The Story Behind the Theatre; The Director
New York City Theatre capital of the world Riverside radio brings you the story behind the theater. Three components of successful theater play. The audience and the marriage of the two. As the person who interprets the action and sense of the play the director fulfills a key role in the theatre. While the show was developed and rehearsed the director molds the play in a fashion which results in that third dimension a bond between the play on stage and the audience facing the players. The directors role is the topic for discussion today is lile Di Jr. managing director of the Equity Library theater talks with Anne Giudice director of the automobile graveyard and lovers in the metro
and Leigh Foley director of the Equity Library theater for children. Here is a backstage host. Lyle died Jr. I think perhaps the best way to show the general confusion behind the definition of the word director that person that frequently means all things to all people is to look at two specific definitions. Webster for instance defines the director as and I quote from Mr Webster the producer of a play who trains the actors and combines for his desired ends. Acting business scenery lighting etc.. Now after this very objective kind of description of a director a more recent description comes from the authors of a book called directing the play and they say that the director imposes a point of view that penetrates play production and spectators by his interpretation. He welds a harmonious art in a cohesive audience through his activities and keeps the artistic and social unity that are the central demands of the collective art of the theatre. Now
that's quite a job right there. But I think immediately we can say that key words from Webster are things like Producer trains the actor business and his desired ends while from directing the play we get things like imposes a point of view his interpretation the artistic and social unity so to begin with first things first. Why don't we ask generally are either of these definitions of a director complete enough or too complete or can you define just what a director does an. I certainly take exception to Mr. Webster's definition although we are often thrown into exactly doing that which is unfortunate it dissipates you. The second definition as is much more accurate hopefully. I would prefer to impose a point of view and to fit and work with trained actors instead of going into the theater and having to give lessons and write press
releases and fight and hassle with everybody leave. As far as you're concerned why for instance. And a. called it old fashioned I think she's probably right but why has Webster used the term producer and for a director and don't you think this is indicative of the change of the directors picture in the past few years. He certainly is not thought of as a producer of a play anymore. So I think that's very true. I have been the director producer in many cases. This can be satisfactory and it can also be very unsatisfactory. When you do your own producing. If you would limit the time that's involved play wise. Whereas a producer producer is dedicated to the production of the play and by production I mean where is the money coming from. How is it going to be spent. What do we do about unions and all the rest of the
various and sundry things that a producer has to cope with. Where is the director then can dedicate himself to the play to the people to the situation than using that word imposing which I very dubious about his ideas his stamp so to speak in the play. Well then I think we've we can generally say we've not Mr Webster out of the picture and we can go along with the deal I think it's dated. Yes it could heal me. Yeah and I think the key words in the definition the directing the play authors have used are this. The director being concerned with the artistic and social unity that must be there. But both of you being experienced directors Lee having worked throughout Europe and Paris and Chicago here in New York and a good deal in the south and also here in New York. I think the important thing now with both of you is you have an obvious background in theater. The trouble today. Frequently I think is that an actor
will be in a show perhaps have an unpleasant experience with the director and think oh I can do better than this. So that it's almost anybody can direct but I think a director almost like a critic should know more than anybody. He's working with and this kind of background is virtually imperative. I think you also have to be completely satisfied and so you say if you like with performing before you decide to direct what worse than to have a director who is a frustrated actor wants to be up there doing every one of those parts himself. Consequently probably never satisfied because he feels he could do better. But then with the background you are now directors. So the first thing you have to have is a play so important to you that a play be especially meaningful some way either personally or socially or going to be just a job for you. Well I don't feel any crusading spirit about most plays. But there are some plays I don't feel equipped to do. I can't do the
stomach scratching sort of play it doesn't interest me to tell and I would never undertake one except in the spirit of capping. Because I can't take it seriously. But Lee for instance I know you have done. You've directed a Shakespearean show and you've directed things as contemporary as a country girl separate tables indicating a wide range is this because you enjoy all of them or are these just happen to come your way. I've done stock summer stock and year round stock for a number of years and in doing stock you have no choice because a very Cheeseman comes out and so you have to take it well and that you know the stomach scratching that used bit plays along with Tunnel of Love and and all the farcical kind of things that are going to make upping of the makeup a stock season by so doing
