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May 12, 2008

Comments

Tony

Issac,

First, there's more to sports than physical exertion, just as there's more to theatre than memorizing lines.

And just as in sports, not every aspect of rehearsal should be covered. There are some things that should stay private. Or to go along with the sports analogy, reporters cover the clubhouse, but they don't how an athlete looks coming out of the showers.

That doesn't mean an nothing from rehearsal could be covered.

RebeccaZ

"Also I just want to note that very few actors are taking part in this conversation and it is specifically their interests that we should be concerned with."

Exactly.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ..."

To quote William Ball, "In the final week before the dress rehearsal an artful director flutters branches across the sand to conceal his footprints."

Some people, myself included, like that private, cocoon-like atmosphere of a rehearsal process and hold it very sacred. I occasionally will write an update but it often feels like I'm writing a letter to my grandmother ... there's much more going on but only a few things that seem appropriate to share with the public because I'm more concerned with building a safe/creative place with my crew of actors and designers. The critiques and the judgments will come later once we open, but I wouldn't want to read a comment on my own rehearsal process nor do I think it would be beneficial to my actors.

But, I understand where you're coming from, DV. Make the sort of theatrosphere you'd like to see and those that find that way of sharing the process stimulating will follow suit.

RZ

jen thomas

as an actor (and a director) i would SERIOUSLY reconsider working with theatre professionals who planned on blogging about the specifics of a rehearsal process. i don't want mikes or recorders or cameras in rehearsal. period. no shades of grey for me.
i've worked w/mac, i've worked with isaac. these are relationships of intimacy. trust is essential...as it is in any intimate relationship. i don't discuss my intimate relationships on blogs, and i wouldn't want my directors to either. if they did, i would feel betrayed.
now, whether that is 'good' or 'bad' is irrelevant. it's how i feel. i would certainly be willing to talk about process or difficulty (in a general manner) with whomever might have a question...but specifics, no.

nick

Isaac said:
"First, blogs are run by individuals according to their taste. If you don't like what someone does on their blog, you could make a polite suggestion about something you'd like to see there or you could stop reading it. There's been a lot of carping over the years about what people "should write" on their blogs. I personally find it absurd. What the hell do we care what someone else writes on their blog? It's not a column at the Times, it's a frickin' web journal!"

Just to be clear about your statement here, Isaac. Would you then consider it wrong, if an individual attempted to blackball, or organize a collective action against, or the censor of some other individual blogger? Or are there certain evil bullies out there in the playground that we need to collectively organize against?

I have had both public and private conversations with many of you. The blogosphere is a continuing negotiation of this collective public/private we share. In such a place, honesty also becomes a negotiation, I think. Something we balance against the stronger ethic of trust.

The betrayal of privacies for the sake of honesty or discovery in art is a very personal and delicate matter for every artist. We all commit this trangression in some degree to create our art. We transform what are private moments of grief or love or joy into something we share publicly. I think the theatrosphere helping to bring many aspects of this core dilemma in art into starker relief.

devilvet

When I hear something like "no shades of grey" not even a camera to take photos...I dont know. It blows my mind. It seems to come from such a place of ...what...?
fear
oppression

The way some folks describe it, I'm surprised they even let the audience eventually see the work (In Krusty the Clown's Voice..."it's a joke...when you make that face, it's a jooooke")

We had a camera at most of the rehearsals for Clay Continent. The actors knew, the didn't have a problem. They were actually sort of excited especially when the photoshopped images started appearing of them in the various monstrous images. During the time I was shooting did I get shots that were less than flattering? Of course. Did I put them up? No. Again of course not.

But, if we are not going to let a simple camera into the rehearsal, why the cant that sentiment also lead to other things like, an actor saying don't discuss scenes that I'm in when I'm not here.

Why does a camera have to immediately become a tool of betrayal?

Why cant it become a tool for collaboration...for instance...The director comes up to the actors and says hey guys tomorrow lets stage a little scene next week for the camera to put on the blog...a prequel to the opening scene.

