Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 31, 2018

Directors discuss the role of collaboration in theatre

Junior Joel Willison watches a rehearsal of “Dutchman” in Studio theatre a few days before the premier. (Zarah Khan/TKS)

At the heart of every theatre performance is a creative vision shaping the acting, sets, lighting and costumes. All of these decisions ultimately come down to the vision of the director.

Junior Joel Willison, who is directing his first fully-teched show, “Dutchman,” this week, has been surprised by all that goes into a full theatre production.

“Suddenly you’re in charge of making sure your set designer is doing okay, your costume designer is doing okay, sound, lights, everything. It’s sometimes easy to let things fall through the cracks,” Willison said.

Theatre professor Neil Blackadder explained how taking advice from all members of the production team is the key to being a good director.

“That’s the thing with directing, it has to be a collaborative process,” Blackadder said.

Willison agreed, emphasizing that being an actor previously he understands how important it is to hear others out.

“I try to hear what [my actors] have to say, hearing them out and creating a creative space for everyone,” Willison said.

“I work a lot with what the actors bring to the table. That’s how [my previous show] all came together. You kind of need everything to magically be ready at the same time,” Blackadder said.

Willison finds the freedom that comes with being in charge of the show one of his favorite parts of his role. Willison mentioned one specific rehearsal he used to express this freedom.

“One day I was having a bad day and I wanted to shout. So I created a part of the warm up that would allow the actors to shout.”

Senior playwright Deja Jenkins, having directed two bare stage plays while mostly participating in playwriting, has had a very different experience with her creativity while directing.

“Directing other people’s works and seeing others direct mine have made me more aware of how differently characters can be interpreted. I try not to let directing influence my writing too much, but it has caused me to think more about how I write my characters and how they’ll be interpreted by the audience,” she said.

Though she’s only directed bare stage plays so far, Jenkins would be interested in trying to direct a larger production in the future, if she gets the chance.

Willison has been surprised by his experience directing a larger production.

“I’ve never had this much attention put to an idea I had. It’s very flattering and humbling at the same time,” Willison said.

As the fall productions slowly come to an end, the department is quickly gearing up for rep term, short for repertory theatre term, to begin. During Winter Term, about 30 students come together to produce two large-scale professionally produced plays.

“We become what a professional theatre company would be like. Each student treats the production like a job. It’s very good experience for after college,” Willison said.

Blackadder emphasized that rep term isn’t only for majors or people wanting to go into theatre after graduation. He believes students who aren’t interested in becoming actors can still benefit from the experience of being on a production team, or even on the stage.

“Though we’re proud of the alumni who’ve gone on to have professional lives in theatre we are by no means only focused on pre-professionals,” Blackadder said. Theatre provides excellent experience in collaboration and problem solving which can be applied in all sorts of fields.”

Jessica Beckman

Tags:  directing dutchman knox theatre student director Studio Theatre theatre

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