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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Director Development

I've been thinking a little more about the concerns Trisha Mead raised in her conversation with Rocco Landesman via the 2amt blog:

...There is no clear path for a director to develop his or her career without founding their own theater company. Young directors found institutions in order to build reputations... Perhaps by inadvertently requiring them to prove themselves as producers before allowing them to work within our institutions as directors and artistic directors we are creating a system which rewards theater companies that are made in haste, repented at leisure?

And the resulting brief twitter conversation I had with her (found here).

I had another thought, a thought just a trifle too long to post on Twitter, so I'll put it up here instead.

I originally put forth the idea of creating director development programs, much like some of the new play development programs in existence across the country. But now I'm suddenly wondering: why not pair the director development with the play development?

Every time I see or hear about a new new play development program, I think Oh. I would love to be a part of that. What I wouldn't give to be learning from and collaborating with all of these exciting up-and-coming playwrights. But, try as I might to deduce from its website and/or any other available information, I cannot seem to figure out how to get involved as a director. I know play-readings and workshops attached to the programs - at the Lark, for example, or New Dramatists - often have directors, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out where they are coming from. Do the playwrights bring them in? Are they resident directors with the company or the program?

The Lark does the best I've seen at setting out some general guidelines for how to become involved as a director, but even those are somewhat vague and indefinite, nothing compared to the concrete, accessible submission proccess accessible to playwrights.

Or, take the workshop-in-rehearsal process currently developing Amy Freed's Right to the Top, one of the many #newplay development initiatives provided by Arena Stage. (Strangely, the Arena Stage has producing fellows who are paired with the playwrights in residence, but no comparable program for directors - why is that?) This looks like an amazing experience, and I would kill to be a part of it. And why not? Not only would it be a learning experience just as helpful to a director as a playwright, but it would lay the groudwork for a deeper collaborative relationship between playwright and director, one rooted in creation and development rather than simply beginning in rehearsal.

That would be real benefit in this kind of approach: the collaborative energy and possible partnerships it would facilitate. Playwrights need directors and directors - oh, let me tell ya - NEED playwrights. The difference between having a collaborator with whom you work well and whose work inspires you can be the difference between creative life and death.

Just a thought.


  1. Leah,

    Smart post! I would suggest that playwrights often worry that a new or young director will kill their play's chances by being inexperienced in their approach to the material.

    But, a program that pairs mid-career directors with young directors-in-development makes a lot of sense to me as part of a new work development project. New work creates piles of logistics and paperwork that would be excellent workload for a young director who would then be on the inside loop of the process, learning, developing relationships.

    I think there's also value to creating a formal "mentorship" program for young directors that would pair Assistant opportunities at large orgs with showcase workshop opportunities for them to test drive their own directorial skills.

  2. Thanks Trisha. Your second paragraph pretty much nailed what I was trying to get at. I'm glad we're on the same page. And I love your ad/mentorship suggestion - fantastic idea!