Is that a shade of grey that is unacceptable?

jen thomas

i think jumping from an actor not wanting to be video or audio recorded during rehearsal to an actor demanding that a scene they are in not be spoken about in their absence is...a strange parallel to jump to, but ok, i'll play along. i didn't say that a camera was "a tool of betrayal" (insert ominous echo here), i said a director blogging about our (he/she and my)specific process would feel like a betrayal. now, again, that's just me. if the other actors in the company want to be recorded, then they can go for it. my boundaries are mine and i don't feel especially compelled to rigorously defend them, rather just to keep them firm... but even people recorded off the street are asked to sign waivers in film.
what is it, exactly, that you are looking for?
do you act DV? just curious.

jen thomas

just gotta add one thing, and i guess it lends to mac's original feeling on this: DV has managed to judge, even before the actual sharing of rehearsal process has begun. i didn't bite on the "what is it? fear or oppression??" carrot because...well, no offense DV, but it's a judgment and not a very flattering one. it's incendiary and my instinct is that you wanted it to be. perhaps we should just agree to disagree? i believe what mac is saying is that, at least in his rehearsal process, you're not invited. feel free to invite us into yours, however.

devilvet

Actually Jen... No, I bake cakes.

But seriously...
Well I haven't acted lately. I did act for 7ish years... the last time being an equity show here in Chicago...this was until the directing and the writing bug bit me. So Acting for 7 years, Directing for 13, and Writing for 8 if you require my resume in order to continue considering my ideas.

Jen, I dont want to betray anyone. I dont want to impinge upon anyone. I think what I want was pretty well laid out in the original posts on blog that Mac linked to.

but it is here

http://devilvet.blogspot.com/2008/05/
recipes-for-putting-up-on-your-blog.html

And, I've never had to get actors to sign waivers to put up photos of actors who worked in one of my non-equity shows. It should also be said that I never betrayed an actor in one of my shows or any other. Or even blogged about them without asking them if it would be ok.

This isnt about disrespecting an actor or their desires about work environments. It is completely about finding ways to share more relevant content with each other over the internet about what we do other than..."hey come see my show" or "look at this review we got"...It is about the playmakers taking a greater hand in sharing while at the same time having a say regarding how to share.

The assumption on my part, because it is my personal taste, is that even if things are getting better, there still needs to be more content on the blogosphere or else the content needs to get more for lack of a better term exciting. The thing that saddens me thus far from this discussion is I'm hearing all more folks who just dont want to be bothered with it, or who fear such an idea destroying their abilities to collaborate or create.

Jen you SERIOUSLY said "i don't want mikes or recorders or cameras in rehearsal. period. no shades of grey for me." So, I dont think the notion of a camera being a tool for betrayal intentional or otherwise was such a huge leap on my part(I will however rescind the "scene without me being there" metaphor

...then again what is wrong with taking pictures, why is it any different than promotional photos especially if the director and or producer is totally transparent and fully disclosing that photos during rehearsal will be taken?

-dv


devilvet

Jenn,

I just put up a post before I saw your 10:54 post...but...

All I'll add for the sake of clarity is that every question I ask is out of place of sincerity. It wasn't to ruffle anyone's feathers or even to judge. I not judging anyone here anymore than I am being judged at this very moment...so sorry if you didn't like my question. However, from a place of sincerity I will say it does sound like fear to me, it does sound oppressive to me...that isn't to insult or get back. It is in the genuine hope of understanding.

If we had been in the room together just then you would have heard passion and intensity and raised stakes in my voice but not judgement.

So, can we be friends? Even if we disagree? I want to be friends, I want to understand the obstacles.

-dv

devilvet

I messed up the link but here it is if everyone isn't totally turned off by now

http://devilvet.blogspot.com/2008/05/recipes-for-putting-up-on-your-blog.html

jen thomas

absolutely. you know, i rarely comment on any of my writer friends blogs...mac rarely posts these days, and i almost always find his posts intelligent, compassionate, and well thought out. he wants to learn and he wants to share. i stumbled in today. i hear a great desire in you to learn and share and make greater. i truly commend you for it. i'm an actor and my process is different. probably different from many other actors. but like i said, that's just me. i also don't like turnips. no, i don't want my picture taken. there is nothing "wrong" with a director or producer wanting to take pictures. it's what they want. just as there is nothing wrong with my not wanting my picture taken. would my not wanting that completely nullify a directors blogging life? i certainly hope not.
i'm not sure what the answer is for you and your fellow bloggers. but i hope you find it.