you develop within your own thinking. A very serious line of choice because you've worked with so many different kinds of plays that you find the one type of play that you like to do the best. Well I like to do a thoughtful play. I like it to have content. I like it to have people who have. Not sick sick sick problems but problems that we can represent well on stage. I like to work in this area. It's no problem to take a farcical type of comedy and put it on you have people running in and out of doors and you know the whole bit is a standard way of doing and you see them on Broadway constantly. I don't think they're easy to do mind you. I think they're quite difficult to do but there is a way of doing them whereas you
take a thoughtful play the way has to be developed and you need to find the channels that this can be explained. You had you have your play and you're getting getting into our rehearsal period. How much homework do you do with the tape before you call a company. Your preparation for rehearsals is how extensive I am. I think I sort of relax back into the play. I read it casually read it casually maybe two times maybe 20 times maybe a hundred times and try not to come in with any preconceived. Point to which I have to force it. Because you are going into it with that casting and this. I have found is my greatest problem is casting because of the insufficiency of the acting that I see. Because of the Dilla time to a quality of most of the people that come in because they have no voice control they have no body control they have no concern whatsoever for the play for the author. Even if they are the
characters of all the other actors. So this and I don't know how Lee feels about it but this is something that I have to go down on before I can talk to you about the actual physical preparation for a play. This is a this is a real touchy subject. And again as I said at the beginning so many people I think expect the director to be all things to all people not just how much can a director do for and to an actor. Not that much I don't think a director should be expected to be the teacher from the word go. No I think it's a great mistake for a directed to try to teach the teaching has stopped once you go into production. Please please it has stopped yes. So once actors are in rehearsal I should thank any director could expect to begin to see some kind of results within a few days even if it's not hard to stick results but you see that they are at least assimilating the staging and beginning to understand the character. And again not training the actor but guiding him along from one specific thing.
I like to read. For the first two days if I have the time in stock I can. But if I have four weeks on a show or five weeks on a show I like to spend the first two days around the table reading. I discover a great deal during this time. I also find that the actors even the ones we're talking about the ones who are very doubtful begin to discover things from the other actors in reading. I can hear it vocally a building change. Now this doesn't mean that it's going to hold. When they get on their feet and I start to move them around. But I do have I do have a sense of where that actor is going. Intellectually just from the very
end says that he or she begins to bring into the reading of it. And if I can take the third day on it I will. I like the maybe to the two to stand on the third day or two groups I'm still reading but it's no formalized blocking and let them begin to experiment and see if there is an urge to see if there is when a line changes from one couple to a third person who may be on the other side of the room. Does that person have a sense of urgency about moving to that person. Is it because he's just standing there. And has no feeling or is he standing there with an urge to go. I mean these are little discovery things that to me mean a great deal. How much you and you like to get. Get your company on its feet right away get the staging out of the way. Then Inter. Yes yes. I like to see the way people move. For me it's very indicative of
what they're going to do as actors and it doesn't get it out of the way for me. Sometimes not of course there are different methods of approaching different plays too. Some players need to move very quickly some places you don't need to worry about the toll because as Lee says it will come so much more out of the actors and they should. Tell me this How much do you tie down the actors movement immediately or would you rather say to him. Come in take the stage in this scene you've got to get to the table to pick up a book and leave by the door. Can you give them that much freedom or do you usually. Oh I think this depends upon the actor. It does it does when you have no set way in other words your show is a new experience for you so it's a stage it depends upon upon the actor in the actor's actor's craft. Well after your death your selection of a player your preparation for homework the growth which we've been talking about. Tell me how concerned you as a director get with the actual physical production the construction of a play and if you both had mentioned before something I think is
is terribly exciting in theatre and that's just the pure theatrical possibilities of a show in other words and conceiving of a production where a shaft of light is meaningful and exciting all of a sudden. How much do you as a director get involved with the designer of the show in other words do you say to him Give me a ground plan in place the furniture I'll follow it or I don't want walls here I want a suggestion of a wall. Well I get all dolled up with designs I'm all over them. I think it's a group effort. When I found the play that I I want to do. I have definite ideas I'm never without an idea of some kind and I may be bad but I've got an idea about it and when I work with the designer and the light the set designer and the lighting designer and the wardrobe designer.
