Friday, October 17, 2014

24 Hours, and... go!

Driving around Pinkerton in the dark tonight looking for the Stockbridge Theater was a bit of a metaphoric representation of the challenge of the 24 Hour Play Festival. As I came in through the back entrance, I thought I knew what I was doing. I had spent four years of my life studying at this institution, and never once did I get lost on campus, but tonight was the first time I had used this entrance since the Academy building had been built, and I almost missed the turn.

I have been heavily involved with theatre for the past decade, and this 24 Hour concept is completely throwing me for a loop and knocking me completely (well, almost) out of my comfort zone. I'm the type of director that loves to spend months with a script, tearing it apart, putting it back together, and figuring it out from every angle. I look forward to getting to know my actors on a personal level over the first few weeks of rehearsal so I can figure out the best way to use them. And I like to have time to let things sit, sleep on decisions, and fix my mistakes. Going into tonight, while I knew I would be attempting to battle the familiar beast of directing, I will be doing it in a very unfamiliar way, much like trying to navigate the back lot of Pinkerton Academy.

I was one of the first participants to arrive in the black box tonight. As they other directors, playwrights, and actors began to filter into the room, the tension began to rise. The nervous energy was at an all time high. I was a little at ease, as I had convinced my good friend, and sometimes co-collaborator, Jacob Randlett to be one of the actors for the festival. It was nice having a familiar face in the room, and I figured it would be cool to see him directed by someone else for once (him having been in 4 of the 8 things I have directed.) Once all of then 30-something people had taken their seats, the instructional period began. I was half listening. I also had sudden random doubtful thoughts that oft plague any artist. "What if my playwright has a really jarring style?" "What if my actors don't like me?" "What if I oversleep tomorrow?" and so on and so on. My mind was distracted when we went on a tour of the space, so I quickly was able to stop thinking about these things. But all these things came back to me, and I'm sure others as well, once we all re-entered the black box.

The table in the center of the black box had a large amount of what appeared to be "24 Hour Play Festival" playing cards, which turned out to be the head shots for the directors, playwrights, and actors, as well as the prompts for the shows. The playwrights head shots were turned over, and each one was called up to turn over a director card. After the first four went, and I hadn't been turned over, we all knew who was last. Me. I had met my playwright, Jasmine Roth, once before, as she had auditioned for me, but that was the end of my knowledge of her. I look forward to getting to know her work over the next 20 hours. After that, the directors were instructed to flip over the next set of cards: the number of cast members. The directors were just told to have at it, and we each grabbed a card. I got 4, the largest number possible. Fitting four actors into a 15 minute piece will be incredibly difficult, but I embrace the challenge.

Then the fun part: turning over the actor cards. The directors and playwrights took turns flipping cards as needed. The first card I flipped over made me laugh and curse, as I flipped over Jacob's head shot. I love and hate the fact that I drew him. It saves me time of having to "figure him out" but I also wanted to get away from my comfort zone, but I digress. We did get a nice extra challenge, as when we drew our genre card. Comedy. The only two options were comedy or drama, but comedy will be a good challenge, as Jasmine shared that she has only written deep drama before. My other three actors (Mitch Fortier, Sarah Dunn, and Finley Smith) all have various backgrounds, experiences, and special skills, and they should create a very eclectic ensemble. The next card drawn was our prompt, in which we were given the Anais Nin quote "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Very thought-provoking, especially for a comedy. The final card drawn was a line of dialog that will have to appear in all five pieces: "You did what?!" After taking twenty minutes to share a little bit about ourselves with each other. We all broke for the night.

I feel... good. Tomorrow will be all about directing from the gut. No drawn out analyzing, no note taking, no research, no hours of ensemble building, just directing. I've been debating trying to draw up a less abstract plan but I don't think that will be any good. I'm just gonna go in there tomorrow, eat breakfast with my cast, read the script, and just let my artistic side flow free.

"You'll never be a success if you fear failure" - Paul Heyman. My motto in life, my motto for this project. Let's rock and roll!

- Dan Pelletier

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