Slay

If you don't have the sensitivity to when you're crossing the line between blogging about your own work in the rehearsal room and being disrespectful of your collaborators' privacy and psychological security, then you probably lack the sensitivity to be a director. And if you lack the tact to ask questions when you're in doubt about that line, then the actors you're working with probably don't like you very much.

As for permission, though ... are you talking about the line between blogging and libel?


I must agree with Isaac here - " If you don't like what someone does on their blog, you could make a polite suggestion about something you'd like to see there or you could stop reading it."

Um ... yeah.

dv - I am interested in section c above, about digital cameras, etc.

A few years ago, when we were doing our first large-scale, company-created work. We had a stage manager who had a video camera running for much of the rehearsals. We told everyone at the very beginning to speak-up whenever it made them feel uncomfortable.

For a couple of weeks no one said much about it, though there were more than a few takes directly to the camera when things went laughably poorly.

Well, one day, we were having a lot of difficulty with one particularly emotional two-oerson scene. In the middle of a take, one of the actors suddenly stopped and said, "I'm sorry, but could we just turn the camera off for a little while? It's really distracting."

I can imagine that in that moment of difficulty, when you already feel like everyone in the room is staring at you, having a camera around must feel like having the director 3 inches from your face while you're trying to be honest about deep and dark stuff.

Our actors have mostly gotten used to having cameras on them over the past few years. They know that very few of the images or tapes are for anything but my own reference, but actors joining us for the first time always have a noticeable period of adjustment if we're taping frequently.

Now, I doubt that tactful blogging would have the same effect, but it's not hard to imagine what would happen if a director told stories, even mild, anonymous stories about difficult moments in rehearsal and an implicated actor read it. The written word has a great deal of power. Some people think we don't believe anything until we see it in print. (Or see it on TV.)

Another connection. I had a really bad experience working on a grad students thesis project when I was an undergrad. We basically hated working with each other and we were really unhappy.

Well, a couple of years later, I saw her published thesis in the school's library. I flipped through it and found the part where she described what a horrible actor and said that casting me was the biggest mistake of the whole process. No matter how much respect I lacked for the director, and no matter how much I knew that her opinion and her thesis didn't matter 2 bits to anyone, I still cringed and got pretty angry when I saw in print.

devilvet

Slay,

I think that if the actor asks to turn the camera off then you definitely turn the camera off. I don't work with video cameras. I am much more interested in stills. And, if an actor has a problem with a shot it wouldn't go op on the blog. I agree with your summations at the beginning of the post

-dv

devilvet

Tomorrow, I hope to have a small example of the sort of thing I hope is possible and hopefully just a first step toward beefier sexier content options I'm hoping to find more of on our blogosphere.

(wink)
-dv

Laura

Infamous Commonwealth Theatre has experimented for a while with this idea in various forms, and to varying degrees of success. During The Kentucky Cycle, the dramaturg kept a blog of the process strictly from his own point of view (http://ict-ky-cycle.livejournal.com/). At the time, it generated a bit of conversation, but not a ton, but we had anecdotal information that a lot more people were reading than commenting. The sacredness of the rehearsal room was preserved in this case because the dramaturg is not necessarily involved with the intricacies of the director/actor discovery moments, which is what people seem to be most sensitive about. During Cloud 9, we also tried offering an "open rehearsal," where audience members were literally invited to come sit in on rehearsal for an hour and watch a scene be worked through. Only a small crowd came, and as an actor, I can tell you that it was seriously awkward. But the audience members who attended told us how fascinating it was for them to watch - to see the awkwardness of the scene when we ran it at the beginning, observe the director making adjustments, and then watch it run again an hour later and see the difference, and then to recognize it in its final iteration when they came to see the full production. I have heard that some larger companies also offer open rehearsals, but they are staged, i.e., not the actual rehearsal process for the director and actors where they expect to accomplish anything but more just like a little extra "teaser" they do for audiences. I don't really understand the purpose of that type. Most recently, ICT has created a special "sneak preview" mailing for its subscribers only before each show. The letters just include a snippet behind the scenes that only subscribers can get. This could include early production photos or design sketches, an interview with the director or playwright, things like that. At their 24 Hour Project, playwrights are given an image which they are supposed to use to inspire their plays; in a letter before the 24 Hour Project, subscribers got to see those images even before the playwrights did.

