest a thought – to bring the idea of a character into a three dimensional representation. To solve that issue I always tell actor to physicalize their idea. Turn their thoughts into physical action – something tangible. A physical stance, a gesture, a movement. Ideas and thoughts are hard for an audience grasp. The way a character moves across the stage is something concrete on which to hang an idea.
So what about what’s going on in a director’s head? How do young directors make sure their intentions are clear in the presentation? Again go for the tangible – make sure there is some kind of physical action that matches each idea. For the director, this could be a blocking pattern, the choice of set and costume, a gesture that shows the relationship between two characters, a specific picture. Think of the pictures that represent the thoughts and words in your head. Visualize your theme, visualize your concept, visualize your interpretation.
Furthermore, get an outside eye to look at the play. This is especially important if you’re taking the production to competition. Don’t get involved with likes or dislikes of the person providing feedback – you really only need the answer to one question:
“This is my intention. Is my intention clear on stage?”
That’s what you need to know, if what’s on stage matches what’s in your head. And then after that, it’s all up in the air – you can’t determine whether or not an adjudicator is going to like your work but you can make sure an adjudicator sees exactly what you want them to see.
How do you make sure intention and presentation match up? How do you marry internal thought and external production?