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Directing Vulnerably

This weekend, I witnessed STAMP thesis Trout Stanley, directed by one of my greatest friends, Flynn Holman. I witnessed a raucous, colorful, beautifully unpredictable piece of theatre featuring three generous actors, and I gasped and giggled for 90 minutes. I was having a blast
Then, curtain call arrived, and I very suddenly cracked clean in half. Out from within me poured a tidal wave of #SecondSemesterSenior tears. This caught me by surprise, but stemmed from a moment of complete recognition. Recognition of my dear friend’s soul, right onstage in front of me. There she was. Even though she never stepped into the light, watching Trout Stanley was like watching Flynn’s very essence, and that took courage to achieve. I’ve been thinking a lot about the courage of actors recently, as I direct five of them in our senior thesis. Of course acting is vulnerable. There you are, breathing and speaking and sweating, emotionally stripped under bright lights, inner life wide open to all spectators. As I witness more and more productions directed by people I know deeply, I am remembering the bravery of directors.

Directing is vulnerable. A director is the sieve that every grain of creative energy moves through before fitting into…. the sand castle? Yeah. A production is a sandcastle. It’s a director’s job to be an effective sieve – sturdy, structured, pulling out the big rocks that will break the castle down —- but possessing tons of wide open space for the grains to travel through. I feel like, as each idea and design concept and stage picture moves through the sieve, it carries a little bit of the director with it onto the stage.

I always feel vulnerable when the lights go up on a production I have directed. Even if no one in the audience knows it, I am up there onstage. I’m in that prop, that light shift, that actor crossing downstage. My every action from first rehearsal to opening night is reflected right back at me, whether I like it or not. I am beginning to feel as though for me, directing is more vulnerable than acting – it truly becomes the ultimate lack of control. I also think it’s my favorite thing.

I have a feeling that when the lights go up on my senior thesis, I will immediately begin to sweat from that very same recognition. Because, like it or not, there I am. This weekend’s production of Trout Stanley reminded me that directing is not detached from the heart, but instead comes vulnerably, from deep-within.

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