I think devised work is a process in which everything is created in the room with the artists involved. It involves a really exciting melding of more traditional theatre positions, every artist [End Page E-7] involved becomes a director, dramaturge, and designer. A problem that can come from devised work is the lack of a playwright. Devised theatre at its pinnacle can transcend story and verbal language, but those performances are rare and I often find myself longing for more recognizable drama. My approach is to attempt to borrow the wonderfully collaborative elements of a devised process and apply it to a prewritten script. I want to create a rehearsal room that is full of creativity, ideas, and optimism, to craft a beautiful physical and visual landscape, but I also want to tell a story about people interacting with one another. I often use the word active, meaning that there is more doing than talking. In rehearsal, the cast and I consider the text at every moment: Can it be thrown out or altered? Nothing is sacred, and ideally everything is inspirational. (See figure 2.)
Texts remain the largest impetus for me to be drawn into a creative process. I am very traditional in this regard—actually, I’m very traditional in many regards.
I start by finding the source material that excites me, then I write a play based on this material. I like this to be a longer process, where I can write and rewrite. During this phase I also get my script in front of a few people to give me feedback. Then I do more and more rewrites. Once I am happy with the first full draft, I try to organize workshops. During this phase I encourage the actors to bring up any issue. Then I will go home and make modifications on every issue mentioned, whether I agree or not. Then I hope to have a public reading, during which I sense where the crowd is engaged, bored, or confused. Then I do several rewrites based on the information gathered. I like to repeat the workshop/reading phase a few times, if possible. Then, if the script is good enough to [End Page E-8] be programmed, we will begin rehearsals. In the rehearsal room, as I mentioned earlier, the script gets modified in order to be more actor friendly. We also add the physical life of the characters. I tend not to be abstract in movement, but drawn to a more unique visual/physical world. I tend to stay away from the abstract. Then we do a lot of edits based on the clarity of storytelling. Most of all, in the rehearsal room, we start thinking about the experience of the audience while trying to remain inspired.
I think any piece of theatre thrives on multidisciplined people being in a room together; if everyone has the ability to act as dramaturge, director, and designer, the process will be all the more rich. I do believe in the formal structure of theatre, that the director needs to be held responsible for the end product. So there needs to be a few times when the director can veto decisions for the sake of time. But the more open and optimistic a rehearsal room is, the better it is for everyone. (See figure 3.)
My Kind of Town
Chicago is a wonderful city that supports so many theatre companies. But Chicago still likes its realism; if you try to be expressive beyond realism, you still need to satisfy certain tenants of realism. When I was younger this frustrated me, but now I just accept it and move on. It has shaped me as an artist for better or worse. I often think: “What will this audience that demands realism think of this moment?”
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