Y’know “The Boggart” from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?
For reference (or just to watch for the 500th time and get in that weird obsessive Harry Potter Zone and weep at the notion of Remus Lupin being a positive role model in Harry’s life in the absence of his parents RIP 2 all):
The Boggart Scene
Thesis? Thesis is the boggart. It seems to be, for everyone, a very specific personification of one’s personal fear and challenge, jumping out of a wardrobe and walking towards them.
(Thiiiiis is right around when my mom would tell me to “lower the stakes”)
I mean it though, with nothing but gratitude. For every SOT senior, thesis seems to be the biggest (but achievable) leap, and I’ve enjoyed watching my friends and collaborators truly face themselves and evolve through the thesis exercise this year.
In the last four years, I’ve had a lot of weird hazy dreams of what I would do with myself for thesis. Often, my sophomore-junior ego used to yell really loudly, “Act in a comedy for thesis!!!!!!! PROVE 2 EVERYONE that u can b funny and can also ACT!!!!!!!!!!!!!” there was also a tiny whisper “ok… what if you direct?” and then, “but what would you direct?!?”
Then, the day in thesis came when we talked about assessing what the room needs. Looking at your own abilities, and how you can wield them to add value to the room. Everything clicked.
That’s how I ended up directing this dream thesis, SHEBANG. A devised sketch comedy piece. Five playwrights who double as actors, all women, all funny. bang bang.
Directing this piece is a weird position to be in—it is by no means your typical rehearsal project. I had one freakout the week before the process started – how the hell am i going to balance and nurture the needs, sensitivities, egos, and new work of five playwrights at once?! THEN direct them as actors while the script continues to evolve under our feet?! Do I even know what a sketch comedy show is?! I’m crazy. I’m useless. I’m screwed! MY BOGGART WINS!
Then, the other day, one of my collaborators turned to me and said, “I really think you are the only person who could do this.” My heart melted. Indeed, as rehearsals have gone on, I’ve realized that my skills fits perfectly into the job description. For me, the writing room portion of this process was…I can’t entirely describe it. I’m gonna throw another analogy at you for a second– The only image I have is like, you know in Iron Man how he has that:
And it zooms in on stuff and gives stats and graphics and can target what Robert Downey Jr. ‘s next move should be? It’s the only way I can describe what I do. With teaching, reading a piece of writing, and with directing, it’s like that big glowing circle zooms in on exactly what is unclear, incongruous, or just needs some attention. The writing room was a blast because I love to synthesize, I love to clean specifics, I love to see the big picture, move things around, and negotiate a script.
Then, another skill set emerged as the staging process brought the marvelous reminder that actors, when working at peak capacity, can evolve right back into children. Indeed, when the clock strikes 10:30 pm (I call it the Witching Hour) my five 22 year old actors begin to wrestle, screetch, or simply slump to the floor. I am reminded that I have been training my whole life for this, working with children in rehearsal rooms every summer for 12 years. My experience with children taught me firsthand that in a rehearsal room, energy trickles down from the source. If I am directing 25 kids and have one moment of personal exhaustion or break of focus, I have lost the whole room, never to return. The task is to have enough energy to match ALL 25 children at once. Even more than that. Nonstop. …I now know that this applies to adults. If I so much as lean back in my seat, the rehearsal room is gone — It keeps me running on all four cylinders at once, but I feel well-equipped to handle it.
Back to the Harry Potter ref tho–every day I walk into my rehearsal room, and it feels just like I’m about to open the wardrobe with the boggart in it. I know, at some point each evening I am going to have to face a little piece of my personal challenge, and have that feeling in my gut when I want to run screaming in the other direction. I am learning that I got this. This thesis is my boggart, and everything becomes easy and melts away the moment I realize that any fear I may have is simply riddikulus.