On Passing the Baton without Passing the Buck
Post by Directors Lab Member Mia Rovegno
Directing in the theater can be a bit of a lonely job. At the end of the day, the actors go home, the designers plug away in their studios, and the stage manager sends the rehearsal report and puts away his prompt book. It is 2am on a Tuesday, but the director finds herself still awake, surrounded by her script, her image research, and the chicken scratch that eventually translates into notes to be disseminated and staging to be implemented. In her dreams, her morning ritual, her steps to the subway, her ride in some elevator, the wheels are still turning. Charged with the task of holding the big picture product in her head while tending to all the minutiae of the rehearsal room process, the director never clocks out. She strategizes what she hopes will be a perfect collision of the creative team’s efforts to realize a production in its most truthful and rigorous form. The director lives and breathes the play well beyond the final minutes of her rehearsals and production meetings, attempting to find the balance between pre-emptive logistical efficiency and creating space for beautiful ideas to crash and burn or break through to their greatest heights. And in the moments spent struggling with the big questions—Is this the right choice? The best choice? The safe, the obvious, the lazy choice? - she sighs with relief when she remembers that the amazing minds of her artistic team struggle alongside her, chipping away at that illusive, unwieldy animal that is the creative act.
In a culture mostly focused on developing the work of playwrights, it is rare to find a forum in which directors get together to talk about their work, let alone have the opportunity to work alongside each other in a shared creative process. Enter the Four-Headed Director Monster, a term affectionately coined to describe the four directors co-directing the upcoming Women’s Project production of WE PLAY FOR THE GODS. As we head into rehearsal, we embark upon a unique opportunity to see what happens when the visions and aesthetics of four very different directors talk to each other inside one singular production. Our process isn’t foolproof. Case in point: In this incarnation, that 2am brainstorm you had with yourself is now a meeting that must accommodate the conflicting schedules of four people with four very different opinions trying to collectively hash out the best solution. We four have had glimpses of directing by consensus together. Since last June, we’ve been developing the play from scratch with the playwrights. We discovered through our several workshops together that the Four-Headed Director Monster that is Mia Rovegno, Sarah Rasmussen, Nicole Watson and Jessi Hill, has an uncanny ability to finish each other’s sentences. We immediately found a short hand to define the creative process we’re pursuing. Most importantly, we were energized and inspired by each other’s unique approaches and ideas. So not only do we get to tackle this production as a team, but we also have the luxury of stepping back to watch each other direct every day in the rehearsal room. And in this stepping up and stepping back, we hope to create something that none of us could possibly dream up by ourselves at 2am on a Tuesday.
Mia Rovegno is a Brooklyn-based director, playwright, and puppeteer who devises, adapts and collaborates with living playwrights. Selected directing: Christina Anderson’s Good Goods (O’Neill Playwrights Conference), The Tenant by Dylan Dawson, Bekah Brunstetter, Tommy Smith, Paul Cohen, Sarah Burgess, Steven Levenson (Associate director, Woodshed Collective), Exquisite Corpse (Clubbed Thumb), The Civilians’ Pretty Filthy II (Joe’s Pub) and The Divorce Tales Live (WNYC Greene Space), Joshua Elias Harmon’s Love in the Time of Channukah (Ars Nova and Hangar Theatre), Dan LeFranc’s Origin Story (Hangar Theatre), Diana Fithian’s Girls on the Clock (Summer Playwrights Rep). Her plays Apartment, Kill The Keepers (co-written with Dan LeFranc), Darleen and Trent Go To Raj Palace and hoisington, kansas have been developed by P73, Culture Project, New Georges, Perishable Theater, and foolsFURY. Founding artistic director of HummingbirdWORKS, she has performed with Redmoon Theater, Shadowlight, Bread and Puppet Theater, Intersection for the Arts, foolsFURY and others. She has developed new plays by Erik Ehn, Kate E. Ryan, Kim Rosenstock, Jon Kern, Nick Jones, Michael Mitnick, Susan Stanton, Megan Mostyn-Brown, Mary Hamilton, Sam Marks, Jon Caren, Carla Ching, Mia Chung, Alexandra Collier, Martyna Majok, Joe Waechter, and others for Soho Rep, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, Partial Comfort, The Civilians, New Dramatists, Dixon Place, A.R.T., Lincoln Center Directors Lab, The Tank, and Brown University/A.R.T. Institute Bakeoff. She is a recipient of the P73 Yale Summer Residency, MTC’s Jonathan Alper Directing Fellowship, SDC Directing Observership, and 2010 Ockrent Directing Fellowship nominee; Alum of the Drama League, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab and Lincoln Center Directors Lab; Member of The Civilians R and D Group and The Jam (New Georges Affiliated Artist); Former teaching fellow and guest lecturer at Brown University and adjunct faculty at New College of California; currently Assistant Professor in the Hunter College Theatre Dept. BS: Northwestern. MFA: Brown University/Trinity Rep Consortium. Upcoming projects: Burnt Umber by Erik Ehn (LaMaMa), nothin’s gonna change my world (Civilians R&D Group).