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6. First Time Director: The Director Has a Role

November 3, 2010

I hadn’t thought much about this. Oh I can direct it, I know exactly how each scene–each nuance of speech and action, body language and timing—must play out.

Perhaps I do, absent the actors’ interpretations that become the characters on stage.

After all, Francis and Sophy have a “relationship” of sorts, though neither of them would have used the term in 1845. He might be rough around the edges, of the wrong class, too much wedded to his career—but he’s also devoted enough to chase her halfway round the world in the five years since they first met. She’s no longer young, a coy gamin who won’t have him, or let him go. This much is history.

From here, the imagination takes hold, stimulated by Victorian images of doomed ships lost in the ice and the romantic images of noble suffering and unrequited love. Francis and Sophy were doomed, each in their own way. Their story on this stage is imagined, until two actors—Byron and Alexa—make it their own.

What I hadn’t seen was myself moving about the stage with them, both hands in the air—“like this”–or exploding in my own burst of passion or confusion or despair, by way of demonstration, or conjoining split-second decisions with articles of faith that the whole enterprise will in the end play out onstage as it does in the playwright’s mind.

It’s the ensemble that makes it all work.

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