I like that person or those people to be just as familiar with the play as I am. I want them to to think about the play not necessarily in the same channel that I'm thinking about it. I want them to come up with their own ideas about the set about the lights about the costume then we all get together again. Then we kick it around and we talk about it is it possible. Will this do anything for this particular scene. Will she be able to go up a ramp if she has a heavy cape or if she's dressed so-and-so or whatever the problem is be. This is all pre-planned. I think it's it's terribly important that by the time you go into rehearsal you think in terms of a theatrical production a finished stage thing even though you're working with two coffee cups right that's it. You can compartmentalize it did it must be done justice Lee saw it as an effort.
And these people always bring something to add to it. You can't sit back and say well you must do so-and-so and so-and-so Otherwise you completely limiting their creative addition to the to the production. But by the time you get to a point of integrating our production Don't you have to have gotten the actors to a point whereby virtually for a few days the actors are forgotten while you're going through tech rehearsals and you're setting lights and you're having them virtually walk around giving cues so that they they must be settled enough in some kind of semblance of a performance pattern that the technical encroachments can gotta be gotten over. Yes although I prefer to take it slow as I go along. I'd really rather have it working so that there isn't a loss of two or three days of real rehearsal but I usually find that because you can't get into the theater in time or sometimes sometimes you do and your actors sit around and nap in the theater see you waiting for the lighting people because I'm not going
into backstage crews at this point it's just too traumatic. I usually try to get my company in such a way that I can let them go with the day I do the lighting and technical work and I have people walk the stage where the actors are to be mean to the forest lights so that I can do it without that pressure feeling of that. The company is there I must get them on or they're going to be lost if they don't get it. I asked the company to come and to watch it and to see the lighting and to see the mood as it's being created. But here she is not required to do anything and sit in the back of the house or wherever. But I like I like to sort of feel that all the technical people are dedicated. Without that pressure of having to get it done quickly because the actors are going to be out
in 20 minutes. Yeah but leave it alone because we have to. Don't do it don't change the angle of it because they'll be here in 20 minutes we'll do it afterward. Well the actor does it the light doesn't change when he comes back the next time the whole mood is different. So I like to try to get the company strong enough and solid enough so that I can let them go that way. Let me throw at you the biggest generality I can name why in the past 10 years has theatre become known as directors theatre. So I've been a person or a movement or why is it known as a directors theatre. I wasn't terribly conscious of that although directors have become in many cases enormous personalities because because as I was listening to the media when it comes to mind. Many of them have very strong personalities. And I think they they have justified them so just experiencing this virtually means however that a good director can take a bad play and
make it a good play Absolutely not I don't think any director in the world can make a good play out of a bad play. You can make a bad player look better. He can make it look bad and he cannot. I don't think you can even destroy a good player with the most indifferent sort of directing. Because you know of course that what is criticized initially by the gentleman that controlled New York they had to go on more or less is the play and the players discussed its philosophical content and its dialogue everything is talked about and I have seen many good plays done very very badly. Yet they run and run and run because the playwright cannot be destroyed by this however a bad play has nothing to do to pump life into it. You never think can help a great thank you how only you previously had mentioned heard used the term of the director stamp.
What how do you recognise a director stamp or more to the point. Should an audience be able to look at a show and know this is it because on the show this is a Logan show. Well I think anyone whos been done as much work as any one of those directors that you mention is about to fall into a certain kind of Hollywood whether it's a Tennessee Williams show enough. Now some playwrights stay very close to the director and if it's a happy union it can be a beautiful theatrical experience. It also can be horrendous. As for this stamp I think the thing that we find is that. It's a general mood is a stand. I think it's very easy to recognize it because I show and I think it's also very easy to recognize a Go Through Shit.
Logan varies because he goes in so many different kinds of shows so that you are not so easily. However there's a certain thing because to have the same thing you know the cast of musical you can almost tell who's coming out when from what side. It's a form you know. And it's been successful and I think anyone in this in this business is either willingly or unwillingly swayed by a successful formula. But don't you think a director's stamp is damaging when let's say you're watching a show and all of a sudden you know it's the director that's done he's done this movement for an effect. He's created this kind of a mood because he wanted his hand to show and I think perhaps this is a fad we're getting away from too. Arthur pan let's say seem to be a very unobtrusive kind of director you don't look at an Arthur Pancho and pick out things that he's done to heighten effects for bikers than you usually do.
