Post-Mortem: Directors Lab West 2014, Pasadena Playhouse

It occurred to me that I never wrote about my thoughts on Directors Lab West from last May. During the Lab, I spent 10 days immersed in master classes, workshops, discussions, and panels focusing on director development. The Lab is presented each year in 4 locations (NYC, Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles) and focuses on artistic and career development for early and mid-career directors. I was among approximately 50 directors chosen to participate in the LA based Lab.

The focus of the lab in 2014 was Thinking Globally. There were workshops in Siamese Dance, Kabuki Theatre, Hip-Hop Theatre, Laban Movement, and so much more. Panels and discussions included guests within the SDC leadership, artistic directors from the LA metropolitan area, and intense discussions within the group about appropriation, casting, mentorship, pitching, and self-production.

To say that those 10 days awed and invigorated me would be an understatement. I felt alive and I rediscovered my sense of artistic outreach, activism, and courage. I befriended theatre makers whom I will collaborate with in future projects, which were conceived due to our proximity to Directors Lab West.

The Los Angeles theatre community is one of the most surprising and engaging communities in the United States. I was floored by the level of work being done both in the large institutions and the tiny storefront theatres. LA Theatre now holds a special place in my heart as an arts community that is vibrant, resound, and intelligent. I have rebutted ignorance several times about LA theatre and the presumption that it doesn’t exist due to the overwhelming film industry. My firsthand experience at Directors Lab West proves it is a great place to make some theatre.

Among the productions I was able to see were a fantastic staged reading of Extraordinary Chambers by David Wiener, The Tallest Tree in the Forest directed by Moises Kaufman, Beijing Spring a new musical at East West Players, and Tartuffe at A Noise Within.

I eagerly await the chance to apply to the other three Labs.

Post-Mortem: Same Time, Next Year by Bernard Slade, MadKap Productions

This winter I was happy to be involved as the Assistant Director for Same Time, Next Year, produced by MadKap Productions. This was my first official Chicago area theatre credit. And therefore, it will always have a special place in my heart.

The production ran for three very successful weeks at the Skokie Theatre. For those not familiar with the play, it is a visceral trip down the memory lanes of the 1940s through 1970s, as told by an adulterous couple meeting every year in the same place. Each scene takes place five years apart. These are the two elements that still work beautifully for this play: nostalgia and the idea that you are not the same person you were five years ago. There are ups and downs during this affair, a predictable pregnancy scene, a timely hippie scene, and some archaic dialogue, yet, the morsel of honesty and humanity at the center shines.

Assisting Directing is a strange job. Until one establishes a working relationship with the director, it is hard to predict how little or how big one’s influence in the rehearsal room will be. Directors often work in indirect ways in order to ultimately influence or coach an actor or production into unfamiliar territory. So as an assistant, I find that I am at my best directly before and after a rehearsal. Those are the periods in which I am discussing with the director the quirks of the rehearsal and the shortcomings being foreseen. Usually this pre and post rehearsal moment is needed to organize thoughts before diving in or going home to the impending barrage of emails. Directing is a lonely profession. We rarely co-direct (it’s great when we do though!) and having an experienced assistant who knows the nuances of the craft is a relief. That’s what I try to be when I assist. A resource both in and out of the rehearsal room 

Same Time, Next Year was a wonderful experience that allowed me to do the aforementioned things. Plus, it was great to be in a rehearsal room with only two actors, witnessing that relationship develop over the short rehearsal time. The four of us in the room could focus on the nuances of the dialogue, 180 degree character shifts, and complexity of telling a story from 40 years ago about 70 years ago. This was a great experience and I hope my next assistant position is just as fulfilling.