Notionpost 3: the furrowed brow and distant gaze

After showing our choral invention to Aaron, he said “It’s wrong in 120 ways and right in 115 ways!” And we all laughed.

One of Aaron’s gifts as a director is the mood he creates in the rehearsal room. I’m not sure how he does it, but there is something both amusing and disciplined about it. We are all at ease, we joke around and laugh a lot, then get really quiet and focused responding to some small cue we get from him. He tells stories from his own life and experience a lot but it never seems self-aggrandizing. A large part of it is that he self-effacing. He’s not on an ego-trip. Though he clearly has an ego, it doesn’t make him nasty, it makes him sweetly vulnerable. Another paradox: he seems both vulnerable and confident at the same time. And he loves actors: he loves working with us, he loves our successes and failures and seems genuinely interested in what we create. It’s this last attribute, one that I have experienced in other directors, that seems most important. And it must be noted, there are directors that don’t love actors; that are, in fact, either intimidated or embarrased by us.

I’m fascinated by the way actors and directors communicate in subtle ways in rehearsal. In a new play workshop, there’s a special emphasis on this kind of subtle communication. We are here not only to bring characters to life, but to be a group of dramaturgs, offering Aaron feedback on the structure of scenes, lines or situations that seem to work, or not, to us. Sometimes it’s the pensive look on a face that will provoke him to ask, “Got a thought?” There’s also a kind of collective thrill that occurs when a scene works well, and a kind of tuning out when something is dragging or confusing.

So much in the theatre, both scripted and unscripted, on the stage and off, rises or falls based on the glance, the furrowed brow, the mysterious smile, the distant gaze.