I’ve begun my journey in formally exploring a different aspect of theatre-making – directing.

Every Tuesday, 6 of us would sit down in the cool air conditioned comfort of The Finger Players rehearsal studio, placed under the uncomfortable magnifying glass of Chong Tze Chien’s sharp and unrelenting queries. Why are we directors? Over the course of the workshop, we were introduced to the “whims” of naturalism, Grotowski, site specific work, Bretcht. Each week we applied these treatments to Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? All 6 of us were to present a final showing, with actors, that represented how the full length show might look like. I used a scene from Act 2, casting Hang Qian Chou as George and Audrey Luo as Martha, two actors I have performed with and have built a strong trust with.

I had set out to direct the scene as a complete piece, instead of just an excerpt as briefed. Perhaps I was being rebellious, but I thought that to be a bigger challenge: how do I create a complete theatrical experience for the audience that would be sitting in the space? How can I make it as complete as possible within the limits of the workshop? So light, sound, props, costumes and sets were considered. I chose my actors first, before deciding on the scene I wanted to work, and worked the rehearsals and presentation around their energies. That to me was an important part of what i wanted my first directorial experience to be. I didn’t want a naturalistic treatment as it would have been familiar. I wanted to stretch myself.

Together we put the scene over 10 hours, over two rehearsal days, with an in-between rehearsal time of about 15 days. The first rehearsal was spent working through the script, discussing characters, the play and my vision. The second rehearsal (the actors had to be off-book) was spent figuring out blocking, solidifying characters, the dynamics of the scene and finally running the scene. It was a quick process primarily because I didn’t want to use too much of the actors time. They were doing me favors. In retrospect, I would have preferred one more rehearsal day, only so that I would get a chance to process what had been rehearsed, make edits and give the actors a chance to do the same.

The actual showing went well. Everything fell into place. It was however the scrutiny that came after that was daunting. As a creator, a part of you is in every work that you make. It does hurt when what kept you awake at night isn’t loved (whaaaaat??). As an actor, I’ve been scrutinized innumerable times such that I’ve learnt how to separate the self from the work. As director, where you are assumed to be in charge, the scrutiny is much more intense and a lot more traumatizing that I thought I would feel. Even so, it was probably just a small fraction of what the “real” situation would offer. Anyway, my entry posture was to listen to the feedback, and to only clarify (and not defend) when necessary.

I still have questions unanswered and questions I still don’t know how to ask. But this I can say: I enjoy the process of directing. Thus begins a new journey.

Baby steps…baby steps…

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