Anyway, people seem to enjoy these sneak peeks, but I would agree that literally inviting someone into the rehearsal process can be a bit inhibiting. So I think my suggestion for bloggers would be to keep the perspective solely your own. Don't discuss anybody else's process, just your own experience. I know that is probably easier said than done, but I think you just walk a very fine line when you start talking about the work somebody else is doing. Try to keep it as self-focused as possible. And if you want to post photos or videos, maybe they should be more like those DVD extras - photos of actors goofing around on break, a set that is under construction, post video or text interviews with different production members, or dramaturgical notes. I especially think interviews would be interesting.

Laura

Infamous Commonwealth Theatre has experimented for a while with this idea in various forms, and to varying degrees of success. During The Kentucky Cycle, the dramaturg kept a blog of the process strictly from his own point of view (http://ict-ky-cycle.livejournal.com/). At the time, it generated a bit of conversation, but not a ton, but we had anecdotal information that a lot more people were reading than commenting. The sacredness of the rehearsal room was preserved in this case because the dramaturg is not necessarily involved with the intricacies of the director/actor discovery moments, which is what people seem to be most sensitive about. During Cloud 9, we also tried offering an "open rehearsal," where audience members were literally invited to come sit in on rehearsal for an hour and watch a scene be worked through. Only a small crowd came, and as an actor, I can tell you that it was seriously awkward. But the audience members who attended told us how fascinating it was for them to watch - to see the awkwardness of the scene when we ran it at the beginning, observe the director making adjustments, and then watch it run again an hour later and see the difference, and then to recognize it in its final iteration when they came to see the full production. I have heard that some larger companies also offer open rehearsals, but they are staged, i.e., not the actual rehearsal process for the director and actors where they expect to accomplish anything but more just like a little extra "teaser" they do for audiences. I don't really understand the purpose of that type. Most recently, ICT has created a special "sneak preview" mailing for its subscribers only before each show. The letters just include a snippet behind the scenes that only subscribers can get. This could include early production photos or design sketches, an interview with the director or playwright, things like that. At their 24 Hour Project, playwrights are given an image which they are supposed to use to inspire their plays; in a letter before the 24 Hour Project, subscribers got to see those images even before the playwrights did.

Anyway, people seem to enjoy these sneak peeks, but I would agree that literally inviting someone into the rehearsal process can be a bit inhibiting. So I think my suggestion for bloggers would be to keep the perspective solely your own. Don't discuss anybody else's process, just your own experience. I know that is probably easier said than done, but I think you just walk a very fine line when you start talking about the work somebody else is doing. Try to keep it as self-focused as possible. And if you want to post photos or videos, maybe they should be more like those DVD extras - photos of actors goofing around on break, a set that is under construction, post video or text interviews with different production members, or dramaturgical notes. I especially think interviews would be interesting.

Laura

Sorry. I don't know why that posted twice. Annoying.

patrick

You know, my main problem with blogging the process has absolutely nothing to do with the ethics of it. I think those are pretty well obvious, and I tend to feel the same way as Isaac about the clarity of the line to be drawn.

My main problem is time.

I've been working on a post since the first week of rehearsal for "Colorful World" and it's only now, with the show open, that I can get back to it and finish it. Because once we start rehearsals, there just aren't enough hours in the day for me to write anything of substance. And I'm maintaining so much freakin' concentration in the rehearsal room, and learning lines when I'm not there, that the LAST thing I want to do is dwell on it for the several hours it would take to write anything substantive.

