Director’s Blog: Hanging the doors (or pre-production)

PictureThis is what Liam brought to a long weekend
in Boston. The pig is a kitchen timer,
his ticking sometimes helps Liam stay on task.

Director’s blog: Hanging the doors (or Pre-production)
Liam Castellan, Communicating Doors director

   As I write this, rehearsals are only three days away.

                Thank God!

  The directing process starts well before the first rehearsal, but it’s rarely exciting until I’m in a room with actors.  There’s a lot of time spent with my own thoughts.  Reading the play, making notes, reading the play again, doing other things when I know I should be reading the play. . . it can get lonely sometimes.

   There is some human interaction during pre-production, of course.  Meeting and talking with designers can help to build everyone’s enthusiasm for the world of the play, the canvas the actors are going to live on.  And of course there are auditions, which is almost worse than the loneliness because the end result is mostly saying “no” to perfectly nice (and often quite talented) people.

                But mostly it’s just me and the play. 

                Oh, and a few other books. . .

    I enjoy reading biographies (especially about notable theatre folk), and books about theatre, and plays.  But I don’t make time for that nearly as much as I ought to (most theatre artists don’t, I’ve found).  So whenever I direct, I try to make it an excuse to read all I can.  I love absorbing information, whether I have an immediate use for it or not.  And here, I definitely do.  I overheated my library card this summer, checking out every book by and about Ayckbourn they had.  They didn’t even all fit in the photo!  By the time I’ve returned everything, I’ll have read:

~17 Ayckbourn plays that were new to me.  Which seems like a lot, until you realize he’s written 78 full-length plays plus other scripts, so I’ve barely made a dent.  (. . . I’ve actually lost count, but it’s at least 15)

~A book of interviews he gave in 1980

~A definitive biography (including a lot about the plays)

~Three books of analysis (that varied wildly in both length and quality)

~Various essays, program notes, reviews, interviews and quotes found online (including which is a fantastic resource)

~”The Crafty Art of Playmaking”, Ayckbourn’s manual on both writing and directing (he usually directs his own plays so he doesn’t separate the two jobs in his mind).  This one I plan on owning.

   It’s seductive to focus on the surrounding research, because there’s an end point to each nugget.  I read a play or book, make a few notes maybe, and then I’m done with it, I take it back to the library.  There’s a disproportionate sense of accomplishment there, because there’s finality.  Whereas I can always read the play again. 

                And I should.

    Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me. . .  (“ACT 1.  A view of part of a sixth-floor suite in the five-star Regal Hotel.  Our view is of the sitting room and…”)

Check back next week for the another Director’s Blog post for Communicating Doors.

Editor’s note: For Liam Castellan’s biography, visit our show page here