You Can Observe A Lot By Watching

“Quantum physics teaches us that the art of observation alters the thing observed. To observe is to disturb. ‘To observe’ is not a passive verb. As a director I have learned that the quality of my observation and attention can determine the outcome of a process. Under the right circumstances the audience’s observation and attention can significantly affect the quality of an actor’s performance. Actors can respond to an audience’s powers of observation. It is the contact/response cycle at the heart of live performance that makes being there so extraordinary.”

Anne Bogart, “A Director Prepares”

Every once in awhile, I have a conversation with an actor about the use of their director. Or rather, the lack of use. They are confident that the group could do quite well without, and that the company’s true potential may in fact be superior to — and inhibited by — the skills and tactics of the existing person in the director’s chair.

This revelation often happens about 3 or 4 weeks prior to opening night, when all the hopes and dreams of the first few weeks have been melted by reality, and the looming threat of actually performing the piece in front of their friends and family has the cast in question feeling insecure, angry, and rebellious.

And it’s almost always aligned with what I’ll call weak directing — ranging from someone who has completely “checked out” (I once had a director who slept through most rehearsals) to those who fly into a firey rage (typically during tech week) — where the cast feels abandoned, rejected, or abused.

It’s one of my greatest fears going into a directing project — that thing that scares me as I head out to sea in a rickety boat, wondering where the next wave will come from, and if I’ll have sufficient seamanship to stay upright and take my passengers to their destination.

But Anne Bogart, in the passage above, has articulated the other side of the coin — the simple, pure, exciting side. That at the end of the day, if you as the director are showing up with all your attention and all your obervation — your cast, they’ll know if you are, and they will respond. That’s at least half the battle, no offense to GI Joe.

And even if you get broadsided by sharp rocks and the waters are choppy, you’ll be as ready as you could ever be, and you will have more than a fighting chance.

I personally find tremendous comfort in this.

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