October 15, 2011
That son-of-a-bitch Ben keeps us all in bed until 10:30 on this cursed Saturday morning. Pete is off to Winchester for a job, gone a week, so we set sail tonight without a captain.
It’s been a tough show to direct. The cabaret structure means there is no narrative, no story to unfold and coax along, but like any piece of theater it needs cohesion and logical development, a strong sense of internal drive and momentum. Over the last six weeks Pete has been up late alone at the kitchen table, rearranging bits, building sections and sussing out the spine of the script while the rest of us slept. I don’t envy him the job, but I’m glad he was there to do it.
Directing is one of the stranger jobs in this already strange business. The modern director as we all know it in the West was invented only about a hundred and thirty years ago. Before that the lead actor or the impresario would pretty much call the shots and everyone was expected to know their lines and bits of stage business and everything worked out fine, or at least as well and as often as it does now.
The writer writes, the designer paints and sews, the players perform, the musicians play and our modern director is tasked with putting it all together, making it all one sensible thing. Hard enough when you sit down at the first rehearsal with a finished, tested script, but when you’re devising and creating as you go along it’s like working on the engine of a car while it’s flying down the highway, trying to steer and keeping the terrified passengers calm, all at the same time.
After a long, quiet day we get to the theater for a six o’clock call. Been following the Occupy Wall Street worldwide protests and wondering if we should change some of the lines about the purposelessness of modern-day civil disobedience, but we decide to let it stand for now.
A strange show tonight, the audience is small and quiet, almost frozen in their seats. But they applaud throughout, something that hasn’t happened before and there is the usual laughter and response at the end. In the bar afterwards, friends are vocal and sincere in their praise, going on long past what would be obligatory social lying, so we shrug and accept the fact that it was a good show, even if it felt like breaking rocks in the noonday sun.