Blog a Post – Post a Blog (Nora)

Things have been very busy during this last week, and I feel bad that I haven’t blogged anything yet, although so many things have happened.

The rehearsals for YCGL have slowed down a little bit (it’s just that time) and my cast and I work hard to get things the way we want them. I’ve always been a perfectionist when it comes to theater – even though I don’t seem to be like that in real life – and I’ve always felt that this was a good thing. I’m confident that, in the end, it will be perfect. I’m very happy with my cast, with their work and with their efforts. Yesterday we had an unfortunate argument by the end of the rehearsal, and, for the first time, I showed the authoritarian side of myself.  I think it took some of them by surprise 🙂

I am somewhat reminded of our time in Augsburg, when this whole project started, even though everything is different here in Pittsburgh.  Again, I realize the gap between German and American theater. And, while I hadn’t been able to find a conclusion for myself,  it soon became obvious that both ways of doing theater have their advantages and disadvantages.  For example, I enjoy the detailled work on your character in a play and the various techniques and methods to get the ideas and images for your character from your brain into your body. Not only does it help you to understand the characters and the play better. It also gives your character more depths and thus makes it more interesting for the audience to watch you on stage. Naturally, German theaters work with character histories, too. Still, there’s a major difference here: Actors are supposed to work on their characters on their own. And while the director and the dramaturge (and the playwright, if there is one around) are happy to help them with their characters, the main work of the director is something else. As a director you have a vision of how the play should look like on stage and what you want to say with it. You have an idea in your mind and you try to transport that onto the stage. And it’s the actors’ task to work on their characters until they match the director’s idea. This means that the actors can’t just build some story around their characters, but that their ideas of the characters have to fit with the ideas the director has. To make myself clearer, I give an example: If Eva G. decided that her character’s  mother has died, because she was atacked by rabid squirrel and that’s why Birgit is scared of squirrels, but I want Birgit to love squirrels, she has to change her character history. Granted, this is a rather comic example, but I hope it transports what I am trying to say. (BTW Eva didn’t say that!)

As the director I need to know how the characters work and why they do what they do in the script. However, that doesn’t mean I have to know everything, on the contrary, I should always talk to my actors and – in Germany – to my dramaturge about my ideas in order to guarantee that everyone is on the same page. Still, in the end, it’s my decision as a director.

I have a feeling that it’s different in Pittsburgh: Actors seem to have far more freedom when it comes to interpreting their parts. In my opinion, this can be a little dangerous. I feel that way, because, in my belief, a text – whether a play or a short story – always leaves room for different interpretation. And a “good” text has many different meanings on many different levels. As a director, or an interpretator of that text, I have to choose from many different truths that are hidden in the text. Let me give you another example: If I decide to stage Goethe’s Faust, I have to choose from many different topics (existentialism/philosophy, women-men-relationships, aging, culture-criticism, criticism on society, the gretchen-question/religion/christianity/the church, and so on) I can’t put all the topics in one performance, because that would make the audience dizzy and bore them. Instead, I have to decide where to put my emphasis and then stage the play that way. If I want to picture Faust as an philosopher, constantly searching for meaning in life, I would show his relationship to Gretchen in another light than if I decide to point out his unscrupulous narcissism. The actor who plays Faust needs to know in which direction I am heading with the play. And he can’t decide to do it his own way, because then maybe Faust becomes someone completely different.

My conclusion to this is, that I think I like the German way of directing better than I believed I did. Still, it all comes down to communication in the end. And as a director you have to be able to communicate with your actors in order to achieve whatever your goal is.

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