Oops! My fault: A Director’s Mea Culpa

My new show opens in one week. It’s a series of 10 individual dramatic sketches. As I watched all ten performed as a whole on Monday, I realized that one of them was bad. Really bad.

It’s not the script. Actually, it’s an award-winning script which will soon be performed in Sydney. No, it wasn’t the scripts fault.

So what was the problem.

It’s easy to blame the actors. They are the ones performing it, right? They are the ones in the spotlight. If the intensity or timing isn’t there, that’s on them, isn’t it?

No.

It hit me on Monday evening that the fault rested entirely on me, the director.  And so I told them Monday we needed to meet today and plug up the many holes. Yep, it was my fault.

I often joke with my actors that when the lights come up, my job is done and I sit in the back next to the exit, ready to make a quick escape if something goes wrong. Hands off, I say. But like it or not, a director’s hands are all over a production and if it doesn’t work, chin up and take the tomato in the face.

When a script is good (and this one is) and the actors are talented (yes, this not a problem either) then there’s only one person to blame.

So I got myself back in the game today to figure out what could be done. First, we tightened everything. The dialogue has got to zip. We worked on the chemistry between the actors. Much better. We repeatedly worked timing on three of the more technical scenes which live or die with perfectly sequenced sound effects and actions. Then we put it all together and turned on the stopwatch.

We shaved off a whopping 2 minutes, or 18% from the running time! That’s huge, and suddenly the script started to soar for the first time. At the end of our hour and a half, I was quite pleased at our progress and we are once again ready to insert it into our lineup as an asset, not a drag.

Sometimes there is nothing to do but blame yourself, but make sure you don’t stop there. Reassess, readjust, rework, and get back in the game. It’s the only way to improve, and that’s what we are all striving for, isn’t it?

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