Last semester I wrote a post about the merits of directing outside of your own personal experience. While I still believe in those merits, I failed to acknowledge the challenges that come with adopting the voice of authority on an experience which is not your own, especially when it may be that of many of your collaborators.
For my undergraduate thesis I’m directing a contemporary adaptation of Odon von Horvath’s Don Juan Comes Back From the War by Duncan Macmillan. The play interrogates the harmful effects of masculinity in society by setting the mythical seducer Don Juan in post-WWI Berlin, an environment of austerity and inflation. It follows Don Juan, the only male character, as he searches for the fiancé he left at the altar when he ran away to the war. All the other characters are played by an ensemble of female actors that step in and out of roles, continuously orbiting the title character.
While the thematic concerns of Don Juan Comes Back From the War are impactful in my experience of the world, I find myself wondering if I’m the right person for this job. This is a play that deals with male violence against women written by a normative white man, adapted by a normative white man, starring a normative white man, and directed by yours truly, a normative white man.
There are things that I’m blind to because of how my identity affects the way I walk through the world. That’s the case with almost any collaborative process, so while that’s in the room, I don’t find that to be the largest challenge in the context of this project. Rather, the constructs of my identity in tandem with the natural authority that comes with being a director that makes me wonder if I’m having a positive effect on this rehearsal process.
Truly, I’m not quite sure where this leaves me. I will continue to ask this question every time I walk into the room. Regardless of the answer, I will to do my job to the best of my abilities and continue to interrogate my position in the room and my position in the world.