By: Erica Smith, Director, Those Are Your Only Options
It’s peculiar sitting there watching these two actors say lines–in this case lines that you yourself wrote–and you have to tell them how to say them in the way that best conveys the story and your own intent. And while you’ve already told them exactly what they’re supposed to say, you should by no means tell them exactly how to say it, because then what’s the point of having actors at all? And so you sit and listen, trying to figure out when to speed it up, and when to make things big and dramatic, or quiet and realistic, and you try to look like you know what the hell you’re doing…and IT’S REALLY HARD.
Another peculiarity is that the casting for these two roles is more or less against type. Maggie as Mac is not actually counterintuitive–Maggie’s kind of a badass–but Jenny as Sally is probably not anybody’s first instinct. Jenny is anything but meek and submissive in real life; she’s definitely more Dirty Harry than Pollyanna, but you know, I’m really enjoying being surprised.
So far, my biggest challenge seems to be notes. Every actor in the world has had the frustration of a director who simply has no idea what a particular note means. My absolute favorite has to be the time when two other actors and I were background characters in a scene, and during notes, the director, referencing that portion of the scene, said, “During that first scene, when you’re in the background… do things.” He paused. “I am the worst director ever.”
I tease the folks who do this (“Do things” became a running joke among the cast, and I’m pretty sure it will never die), and now I’m one of them; at a recent rehearsal, I stared at the following note for quite awhile before sussing out its meaning:
“Head up your ass — all the way out.”
Thus, to every director I’ve made fun of about their notes: My bad. They’re tough.
Those Are Your Only Options, or TAYOO as I’ve been calling it, has been performed twice before, and both times, I’ve been only peripherally involved (I was at auditions for both, but stayed away from the rehearsal processes). This time, I’m directing it, and it’s been… peculiar. Fun, for sure, but peculiar.
Those Are Your Only Options is directed by Erica Smith. TAYOO is part of Fourplay–four short plays on love, romance, and related matters. Shows are at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) at 8PM April 24, and at 6PM and 8PM on April 25.