No I think you're right about it lessening I think personality direct I don't like to see a directors stop across the script because to me 90 percent of what's being said is the playwright's intent in the story. And then this is a matter of percentages the other 90 percent the director and the cast bring to it. And of course all of the other creative people involved. But if you override as I think because that has certainly done with Williams in many cases if you override the playwright then go out and write yourself a play and direct you know more than you two as directors are agreed that you would all generally always bow to an author. It's just material not true. Well you're just talking about his not overriding Williams. No I think I think that there's always a point where a choice can be made. Well let's say you have two strong forces like a leaf only and perhaps not someone
quite as well-known as Tennessee Williams that you wouldn't hold in awe but a good solid playwright. There came one pertinent point you were disagreeing on how easy would it be for you to capitulate to the author. Well I could. It would depend upon what I had to give up in order to do this. I mean is this an involvement that is only personal. Is it just me or does it involve the whole play from cover to cover or does it involve an actor's character that I have worked very hard to develop with the actor. Am I going to destroy that particular character if this situation remains or if I cannot justify this particular point that that I'm in a quote argument with the director with the playwright. Then I would stand. I think my ground and we may have
a big session about it. However if it does not affect the content of the play if it does not affect the actor's character the Ways and Means of the development of that scene and I am hanging on to something for just personal choice then I feel as if I should give up. Likewise I feel the playwright should give if he can understand my point of view that is not personal. That this is not a psychological thing with me and suddenly I'm objecting to people picking up pins on the floor. One of us ideally we're talking about people not being so involved with their own egos here yet they are inflexible. You can remain objective enough to as Lee says Remember the play. Yes that's what you're there for a straw. Let's say we're talking about a revival that year or you're using a script that has been gotten from the original Broadway production with much of the director's original staging in it a ground plan in it can you use much of what I know under director originally did if you're reviving would you rather just wipe it out
by choice. If I'm doing a revival I would like to have a script come to me with a single note from another director someone I guess right. However they do not come that way. And there is always the business that you do read inside the parentheses and it's bound to have some sort of bearing on what you're thinking especially if you're working in stock. I have I have by choice I had to eliminate many of these things that have come in in the script. And likewise I have used a number of things that were good solid directorial points you know it's so hard for a director to get experience in New York off Broadway Broadway What have you. I wish there were more that could be done as far as decentralisation both of you for instance did not begin your professional careers in New York and there's so much now being done in community educational theatre where the professional theatre is actually overlapping. Has it been your
experience with your contemporaries that many people come to New York as directors with a wealth of background of let's say educational theater or community theater we value that we talk about directors of directors yes or it seems like most of the fledgling directors are just here. What have they done what has been their training and I don't think enough of them are taking advantage of it. I just finished casting for the summer. You know they all the young actors arrive with the pictures and the BIOS on the back and all this thing and I am amazed how many lis directing and they list long list plays these are youngsters that cannot read their way out of it. Half a page and here are these long lists of directorial credits things I wouldn't touch with a 10 from now. I think though that that coming into New York and having worked outside of New York for years is marvelous because you have the great advantage of having had to food with the lights with the sets with the costumes with a
budget with an experienced and superior acting with everything and you're so much better rounded I think. Well it seems like the only thing to do with young directors name coming in is to send them both to you and you give them the real story with the background of your TV show it is today. Thank you for being with us and we'll see a lot of your work within the next few years I'm sure. The story behind the theater today the director while Doyle Jr. has been talking with director Lee Foley. What the audience sees when the curtain rises is the result of collaboration between the set designer and the costume designer. Affecting the transition from written word to visual presentation is the subject for our next program. As Lyle Dyer Jr. managing director of the Equity Library theater talks with Mary McKinley costume designer for Broadway's calculated risk on the heroine and will Stephen Armstrong set designer for Carnival and change and listen next time one from New York City the theatre capital of the
world Riverside radio again brings you the story behind the theater. Produced and recorded by Riverside radio WRVO are in collaboration with the Equity Library theater under a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters WRVO oras the Metropolitan FM station of the Riverside Church in the city of New York.
- The Story Behind the Theatre
- The Director
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- The Story Behind the Theatre is a twelve part program produced by WRVR Riverside Radio. Each week, Lyle Die Jr. of the Equity Library Theater addresses a specific aspect of theater production and interviews two people working in the New York City theater industry. The series seeks to explain the many factors involved in producing a piece of theater by talking with playwrights, producers, directors, and other industry professionals.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 63-15-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “The Story Behind the Theatre; The Director.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j9609v1r>.
- APA: The Story Behind the Theatre; The Director. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j9609v1r