Want the Director to Love You?
Since directing young performers for over 25 years and teens/adults as well, someone once asked me who was my favorite? A trick question for sure but after some thought, I narrowed down the criteria to a few traits. What these triple threat talents all had in common was the ability to take direction, even if it didn’t make sense to them.
I’ve worked with so many outstanding performers but I’ll mention a few who come to mind for various reasons. They are all consistently working on the stage and in the music/film industry.
Genevieve and Isabelle Hodge, Cassie Martin, Dylan Blunk, Jake Ward, Jeremiah Jordon, Carl Galante, David Bisett, John and Carla Daws, Judith Laird, Ellen Massey, are just a few who are a director’s dream.
They have the ability to “play,” during rehearsals. They didn’t try to analyze too much. They took a direction and ran with it, making it fun. A kind of improv, this can really make a performer shine if he/she already knows the scene and can be flexible to look at crazy options.
Another ability I appreciate is being able to recreate the character while not worrying about the moments, allowing scenes to be a surprise to the character (not the actor creating it). This takes a certain fearlessness to let go of control and go for the ride. This is why scene study and line memorization go hand in hand. If you thoroughly understand the text, you can do this very easily and thus get out of your head and just behave as the character. Tricky to do if you don’t trust the process.
Casting director, John Swanbeck said it best! “If the scene is written as bitter and sarcastic and we want it played as nervous flirtation, the clever actor, singer or dancer will convince us someone is getting lucky that night. If a line or lyric is ‘I hate you!’ and we want it delivered as heartbreak, the clever performer will have us weeping over the fact that his or her character is in so much pain that they’ve been driven to be cruel.”
My young actors know this instinctively! Which is one of the main reasons I love working with kids. To them, its just pretending and playing dress up. The playground just happens to be the stage!
And the main rule is, “don’t let anyone guess you are pretending!” Definitely much to love, right?