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The Good And The Bad - Directing Your Own Writing In Theatre


My head contains two distinct answers for this. One simple, one not:

Simple one first: There is joy.

The other (brace yourself):

This is my third experience with this as applies to Theatre. The first time I was maybe all of 17 and yeah, they don’t have a special trash bag to separate that into… The second time I diligently stuck through the process for the first four months of casting and rehearsal, etc, then dragged a friend in to direct. Singular reason: Too close to the material.

(Focusing on the question posed, I will not reference the other inanities I have both written (perhaps) and directed (perhaps) but were not technically Theatre.)

You’ve experienced an event that killed you emotionally, or had a friend tell you a real story so powerful you’ve never been able to forget it, ten years later, twenty years later, thirty years later… The writer took over and there it is – All Of It – in the script, not to mention the capricious writer’s one percent invention…

Now you’re directing people to rebuild it, In Character!, to re-invision it, In Character!, to live it? And they lay their hearts out to do it, struggle, cry, laugh, and you’re proud of them; So proud, and yet so close to the material… some will get there, and some will not.

When your memory tells you what some event actually was, and yet it isn’t playing out that way before you with the struggling cast, you call your own memory into question. The writer and the director both know – simply put – the memory plays tricks. The director couldn’t care less about the actuality of the events, but wants the feeling, the atmosphere, the soundness of the reality that Yes! This happened. The writer cries, the director yells, and the writer goes home.

Once home, the writer contemplates the percentage of what the writer remembers happening as actually being true, and what part made up, and what part massaging the writer’s broken places. Directors don’t need massages.

The director watches that memory and the tricks it plays enter, In Character! The director gets a good and silent look.

The writer doesn’t, the writer just questions: How much was my fault? How much have I hidden from myself? How complicit am I in what the writer turned on the whole world with? And! How complicit am I willing to be with the further bastardizing the director’s planning???

Luckily, the you that is neither takes over: The fight with your wife last week? The meeting that just drove you crazy (the design of all meetings anyway?) The memory begins to admit that it fails in the face of joy, yes… joy.

Memory: “I came home. My not yet two-year-old daughter saw me, raised her arms perfectly perpendicularly, and ran across the room and I swung her up into mine.

Joy: “It might have happened that way, it doesn’t matter… What words did she say?”

Memory: She said, “ig na nu mggg hann bqty.”

Joy: “…and then?”

Memory: She asked, “Right?”

Joy: “And you responded?”

Memory and Joy: “Gotcha’ honey. I get it.”

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