We're lucky to have James around to post stuff while we're busy getting the thing on its feet. Otherwise, we'd disappear into the woodwork and nobody'd be paying attention when we finally open.

devilvet

Pat,

Time is a definite obstacle. The only way to address is, I feel is if you think about incorporating your blog presense into your pre-production. However, if there is something you want to share, there is nothing wrong with sharing it after the show opens or closes. In fact given alot of folks hesitations...it seems that post-closing discussions might offer less tension while still being capable of profundity and value.

p.s. my tiny example is now up over at the devilvet.blogspot.com

nick

Slay said:
"I must agree with Isaac here - " If you don't like what someone does on their blog, you could make a polite suggestion about something you'd like to see there or you could stop reading it.""

Don and dv have a play in Chicago running at the same time that GreyZelda has its play running. They likely share some of the same audience. Don decides he should review the GreyZelda piece.

So, Slay, are you saying that the correct response for the director RZ is to make polite suggestions to Don about his review?

(Actually I don’t know the details of this incident or contracts/friendships between these artists. So I am not taking sides but just examining it as example or type.)

I may be a different person, more punk attitude than some, but if a fellow artist wants to play fuck-fuck with my PR and box office, I will be playing fuck-fuck with his shit until there is a Last Man Standing. If I were being polite with my suggestions in such a scenario, it would likely be a tactic out of Sun Tzu’s the Art of War.

Theatre blogging that is all about congenial networking with fellow artists and promotion is shallow in ambition. I see such shallowness not as unethical but definitely lacking a philosophy and noble purpose.

Scott Walters

Isaac wrote: "Theatre isn't sports. Sports involve physical exertion. Theatre involves making your soul vulnerable to people in a way that invites them in."

Man, you haven't watched many productions by NFL Films, have you! *L*

Not long ago, I played Dysart in "Equus" -- I was onstage for the first time in, like, 20 years or something. And oh boy I was rusty, and oh boy I was tense about it. So I can understand that sense of privacy and vulnerability of rehearsals.

That said, I think we might be exaggerating our sensitivity a wee bit. Why do we LOVE to watch the outtakes on the DVD (or at least, why I love to)? We like to see the vulnerability, that the actors aren't superhuman, but they're just goofs like us. And at base, I wonder whether that is what we are concerned about: somehow, we don't want to give away that we, as theatre artists, make mistakes, stink up the place, drop lines, make bad choices. By allowing ourselves that level of sensitivity, we then become outraged when the show opens and a critic says even the most minor criticism.

And while I am remembering how horrible I felt almost nightly while I was rehearsing "Equus," I also don't think there is THAT MUCH soul bearing going on in rehearsals. In fact, there is a rather healthy and admirable professionalism that happens. I have watched actors put together a scene like my mason brother-in-law outs together a stone fence. It is pretty amazing, and I think outsiders seeing it would increase their respect for theatre artists accordingly.

What this discussion has made me consider, though, is whether a "making of" DVD documentary for a production wouldn't be a big seller during the run of a show. A behind-the-scenes glimpse that would simultaneously be controlled by the artists. Which doesn't connect to the blog discussion at all, but is a thought...

sashanaomi

In order to share your rehearsal process, you must inevitably share everyone else's process. So, if you're going to blog about your rehearsal process, you need to discuss it with your company. I was in a show that involved a blogger, and one day after rehearsal I read his blog and learned that apparently there was flirting amongst the people working on the show. It was a pretty innocent observation, but still left me wondering at every rehearsal, things like: "Who's the flirt? Am I the flirt? The play's about relationships. I thought I was supposed to be flirting?! Is it transferring out of rehearsal?!"
If you want to publicly document your process, you need to consider a few things: Why do you want the blogosphere to know about your method? Do you think by sharing your process you are letting other bloggers in on your theatre-making wisdom? Do you blog about process so people can comment, criticize, or offer advice? If they criticize you, will it explode into a giant, nasty theatre blog fight? Will their comments be read by the rest of the cast? Will the comments trickle into rehearsal?

Quite frankly, I find reading blogs about directors' and actors' processes a tad boring unless they give it a certain edge. Unless the blog addresses a specific question that can be applied universally to theatre, I'm bored to tears. Unless, of course, the blogger is Mac Rogers, in which case you should post all your Uta Hagen chracter journal entries, as well as a play-by-play account of the rehearsal- sneezes, line flubs, and all. ;)

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