directing, the chorus

set another before you

When I was working on THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL, at the Met Theater, at the end of 2006, I asked the producers to let us have six weeks of workshop time many months out before the actual rehearsal/production process.

A fun group of people drifted in and out of the process, including some very talented people whose schedules wouldn’t have permitted them to commit to the full calendar of rehearsals and performances. One woman only came to one workshop, but she made a big impact on my methods.

Somehow, I had also planned things far enough out in advance that, through Craigslist, I found two very talented videographer/directors who taped all the workshops. We used some of the footage later as background imagery during the production itself. I also watched it, when I had enough time to do so, at home, to go over what I had and hadn’t learned from the rehearsals.

I still have the tapes of the workshops, and I haven’t watched them since then. But I salvaged a little television with a VHS deck built in from the street, months ago, and plugged it in now – and popped one in.

There they were, and there I was, my hair wrapped in a bandanna (definitely hadn’t showered, definitely was running late that day) their legs in sweat pants and knees padded to protect from the improvisations. We were working in a theater that was maybe fifteen feet square, for the stage, and had twenty seats, for the audience. It was the truest black box I’ve ever seen. I am right on top of them. They are reciting William Blake and breaking the line into nothingness through repetition. They are dripping sweat. I am watching them like I know what it all means. I don’t.

“The most sublime act is to set another before you.
Set another before you.
Set another before you.
Before, before…”

And I am trying to figure it out, and so are they.

It was so nice to find this footage. I’ll be able to watch it, when I’m old and withered and have no more hair to put in bandannas, and be like “See? See? I used to have hair!” (And actors…)

I think that I have to do a better job of being my own archivist, of maintaining the records of the things I’ve done. It’s not that they will be significant to other people – it’s that they continue to be significant to me. I seem to be taking a break from directing choruses for the present. But if I ever do, again, I would want to know where these tapes were.

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