Saturday, July 12, 2008

more from William Ball

One piece of advice from William Ball I really need to take is this:
Discussion Between Actors
In the rehearsal, I never permit an actor to tell another actor how to do something. Never. If I find an actor making a suggestion to another actor, I immediately say, "When you have an idea, please tell me. If you'd like another actor to do something that would be helpful to you, ask me. I will be glad to pass it on." I always pass it on, but I pass it on as my own suggestion. I don't say, "So and so would like you to stand..." I pass it on as my own idea. If the suggestion is not a helpful one, I ask whoever made it to "hold on to that idea for a few days and I will see what I can do about it." By postponing, the bad idea frequently falls out of orbit naturally.
But alas, things aren't as easily handled as Ball seems to imply. For one thing, the off-off Broadway actors that I work with sometimes have double functions, which leads to problems. In one case, I was using an actor who was also the dialect coach. And she apparently believed that knowing dialects made her an expert on historical behaviors. So while she corrected other actors' dialects she would slip in suggestions about how their characters should behave from an historical perspective. She was often wrong, it turns out, but when someone is as full of themselves as this particular actor was, people automatically assume they know what they're talking about.

In any case, I did not always WANT behaviors to be strictly historically accurate - sometimes clarity is more important.

But it wasn't enough to dispense her unsolicited, inaccurate historical advice - what she would do is go from coaching dialect, to historical advice to actually attempting to block scenes. It took a moment to realize what she was up to the first time, because she so subtly shaded from one thing into another - and I couldn't believe she could be so presumptuous. I really should have seen that coming though. Early on in the production she offered unsolicited advice on set design - and she had no actual experience in set design herself. I should have cut her loose from the project right then.

In any case, when she started trying to usurp my role as director, I should have read her the riot act.