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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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Application Post-Mortem

I took a pretty protracted break from blogging/tweeting/reading/well, pretty much breathing anything other than the Lincoln Center Directors' Lab application this past week, which is really too bad because I had stuff I wanted to write about.

I saw Flux's Dog Act, and then Good People at the Manhattan Theater Club (both in the same day, actually), one of which I liked and one of which I really didn't, and wanted to write about both of them. I also have a two-thirds completed post on an interview with Jenna Weinberg that has been sitting in the cue for an embarrassingly long time. I suppose the easy thing there would have been to just type out a transcript of the interview and post it intact (I've read and enjoyed many an interview blog post that worked that way), but two weeks ago it seemed really important to communicate what inspires me personally about her. And then at somewhere in between pages of frenziedly scrawled notes on Taming of the Shrew and several mad dashes in vain search for an open post office, my loving hand became less of a benefit and more of a hindrance.

That actually happens a lot. So now my dirty little secret is out. I am an embarrassingly slow writer. Nothing prolific whatsoever going on here.

So back to work on all the above projects, a day late and a dollar short. But in the meantime, some quick thoughts on my lab application process.

I've applied to a lot of labs and workshops over the years, but I've never known any quite so grueling as the LCT directors' lab application - which I knew going into it, because I've applied once before, about two years ago. (I was rejected on the grounds that I was not far enough along in my career - here's hoping two years have made the difference).

What I remember most vividly about applying the first time around was how specifically and explicitly I was asked to describe my understanding of theater as an art. I had already written countless "artistic statements" that asked me to describe my process or my sensibilities, but Lincoln Center wanted to know what directors I admire and why, what shows I've seen and appreciated and why, what kind of theater I aspire to do and why, what I do to prepare to direct a show and (everybody, now) why? Et cetera, et cetera. My overwhelming feeling after having completed the application the first time around, was of having learned something. The process helped clarify a lot of ideas about theater and directing that I thought I had nailed down but which I realized, when called upon to describe them in such detail, that I had only a vague grasp upon. I came out of the process feeling like I could be a stronger and more focused director because of it.

I learned something this time around too, although this time it was more about me than the art. Despite having grown stronger as a director since last I applied, I still get very, very tripped up over questions that ask me to describe my process or discuss methods. I panic a little, start thinking things like, Method, what method? Do I have "methods"? Should I have learned this in school? Am I even a real director?

I have a friend who happens to be working on a prospectus for her undergraduate creative writing thesis, and it soothes me to know she is equally confounded by the idea of justifying/explaining what she does. In her words: "Uh. I find it effective to sit at my computer and type out sentences... grammatically acceptable sentences, when possible. Ideally those sentences eventually form a narrative." And she's a legitimately talented writer. So basically, her confusion and trouble pleases me. (I'm a good friend).

But anyway. There were plenty of "describe your method" questions on this application, and I stumbled through them, as I always do. But then, in its demand for specificity that I remember and love, the application asked me to pick a particular play and explain in detail how I would prepare to direct it, and what I would do in the first week of rehearsal.

The good news, and probably the best thing to come out of the whole application process, was that I discovered I didn't really have a problem at all detailing how I would approach the play, both in preparation and in rehearsal.

"Huh," I thought to myself, "I guess I do have a method after all." If the first go-around helped me to be a stronger and more focused director, the second helped me realize I am a strong and focused director.

The bad news: I'm not super-proud of what I wrote. The application asked me to choose a play I don't have a fully formed grasp of and I think I took not-fully-formed-grasp part too much to heart. Without boring the world with too much detail, I submitted an unusual interpretation of Taming of the Shrew that I'm not sure would actually work, and now feel terribly embarrassed for having written several pages about an idea that probably won't work.

Not to mention that as empowering as it was to discover my own process, LCT made it very clear that the intention of the prompt was not to learn about my process in general, but to learn about the specific questions I would ask about this show. Well. I know what the main questions I would ask - some broad questions about what the story in my interpretation is really about and whether or not that's a worthwhile story to tell - but I don't know the answers to those questions yet and, given that, delving into deeper, more incisive questions proved somewhat difficult. The whole proposal felt a bit circular, vague, and redundant to me.

I probably should have chosen a play that I had really, really, studied and had a lot of interesting ideas about, and a few, more specific questions that had yet to be answered. As opposed to the broad question I was asking, "Does this even make sense?" But alas, that does not exist for me right now. I haven't found a project that's really, really pulled me into it in a long time.

And maybe that's for the best. Or, to clarify, it's for the best that feel I answered the question inadequately precisely because I don't have any strong opinions about plays or projects right now. Perhaps if this were the right time for me to do this Lab, I would have a project like that. I desperately want to do the LCT Directors' Lab, but I want to do it at a point when I can really get the most out of it. LCT used a lot of, well, let's call it severe language about what kind of directors they expect to apply to the lab - where those directors are and where they see themselves going. So severe, in fact, that it almost scared me off. A lot of that business of where I am and where I'm going is still unclear to me. I know I want to do this for the rest of my life - beyond that, everything is sort of fuzzy. At first I thought to myself, "Maybe this ISN'T the year for the Lab," and then I thought, "Well, let's let them decide that."

So now they decide.

2 comments:

  1. I think it's generally a stronger choice to step outside the comfort zone and try something that maybe you're not 100% solid on. If we all stuck to what we knew well, we'd all be directing the same 50 plays.

    Anyway, I know how you feel. I'm having the same experience while job hunting -- people asking hypothetical questions about things that I may or may not have a solid grasp on (and nor should I be expected to), and they expect me to come up with an answer on the spot. It's frustrating. It's angering, sometimes. But in the end, I give it my best shot, and that's the best I can do.

    I believe in you. I'm positive your application was/is/will be received with so much enthusiasm and "oh my gosh, this girl is SO smart" that William Shatner will look tame by comparison.

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  2. Thanks for the support! And you're right, I gave it my best shot, that's all I can do, so I should just feel good about the work I put in. Who knows, maybe that really ARE being bowled over by my application as we speak :)

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